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Citations and Links: What’s the Difference?

December 8th, 2017 | by Clare Louise
Citations and Links: What’s the Difference?


Two of the most common terms you’ll hear in SEO are citations and links. Citations are not the type of tickets you get while driving but instead refer to any time someone mentions your company on their website. It can be your business name, phone number, website address or any other identifying information. Citation sources are important in local SEO, because search engines consider them to be a very reliable indicator of trust, relevance and quality. There are different types of citations, unstructured and structured. Structured citations are found in business listing sites and directories like Yellow Pages and Yelp. Unstructured citations can be found on blogs, government sites, event listing websites and newspaper websites.

A structured citation looks like this:

  • SyCara Local

6263 N. Scottsdale Rd. Suite #180 Scottsdale, AZ 85250


Links are the connections between two websites built using HTML code and enables visitors to move between different web pages, according to a Search Engine Journal article on SEO lingo. Links can also be embedded within images and widgets.Link building is very important in SEO. The process of acquiring links from other sites is essential for many webmasters. Read about the many types of links on Search Engine Journal.

What’s the Difference?

A BrightLocal article by Mark Walters gives a breakdown on how links and citations are similar yet very different. Both typically appear on third party websites, are online references to your business and have the ability to affect your search rankings. However, they are different in the fact that a (structured) citation must include name, address and phone number (NAP), but a link doesn’t have to. Also a link must be clickable, but a citation does not have to be. And most importantly, “links improve rankings for both organic search results and local business search results, while citations only improve rankings in local results,” Walters says.

Why Links and Citations Are Both Important

Citations and links are two primary factors Google uses when deciding how to rank local businesses in search results, according to Walters. Links and citations are also how people find your business. “Consider each citation and link as a small advert for your site. The more of them you have and the more powerful the sites they exist on, the more people will see them and will visit your site or call you,” Walters explains. It’s also important to build both links and citations so you compare well with your competitors. Says Walters, “if your site has lots and lots of one but few of the other, then competitors who have lots of both will almost always outrank you.” Quality is definitely better than quantity, but ideally if you want to beat your competitors, you will want to have more and similar citations.

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