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The Why, How and When of Using Quotations on Your Blog

The Why, How and When of Using Quotations on Your Blog | ProBy ProBlogger Expert Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Do you ever use quotations on your blog – words from other bloggers, writers, or experts in your industry?

Many bloggers rarely or never do … and they’re missing a huge opportunity.

If you’ve never even thought about using quotes, or if you’re worried about getting it wrong, this post is for you. Before we dig in too far, though, let’s take a look at four key reasons why quotes are so useful.

Why You Should Use (More) Quotes on Your Blog

#1: You’ll Stand Out from Other Bloggers by Including Different Views

Most bloggers don’t use quotes. Their writing can become a bit of an echo-chamber: they’re constantly giving their own viewpoint, but without situating it within a broader conversation.

By using quotations, you can either bolster your own arguments (“Professor Jones agrees, writing…”) or you can stand against a statement that you strongly disagree with (“I see this very different from Joe Blogger, who says…”)

#2: Your Blog May be Seen as Higher Quality

Reports and articles in newspapers and magazines tend to make frequent use of quotes: understandably enough, as most writers are not themselves experts on the areas they’re writing about.

As a blogger, you do have experience and expertise in your field – but you can make your blog look even more professional by taking the more journalistic approach of including quotes.

#3: You’ll Find Yourself Doing More Research

It’s easy to end up dashing off blog posts in a rush – but for really quality posts, you’ll usually need to do at least a bit of research. By making a point of incorporating quotes, you pretty much force yourself to check out some different sources!

As a result, your blog posts should be stronger, more authoritative – and more likely to convert passing traffic into loyal readers.

#4: You’ll Get Noticed by the People You Quote

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to every quote (Aristotle is unlikely to show up to thank you for quoting him in your latest post…) but if you’re quoting an author or blogger, they’re likely to be both flattered and grateful.

Even small blogs can pass useful link juice by linking to the post or book they’re quoting, and while huge bloggers may not always notice or acknowledge that they’ve been quoted, the “little guys” of the blogosphere may respond incredibly enthusiastically.

Hopefully you’re now sold on the “why”. Here’s where to go next:

How to Use Quotes Effectively – and Legally

Just in case you’re not sure, there are a few straightforward rules about using quotes correctly. These exist to make sure that it’s clear to readers which words are your own, and which are ones you’re quoting.

Generally, by making sure you attribute quotes clearly and correctly, you also ensure those quotes work well within your post.

Here’s what to do:

Step #1: Select the sentence or section that you’re quoting carefully.

Normally, you shouldn’t be quoting the whole (or anything close to the whole) of anything. For instance, you shouldn’t reproduce a whole poem or a whole blog post – even if it was a very short one.

Excerpts, however, are usually fine. Many countries have a “fair use” policy covering these.

If you do want to quote a whole piece, or if you’re unsure about whether it’s OK to quote something, then just drop the author an email to ask permission.

Step #2: Always put quotes in quotation marks (“ … “) or in blockquote style (<blockquote> … </blockquote>).

If you’re quoting a phrase or sentence, you can normally just put it into quotation marks within the paragraph you’re writing – like dialogue in a novel. Quotations of more than a single sentence should generally go in blockquote formatting, in their own paragraph.

Here’s an example:

We tend to share a blog post only once on social media because we don’t want to ‘bombard’ our followers. The problem with this is, if you get the timing wrong it will quickly fade into oblivion and no one will see it.

The One Reason Your Amazing Blog Post Hasn’t Gone Viral (and 8 Things You Can Do About It), Kelly Exeter, ProBlogger

Step #3: Always give a name, and where possible, a source and hyperlink for the quote.

For instance, if you’re quoting a blog post, you might give the blogger’s name, the title of the post, a link to the post, and the name of the blog. Here’s how I do it:

The One Reason Your Amazing Blog Post Hasn’t Gone Viral (and 8 Things You Can Do About It), Kelly Exeter, ProBlogger

You could also follow different formats (though try to be consistent across your posts). For instance, you might want to put the blogger’s name first and leave off the name of the blog the post appeared on:

– Kelly Exeter, The One Reason Your Amazing Blog Post Hasn’t Gone Viral (and 8 Things You Can Do About It)

For a really minimalist approach, perhaps if you’re using the quote within a sentence, you could do this:

Kelly Exeter

Linking to the source won’t always be possible or appropriate (e.g. if someone has supplied a quote in a private interview with you). The more information you can give, though, the more helpful your citation will be for your readers … and, as mentioned above, it’s a great way to get on someone’s radar.

Step #4: If you haven’t used a quote exactly as it was written (or spoken), make that clear.

The convention for this is to putting changed or added words in [square brackets]. You can also use an ellipsis (…) or an ellipsis in square brackets ([…]) to indicate where you’ve made cuts.

Here’s an example, where I’ve modified Kelly’s quote to shorten it – this might be appropriate if you’re using a lot of quotes and need to keep the length down, or if a quote is particularly wordy:

[Bloggers] tend to share a blog post only once […] because we don’t want to ‘bombard’ our followers. The problem with this is, if you get the timing wrong […] no one will see it.

