Citations vs Backlinks: What’s the difference?

Countless businesses are swaying their marketing strategies towards online marketing. No wonder, since people are spending more and more time online. For that reason, SEO rankings seem to be more important than ever before. However, it is crucial to understand that improving SEO is more than a marketing strategy that will help you skyrocket your business. To reach impressive SEO rankings you must use multiple tactics and strategies. So, it is very clear that you must have a serious game plan in place if you want customers or clients to “stumble” upon your website instead of your competitors. The key players in getting great rankings are citations and backlinks. But, which is more beneficial? The ultimate battle: citations vs backlinks beggings. Let’s see which will come out on top.

Definitions – first we must understand their exact meaning

To grasp their importance and determine the more superior SEO strategy, first, our AZ Citation Services experts will clarify what they really mean.

Some ready to Google on their phone citations vs backlinks
Google might be the most difficult search engine to impress while being the most in-demand engine by far.


Popular backlinks are often known as inbound links. To simplify, they are URLs of your website or a webpage from your website that can be found on another website. When a reader clicks on it, they are supposed to reroute them to your content. Consequently, your firm’s visibility would be increase. Also, search engines would find your site more credible and thus rank it higher. This is an excellent way to improve SEO, promote your brand and increase visibility by building citations.


This SEO strategy sounds very simple. It directly mentions your business’s name, address, and phone number on an online directory. Sounds short, sweet, and simple. However, it seems to be quite a challenge for many businesses when it comes to their maintenance. That is why there are plenty of tools that help manage citations.

The ultimate battle: Citations vs Backlinks

Now that we all fully understand the difference between the two the debate: Citations vs Backlinks can take off. For either tactic to be effective, they must be done the correct way, and here is how.

What is an effective backlink profile?

Jamming a random backlink towards your website’s web pages will hardly do the trick. Search engines are way too smart to fall for a trap like that. They have little and extremely smart search bots that crawl all over your webpage and your content while judging their authenticity and value. That is why link building must be taken very seriously if you want high organic search engine rankings. Unfortunately, your efforts need to continue after link building. Link maintenance is equally important. So, you must build organic and quality inbound links but also maintain and deal with low-quality backlinks that can damage your SEO.

A guy sitting in front of his PC while monitoring his backlink statistics.
There are many great online tools that can help you monitor your backlink success.

DOs and DON’Ts

By now we have cleared up that not all backlinks will be beneficial to your SEO. Differences that might seem trivial to a random reader, might be of major significance to Google and other search engines. Here is how you can make the differentiation:

  • Spam links vs good-quality links – The authority of the website that is referring you to their readers is very important. Being referred by the New York Times or by an anonymous website make a world of difference.
  • Irrelevant vs relevant – staying on topic is of significance. Randomly chosen backlinks that have nothing to do with your nitch will not get the job done.

Backlink consistency

Briefly, we must emphasize the importance of inbound link maintenance. Google (as the most powerful search engine) has its own guidelines and it would be wise to follow them to a tee. If your links can maintain a certain standard, your SEO success will be just around the corner. Thus, do your best to use links with great authority, while keeping them relevant to your industry.

Jeopardizing your SEO through your backlinks

Any sign of manipulation can be detected. Don’t kid yourself that you will outsmart the system. If you get burned, here are punishments that you will most likely face:

  • manual penalties – your website or some pages will be deindexed from Google.
  • algorithmic penalties – rankings will take a massive nose dive that is extremely difficult to recover from. This type of penalty is much more difficult to overcome in comparison to a manual penalty.

What is an effective citation profile?

While backlinks are a great boost for your overall SEO, citations are a great way to target your local SEO. In other words, it is your online business card.

A local cafe that uses citations to improve their business
Local businesses often use citations to improve their online visibility and as a result their business.

Citation consistency

Even though they are less difficult to maintain than inbound links, you would be surprised how many businesses struggle with their citations. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they do not recognize the value of citations, but it likely that they underestimate the effort that needs to be invested to keep everything on point. What firms must understand is that the provided information cannot be outdated and/or incorrect. Also, it should always be provided in the exact same order (for the best possible results).

Jeopardizing your local SEO through your citations

There are no concrete penalties that you will face, but this doesn’t mean that your business will not feel the punch. Think about it this way, instead of finding you online, prospective customers will locate your competitors. As a result, their bottom line will be increased.

The winner in the battle Citations vs Backlinks

We might disappoint, but we must say that there is no clearcut winner in this heavyweight match. If you want to dominate your nitch market you will be smart and use both SEO strategies to your benefit. While one will improve your overall SEO, the other will skyrocket your local SEO. Needless to say that they both should be key players in your digital marketing strategy. So don’t worry about the battle citations vs backlinks and look at them from a new and unique perspective. They are your key components in making sure your website rises to the top of all searches on multiple search engines. Don’t waste any more time and start improving your SEO immediately. Magnificent results will follow slowly, but surely.

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