Backlinks & Citations - What's the difference?

Links! How to get them and what they mean to you.

What is a Backlink?

Moz - "Backlinks, also called "inbound links" or "incoming links," are created when one website links to another. The link to an external website is called a backlink."

Backlinks are especially valuable for SEO because they represent a "vote of confidence" to Google and other Search Engines. They're a signal to search engines that others vouch for the content and in some way, the business identity. If there are a large number of sites which link to the same webpage or website, search engines see this as a site worth linking to, and therefore tend to push this site up in the Search Engine Results Pages ( 'SERP's' for short ). So, earning these backlinks can have a positive effect on a site's ranking position and search visibility.

However, building backlinks has been scrutinised more recently by Google as it has seen Link Schemes growing across the net. Regulations are now much stricter than ever before and we regularly see penalties from Google to websites which have neglected Google's policies and recommendations.

HubDo's policy for building traditional and high quality backlinks is to build relationships first. Then work on obtaining a backlink, or links in general e.g. 'one way' and 'reciprocal links', through business connections and work related relationships. Guest Blogging for a partner or associates website is a great way to build relationships and earn good quality links.

Citation Listings

A citation is any online mention of the name, address, and phone number ( NAP ) for a business. Citations occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms. These listings help web users to discover businesses and can also impact local search engine rankings via the Local Set of Google Map listings.

Many Citation sites such as Yext, Yellow Pages, Foursquare, HotFrog, Truelocal etc offer a free listing to all businesses. Those businesses with a physical location, e.g. shop front or office, find these listings offer excellent referral traffic to their own websites as well as foot traffic through the door.

Although, some of these citation listings will often outdo the businesses own website listing in the SERPs many sites do not offer a typical link to the website. They block Google from referring to the link using a piece of code known as a 'rel=nofollow' tag - put simply, this tag is telling Google not to follow the link and refer any SEO quality. Hence any links with a 'rel=nofollow' tag may not appear in the clients Search Console account as a 'Link to your Site' or SEO tracking tools.

How Does Google Handle These Tags?

Support: "In general, we don't follow them. This means that Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links. Essentially, using nofollow causes us to drop the target links from our overall graph of the web. However, the target pages may still appear in our index if other sites link to them without using nofollow, or if the URLs are submitted to Google in a Sitemap. Also, it's important to note that other search engines may handle nofollow in slightly different ways."

Double Check Your NAP & URL in Citation Listings

It's easy to double check each of your listings via each citation site. If you're using an SEO service ask them for a list of the active citation sites. Then ensure you've added the correct NAP and full URL of your website to the listing. Adding the wrong version of the domain URL such as the HTTP vs HTTPS or www vs non-www link will break the value of the listing and may even send the visitor to a 404 page! Double check each of your listings by clicking through to your website from each business site.

Learn more about changes to your URL's via our Knowledge base article on 301 Redirects.