Credibility.

It’s a hot topic in the health and wellness sphere these days. People aren’t holding back when it comes to criticising credibility. There are heated debates on social media and even ‘mudslinging’, it seems. No one is immune to this. Especially not health bloggers.

 So, as a health blogger, how do you manage your credibility? How do you ensure you use credible sources and choose trustworthy information?

 With your references, of course!

The credibility of your sources (i.e. websites, books, studies, etc.) defines your credibility. You are in charge of your online reputation. So, choose wisely!

Here are five ways to recognise credible sources and choose trustworthy information to reference.

First, be clear to your audience whether your content is your opinion/experience, or a professional recommendation. Personal opinions and experiences don’t need many (if any) references. However, if you’re making health statements, then you should do your research and quote credible sources. Also make sure you have a disclaimer on your website that states you’re providing educational information, and not medical advice.

Second, when it comes to research, don’t always trust what search engines rank. While Google is making efforts to fact check and combat fake news, it’s a never ending battle. Many very popular websites have controversial “clickbait” headlines. Their main concern is getting clicks and traffic, not providing quality information. If you do use a web search, you may have to scroll through a lot of less-credible sites to find quality information. Personally, when I’m researching an article for one of my clients, I search my favourite websites that quote scientific studies. Or, better yet, I reference the studies themselves.

Before you reference a study, here are a few things to consider:
  • Was the study peer-reviewed and published in a reputable journal? Is it in PubMed? Some commonly referenced studies are popular books written by scientists and doctors, and have never been peer-reviewed. These often lean more toward “expert opinion,” rather than unbiased credible information.
  • Was the study done in cells, animals, or on people? Studies on people, a.k. ‘clinical’ studies hold more weight when making health claims in your blog posts.
  • Was it a single study, or a review of several studies? Reviews are stronger because they look at a larger pool of data, not just one experiment.
  • What did the conclusion say? Researchers often have specific conclusions, complete with caveats. It’s easy to expand and “extrapolate” to make things look better/worse than what the study actually discovered.

Third, take with a grain of salt sites that reference like-minded people (regardless of their credentials), or that use corporate/sponsored information. Look for obvious signs of financial gain, like selling products, sponsored posts, brand-loyalty, or even ads. There may, in fact, not be a problem with the credibility of this information; but, it’s wise to consider if it’s money and opinions, versus expertise, that’s doing the talking.

Fourth, consider how recent the information is (and how recent the references are). Health news happens daily, so something published even 5-10 years ago may be out of date by now. Again, this is not true for all information, but try to quote newer information (or recent reviews) where you can.

Fifth, if you’re a proud graduate from a reputable school, then use references they recommend or share. This also goes for your alumni association, professional associations, and liability insurer. Remember to stick within your scope of practice and code of ethics.

I hope these five tips help you choose credible sources of information for your health blog. The better quality references you choose, the better quality information you disseminate. And the better backup you have when someone tries to criticise your credibility as a health blogger.