The One Reason Your Amazing Blog Post Hasn’t Gone Viral (and 8 Things You Can Do About It), Kelly Exeter, ProBlogger

When and Where to Use Quotes

There are plenty of different ways to use quotes on your blog: here are some ideas to get you started.

Putting Together a List of Inspiring or Helpful Quotations

This is a fantastic technique if you’re a fairly new blogger, or if you’re an established blogger struggling for inspiration!

Draw together a list of 10 – 20 great quotes that relate to your blog’s topic. Try to keep your post focused by either going for a particular tone (e.g. inspiring quotes, funny quotes) or by looking for quotes that are fairly specific (e.g. if you write about parenting, you could have “20 quotes about raising toddlers”).

Sometimes, lists of quotes can end up doing extremely well on social media. Charlie Gilkey, from Productive Flourishing, wrote How to Flourish: 17 Quotes on Living, Being and Doing fairly early on in the life of his blog (in 2009). Seven years on, it still brings a lot of traffic to his blog. He told me, via email:

“How to Flourish” was truly a surprise hit and still consistently ranks in the top 10 posts for traffic due to its popularity on StumbleUpon. It was a surprise hit because a) I didn’t post it out of any sense of strategy, b) I had no idea that a quote post would be so popular, and c) the only reason it exists is because I didn’t have time to write an original post. After its success, I wrote a few other quote posts and started using quotes more frequently in my original posts and in social media.

Rounding Up Expert Responses on a Particular Topic

You can put together a great post by asking experts for a quick quote on a specific topic – sometimes this is called a “one question interview”. It can take a fair amount of time and organisation to pull together, but it can make for a great post – with, hopefully, lots of experts who are willing to share it.

To create something more quickly (and to potentially give even more value to the experts being quoted), you could take quotes from their existing posts or published material – then link to those.

Quick caveat: I’ve seen quite a lot of new bloggers doing expert roundups in recent years, so take a look at what’s already out there and see how you can put your own spin on it.

Using Quotations as Part of the Standard Structure of Your Posts

Alex Blackwell, from The Bridgemaker, always starts off his posts with a quotation – he’s been doing this for years, since the start of the blog. I asked him about this, and he explained:

Using a quote before each blog post helps me to establish the tone and theme of the post, which is intended to encourage someone to read one. Often after I get an idea for a post, I look for the quote first. This practice helps me to solidify exactly what I’m trying to say before I begin writing the post.

Barry Demp, the business coach behind The Quotable Coach, has based his whole blog around quotations. His short daily emails (Mon – Fri) all start with a quote and follow a consistent structure. After going out by email, they are then archived on his blog.

Barry told me that he now has over 1,850 email subscribers plus 7,500 monthly visitors to the blog. He added:

Over the past six years, The Quotable Coach blog has significantly expanded its reach and has enhanced the credibility of the Barry Demp Coaching brand. The brief easy-to-read daily format (which includes a photograph, a coaching commentary and an exercise) supports readers in applying the nugget of wisdom to their lives.

Posting Single Quotations as Individual Posts

This particular technique is used by Michael Hyatt to add regular content without overwhelming readers with lots of text. (He outlined his reasons for this in Why I Will Be Posting Less on My Blog.)

You can see Michael’s complete collection of quotes with images here.

It works well, mainly because Michael has the quotations nicely formatted and presented, with a beautiful image for each one. Simply publishing the text of the quotation as a stand-alone post would probably end up turning readers off – and it certainly wouldn’t be anything like so good for encouraging shares on social media.

Adding Depth to Almost Any Post by Going Beyond Your Own Expertise

Pretty much any blog post can benefit from quotations! In this post, I deliberately sourced quotes from Charlie Gilkey, Alex Blackwell and Barry Demp so that they could explain, in their own words, the benefits that using quotations have brought them – considerably better, I feel, that me making a guess at those benefits!

While you can simply search for quotes at the point which you plan or draft a post, you may also want to keep an eye out for things to quote while you’re reading: you could save these to a folder on your computer, to Evernote, or add them into your task management software. (Or, like I did in the dim and distant past when I was a student working on English Literature essays, you could even write them out by hand…!)

If you’re thinking about integrating more quotes into the standard posts on your blog, consider:

  • How to posts: Quote other experts to give bonus tips or extra help on tricky steps.
  • List posts: Ask fellow bloggers – or even your readers – to supply some ideas for the list.
  • Review posts: Quote other reviews; quote from the product where appropriate (often best to ask permission first).
  • Round-up / link posts: Quote from the blog posts that you’re linking to, either instead of or in addition to a summary.

Your Turn: Use a Quote in Your Next Post

Next time you write a blog post, include at least one quotation. It could be a funny or pithy one to start you off; it could be a statement you’re reacting against … or it might be a quote from a fellow blogger or an expert in your field, to help add extra depth to your post.

Good luck – and do comment below to tell us what you’re planning, or to let us know how you got on.

Ali Luke blogs about the art, craft and business of writing at Aliventures. She has two free ebooks on blogging, Ten Powerful Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Stronger and Ten Easy Ways to Attract Readers to Your Blog … And Keep Them There: to get your copies of those, just sign up for her weekly e-newsletter (also free!) here.

The post The Why, How and When of Using Quotations on Your Blog appeared first on ProBlogger.


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