What’s the Difference Between Structured and Unstructured Citations

As every experienced SEO manager will tell you, properly organizing one’s online presence is hard. You not only need to have a decent website and a long-term marketing plan. But, you also need to tackle the seemingly smaller issues like social media and citations. One aspect of citations that you particularly be aware of is the difference between structured and unstructured citations, and how they can help you build your online presence in different ways. So, to help you out, we are going to go cover the most important topics regarding structured and unstructured citations, and how to handle them properly.

What are citations

To fully understand the difference between structured and unstructured citations we first need to know what are citations in general. To put it bluntly, citations are mentions of information regarding your website and/or business. Anytime a person references your business (via name, address, or phone number) or posts a link to your website, that is considered a citation.

A professional writing a citation on a laptop, showcasing one of the difference between structured and unstructured citations.
A citation from an established professional will do ten times more good than a citation from an inexperienced reviewer.

How can they benefit a growing business?

In order to develop a decent online presence, you need to have people mentioning your business and/or website. Sure, you can try contacting directly your customers and offering them your services. But, this is often a more invasive way to present yourself. Your goal should always be to come off as reliable and knowledgeable. And the best way to do that is to have people mentioning you in various discussions and articles. It should be pretty obvious that the more citations you have, the better your business looks.

All that positive attention is bound to bring in quality online traffic that no other source of online marketing could. So, once you set up your plan, make sure that you have citations in mind and that you tackle them with due care.

Difference between structured and unstructured citations

Now that we know what citations are and why they are important, let’s go over the difference between structured and unstructured citations. To do so, we are going to cover each of them separately. This will give us in-depth knowledge of why they are useful and how to tackle them. We are also going to highlight the major differences between them. With luck, this should give you an idea of how, in the future, to differentiate between them with relative ease.

Structured citations

Let us say, for the sake of an argument, that you are a customer looking for a service. Where are you going to look? In the olden days, you would probably open Yellow pages and start flipping pages until you find a noteworthy business. Well, today, due to the internet, we have an easier way to find legit businesses. A customer can either do this through websites like Yelp, Google, or Bing. Or they can check out more niche websites that offer more in-depth reviews of specific businesses.

A person using Google on a tablet.
Most people use Google, Bing, or Yelp to find businesses.

Once you find information about companies name, address, and phone number (NAP info), that counts as a structured citation. The reason why they are called structured is that they follow a specific structure (the NAP). Your job, as a business owner, should be that all of your NAP info is current and up to date. Improper info can not only deter your customers from contacting you but will also lower your SEO rating. Know that Google places a high value on citations, which is why you should do your best to tackle them.

Unstructured citations

On the other hand, if someone mentioned your business in a more contextual, non-formal setting, this is called an unstructured citation. These usually come from third-party websites as part of blog posts, social media mentions, or other locations. For instance, if a news website wants to recommend a local business to hire, they will probably do so in an off-hand manner, by mentioning only a name or a phone number. In most cases, instructed citations will come in the form of links, which will lead to your official website.

Since unstructured citations can come from anyone, it is important to understand that they can be differently valued. While the metrics of value can be hard to quantify, there are certain aspects that make one citation more valuable than others. This is one of the bigger differences between structured and unstructured citations, as structured citations are pretty much all the same. Now, let’s go over what makes an unstructured citation more valuable.

A person writing an article on a laptop in a caffee.
The difference between structured and unstructured citations is that structured are quite intentional, while unstructured have a more free form style.

Adding value to an unstructured citation

The whole value behind an unstructured citation is behind who is posting it. It should be fairly obvious that a non-contextual mention from a foreign website is worth much less than praise from a well-established local professional. So, to give you an idea of how to measure what is in between, here is what you need to look out for:

  • Location – A citation from a website that focuses on your area will be worth much more than one from far away. Local citations have much more weight simply because they seem more natural and honest.
  • Industry knowledge – Ideally, all of your citations will come from people who know a thing or two about your industry. A mention from someone that knows little about what you are doing is not worth much, simply because their experience is lacking. The more renowned your reviewer is, the more worth their citation has. So, look for niche citations¬†by well-established professionals.
  • Popularity – At the end of the day, we are dealing with marketing and online presence. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the more popular your reviewer is, the more value their citations have. So, while this is not always ideal, know that popularity plays a big role.

Now that you understand the difference between structured and unstructured citations we hope you will make better decisions. However, you are always welcome to reach out to our professionals at AZ Citation Services and let pros handle your citations strategy.

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