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April 18, 2024

Local Listings vs Links vs Citations: What's the Difference?

Understand the differences between local listings, local links and local citations, three cornerstones of SEO, to enhance your business's online presence.

If you've found yourself slightly confused as to the difference between a local listing, a local citation, and a local (back) link - you're not alone. And that's why we're trying to clarify some of the terminology with this article.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact many use these different terms to describe what is basically the same thing. So, stick with us and with any luck you'll feel like you have your head around all the differences, similarities and synonyms by the end of this post. 

Setting the Citation Stage

If you’re looking to boost your local business’s online presence, you need drive relevant traffic to your website. To do so, you must ensure competitive organic search visibility at the local or national level. This strategy is commonly referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

Local SEO strategies help your business rank higher in local search rankings They also help your customers find and engage with your business at a neighborhood level. 

While there are many things you can do to boost local SEO, today, we’re focusing on local listings, local links, local citations and the overall reputation strategy of business listings management.

What is NAP Alignment?

We’ll articulate the key differences between local citations, links and listings - and provide tips for how you can optimize your listings for maximum visibility. Further, we’ll outline how local citations pose a unique threat to your business’s Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) accuracy, and how the subsequent spread of misinformation can negatively affect your business.

Local Citations Vs. Local Listings

Local Listings vs Local Links vs Local Citations

More often than not, the term “local citations” is used interchangeably with “local links/listings”, but this confluence isn’t completely accurate. 

A local listing, or “listing,” is an online reference to your business in a local business directory or ​​on platforms such as Google My Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook, etc. 

Listings typically include essential information about your business, such as its NAP info, website, hours of operation, and sometimes additional details like reviews, photos, and descriptions. Listings are a type of local “citation” paired with a local backlink (an external link that redirects users from one site to another). 

A local citation, or “citation”, refers to mentions of a business's NAP on various online platforms, directories, websites or social media channels. 

Citations don’t necessarily have to include a local backlink to the business's website. They can exist outside of a local business directory and serve as references to validate and verify the existence and location of a business. The formation and location of citations are what distinguishes them from listings. 

A local (back) link describes only a citation which includes a link (because not all do). All local listings include a backlink.  

While all listings are citations, not all citations are also links/listings.

Does your head hurt yet? Because it probably should.

The Impact of Data Aggregators on your Online Presence

Your listings management strategy in part determines your online presence, but there’s more at play. Data aggregators wield significant influence over your business’s online presence as well. 

Data aggregators are designed to seek out information about your business, and collect and share it across multiple online directories and listings sites. This is usually accomplished using automated scrapers or scripts, and the data collected and published is usually on low-quality sites and outside of your control.

Therefore, data aggregators often do a disservice to your business, as they can create listings which are never updated and remain un-editable.

Incorrect information about your business on the web threatens a key search ranking indicator: NAP Alignment. It also puts your business and customers at risk, as it can open the door to scammers or damage your reputation.

One of the best ways to mitigate automated and aggregated business citations/listings is to offset them by creating higher quality examples on sites/directories that you can control. This is where the term "Listings Management" comes into play, and we'll get back to that concept in a second.

NAP Alignment's Impact on Local SEO

Again, NAP alignment is when your business information is consistent and up to date across the web, on listings sites and in local business directories. It’s vital to your online visibility, as it sends a clear signal to search engines, particularly Google, about your business's legitimacy. 

Consistent NAP data boosts your business's chances of appearing competitively in local search results. as search engines often award higher rank based on a site’s perceived level of consistency and reliability of information across multiple sources. 

Further, it helps potential customers find accurate information about your business, leading to a positive user experience and an established sense of trust and authenticity. 

In short: inconsistent NAP data will confuse both current and prospective customers and search algorithms, so invest in a strategy that ensures it’s up to date. 

How to Manage Listings and Ensure NAP Alignment

Failing to manage your business listings risks leaving incorrect data online for customers to see. Here are two common ways to manage your business listings and ensure accuracy:

  1. Manual Editing: While you can adjust the mountain of data across all of your listings one by one, it’s time-consuming. Your business is likely listed on hundreds of business directories. Even with a meticulous spreadsheet full of login data, editing listings manually is a large investment of time and resources.
  2. Listings Management Services: Listing management services make it easy to verify and update business listings across the web. Rather than editing every site manually, a listings management provider streamlines the process. You make an update once, and the change is syndicated across all business directories online.

For more information on Listings Management, check out What is Local Business Listings Management and Why is it Important? 


Understanding the differences between citations, links and listings can help you hone your marketing strategy and make your business more accessible to both search engines and your customers. 

Resources and time are two things business owners can’t afford to lose - and the right listings management partner can save you both.

If you're looking to learn more about listings management and how to choose the right firm for your business, download our free guide:

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Tag(s): SEO

Jackie Mattaliano

I moved to Vermont 10 years ago from New Jersey to study at UVM and am still here today. I majored in English and minored in Philosophy and Classics. All of these fields have played a significant role in my growth as a person. In that vein, I enjoy writing poetry and prose as well as watching movies and tv shows. There’s nothing more fun to me than a story. I currently work at Widewail alongside an incredibly talented and driven group of people and I am proud to celebrate my two-year anniversary in June.

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