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What Is the Difference between a Citation and a Link?

The one constant thing about search engine optimization over the years has been that the things that count the most are constantly changing. Even though we have all been taught for a very long time that building links is the most important part of a SEO campaign, there is now a new factor that is emerging as a possible strong factor like traditional link building. This new factor is typically called either a citation, or a reference, and it means whenever a site makes mention of another website, brand, or product, even without linking to it.

Citations have quickly become a very important part of SEO, although their strength definitely plays towards companies which have a clear cut branded image, as it is the mention of that brand that will help them to rise in the rankings. The argument that citations provide a more accurate reflection of web trends is simple. When links are the primary factor in determining how well a site is going to rank in the search engines, the only people that are essentially being able to have an impact on how sites are listed are those that have websites. When citations and references are given more weight, everyone who has internet access is being given the ability to affect the search trends, not just those who own their own web pages.

The rise in the importance of web references has come on the back of the rise of social networking. Many, many times more people use Facebook or Twitter than own their own websites, and as such, the search engines began to realize that they had to start giving some weight to the data contained in these sites. It is now possible for a mention of a particular product in a review on Twitter to have a (albeit small) effect on the search rankings of a website without having to link directly to it.

This shift that is taking place is simply a response by the search engines to the trends on the web, the same way that they have done since the earliest days of search technology. There are a few flaws in this procedure thus far, such as the fact that not everyone does use social networking sites or comments on blogs, and that there are often strange fluctuations in the mention of certain things due to the kind of mob mentality that can sweep the nation in the age of mass media.

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Written by

Scott Gallagher is a founding faculty member of Local Marketing Source and owner of WON Marketing, Inc. For over 14 years Scott has provided consulting and online marketing services to hundreds of businesses.

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