What’s the difference between a link and a citation?

When you look at SEO today, both links and citations are an important part of the larger SEO puzzle. Generally speaking, the more quality links you have the better ranking position in global search engine result pages your website may acquire. As for citations, they have more influence on local search results. When implemented together, they can increase your site visibility and improve the ranking for given keywords. However, it’s important to know the difference between a link and a citation and how they work.

The difference between a link and a citation

For years, links were one of the most important elements in every SEO. But, as search engines and SEO are always changing, so is the importance of certain elements over time. Since Google has been focusing on local searches, especially for brick-and-mortar businesses, other elements are taking over their fair share of influence. This is when citations come into focus. Even though a link and a citation have a similar purpose, like boosting your overall SEO, they function differently and have different forms.

The effects of links and citations

When Google, for example, needs to decide how to rank a website, it uses both links and citations as one of the primary factors. For global searches, the number and quality of backlinks can improve your ranking positions. But, if you need to target the local area, they won’t do much without the smart use of citations. When joined together, they provide effective ways for people to discover your website and your business.

Diagram of business planning with different aspects to consider.
You need careful planning to make a good link and citation profiles.

Additionally, they give you the means to stand out among other competitors. This is not an easy job, however. For example, if your competitor has at least 40 quality links and about the same amount of citations, you need to match and surpass it. But not only in quantity. The quality plays a great deal here. Fortunately, you can get SEO professionals such as AZ Citation Services to help you build a healthy link and citation profile and maintain it.

What is a link?

In simple words, links are pieces of HTML code implemented in your website elements that connect two points:

<a href=”https://websiteexample.com”>text of this link</a>

It can be pages on two different websites, but these hyperlinks also connect pages within the same website. In most cases, you can place them in three basic categories:

  • Internal links – Internal links connect pages or points within your website. Besides the obvious, it helps search engines crawl your website more efficiently. And, keeps your visitors engaged in different content on your website.
  • External links – External links are outgoing links that point to places outside your website. Connecting your website to useful and relevant content on other websites can increase your credibility.
  • Backlinks – Backlinks are the incoming links from other websites to content on your website. They are highly important because they help you build your authority. And, same as external links, they share certain value between websites.

There are other sub-categories like text links, image links, and similar, but these three are the most fundamental types of links, in general.

The example of a link: You can find plenty of general information about SEO on Wikipedia.

The world map with the connection network.
Hyperlinks connect websites across the globe.

What is a citation?

Also known as Citation Listings, is any mention of your business online. In most cases, citations contain information about the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of your business. The most common place where you can find these mentions are:

  • Google My Business
  • Local business directories
  • Free online directories like Yext, Yellow pages, Foursquare, etc.
  • Social Media
  • Government and other types of listings

The most valuable function of citations is that they improve the visibility of your business on a local level. But, in a way, they may also affect your global SERPs. In simple words, they help people discover your business and help you rank on local search results. For any business with a physical location, citations are “a must”. Especially if your customers need to visit you. In addition, citations can contain links, like a link to your website.

Citation example: SEOprocomp, 16 River Drive, Chicago, Illinois, 312-555-5555


16 River Drive

A woman is navigating through local search results and maps.
For someone to find your business location, NAP information is crucial.

The main difference between a link and a citation

  • Even though they are both good online references, citations are significantly important for local businesses.
  • Links appear on both your and other websites, while citations are citations only when they appear on other places. On your website, they are nothing more than basic business information.
  • Citations include NAP information that needs to be consistent and accurate in every listing.
  • Links can show everywhere and lean on the versatility of keyword usage.
  • Citations can include a link to your website.
  • Anchor text in links can include part of NAP.
  • Links need to be “clickable” by users, while citations don’t have to. Except, when they include the website address.
  • Links are important for both businesses with and without a physical location, while citations focus on those with a physical location.
  • Citations are imperative for local SEO and slightly influence global search. On the other side, links are equally good for both but slightly lean on overall SEO.

When wondering what is more important, the best answer is that they are both important. Even though citations are necessary for the local business, they will not be so successful without links. They are mutually dependent and give the best results if utilized equally. In addition, you can say that Google favors a diverse and natural link profile. But it also focuses on accurate citations for localized results. Given these points, you should understand the difference between a link and a citation because they are both crucial parts of any serious SEO campaign. And combining them with relevant and quality content, Social Media, and other aspects of marketing will definitely be a sure way to success.

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