SEO: What’s The Difference Between Links And Citations?

The Difference Between Links and Citations

A link is a URL you embed on a text in a website, while a citation is not necessarily a link. A citation can be a hyperlink if your source is material published online. A citation also includes the name of the book, author, and year that it was published. 

Is it better to get a citation or a backlink from a blogger? Can a link be a citation and vice versa? I will answer all these questions and tell you when to use one or the other. 

What is the purpose of a link?

A backlink is a hyperlink that takes a reader to another website—that is, if the reader clicked or tapped on that link. It also tells Google that a particular text, a keyword, is related to a website that it links to. 

A backlink serves as a positive signal to Google. It is a fundamental approach to SEO. The more backlinks there are leading to your website, the better it is for your search engine optimization. 

A backlink is not always good, as Google has specific rules on how they should work. There are fake and spam backlinks that come from private bog networks or PBN. Google does not like them even if pundits claim that PBNs are effective for SEO.

A good backlink allows Google to crawl it, and then Google finds itself on your site. As such, Google will index your site and consider displaying it later. 

What is the purpose of a citation?

The purpose of a citation is to name or credit somebody. It is an appeal to authority. For example, if you claim that Vitamin C is good for the health, you need to tell the reader where you got that information. 

It can be the other way around where another blogger cites you as the source of his information. It is now up to the blogger to link that citation to you or not. 

The most common form of citation is NAP, which stands for name, address, and phone number. In a typical citation, the blogger would write something like this:

Source: John Smith

123 Main St, 54th Avenue, Salinas, CA, 12345


This citation has no link. Still, it is a reference. Once a reader sees this, he can take action and visit John Smith in person or call him. To John Smith, this is good for business.

Some citations have hyperlinks, like the ones you see in Wikipedia. Below is a screenshot of an example.

As you can see, the purpose of the citation is to drive confidence. The author wants to prove that he is not getting information out of thin air, that his article has references from reputable resources. 

Reference and citations are mainly used in academic writing. In its modern form, many bloggers use a combination of a hyperlink and a citation. For example, they would use an anchor text about a discovery of a fossil, and then they will hyperlink it to the source. 

That sentence, on its own, is like a citation. The bloggers claim that they got the information from a reputable published source. 

What are the main differences between a link and a citation?

Here are the main differences between the two: 

  • Citation is important for local businesses; it helps drive foot traffic
  • Citation is accurate in every listing; they do not take any other form
  • Links are great for SEO, and they depend on keywords or anchor texts
  • Bloggers and writers cannot modify the link, but they can modify the anchor texts to fit their content
  • Citations do not need to be links
  • Links are great for businesses with no published physical location
  • Links are great for global search, but citations are great for local SEO

As you can see, a citation is excellent for a business because it tells a reader where a business is. It also has to be standard, like the NAP I showed earlier. 

In that example, a person will immediately see the person’s name, address, and phone number. For example, if John Smith was a dentist, then anyone living in Salinas who read that citation is like to take action and inquire about his dental services.

What should you use for SEO: Link or Citation?

It depends. If you have a local business, a citation is better. However, it will also do you well if you target backlinks in your SEO strategy. 

A citation is also better if you have a physical location and a phone number. It shows on other people’s websites as a listing. If they do not hyperlink to your website, it does not matter. What matters is that the person reading it will take action and call you. 

On the other hand, backlinks matter if you look for website traffic. You want website traffic if you sell something, like an online course for freelance writing. You want other bloggers to recommend you. If you are a dentist, traffic is not your top priority—you want people to call you. 

If you are a blogger, then you certainly want backlinks. The backlinks help you establish your credibility and authority in the eyes of Google and readers. If a blogger backlinks to your website, it is an indication he trusts your content—so much so that he is willing to send his readers to you. 

Summary: What’s The Difference Between Links and Citations?

A link is any text that has a URL embedded in it. When a person clicks it, the person gets redirected to another webpage. The primary purpose of a link is SEO—it tells Google that your content is to be trusted. 

A citation is a reference to authority or a kind of business listing. It is excellent for people with physical and local businesses, as the citation makes a reader take action and schedule an appointment or visit the shop. 

Whatever your situation is, it is better to do both. If you have a website, backlinks will help you get more traffic. On the other hand, Citations will help you schedule more appointments or get physical in-person visits.

John Kilmerstone

I'm an Aussie living in Japan who enjoys traveling, photography, and blogging. Please visit this website and explore the wonderful world of blogging. Discover how to turn your passions and pastimes into an online business.

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