The first time I heard about citation flow I thought it was how the air flows over a Cessna Citation aeroplane. I am guessing therefore that many of you who are reading this are pretty much in the same boat as I was.
It goes to show how a lack of knowledge is dangerous. We hear once in a while about a website citation value, which equates down to a number. So, for example, Google.co.za has a citation flow value of 43/100 while Google.com has a citation flow of 98/100. How they get to that number is technical and out of the scope of this article. To understand what citation is however we need to look at a real-world situation. A new shop pops up in your area. You and your friends mention the place, are curious, have mixed feelings, and don’t know the owner or the quality of their goods or services. So although they are mentioned a lot, the quality of those citations are mixed and untrusted. On the other hand, you have a local butchery, well known for its quality cuts and amazing service. When they are mentioned at a get-together, some of the group will quickly reply with, “Absolutely, they are the best in our town!” or “Ya, we buy their meat all the time”.
The citations and mentions for the butchery over time have built them a solid reputation for being good at what they do. The new shop owner, on the other hand, has a lot of work to do to build up positive local citations and eventually be known for his quality or lack thereof. Citations work a lot like the example above with regard to the citation flow of a website. New websites are unheard of until they start to market online and are advertised and sold. It’s the consequent clients who are the ones who should be making citations on their Facebook wall or in a comment on the site or in a forum elsewhere. They are the most valuable in terms of citation because they have had the first-hand experience with the business and have valuable feedback (which Google uses nowadays to measure the quality of service on a scale of 1-100). Most of your customers will never make a mention of your services online nor will they do a review unless you train them to do it.
The mentions and citations all are measured by how organic they are (checked for patterns to see that the citations are not generated falsely by an SEO campaign), where they are coming from (Local is very important because a person in China couldn’t possibly know much about your business compared with your next door neighbour who shops there regularly). The last important aspect is how the frequency and consistency of the citations. Citations and reviews do cross paths with client orientated mentions. The other form of citation is when a website mentions another business on their website. An example of this happening is when a roofing expert mentions a tiling or plumbing company and invites people to use their service because the roofing people trust their services enough to be able to make a recommendation. A brand mention from a website without any link is still taken into consideration by the Google algorithm and is included in the citation value. Other forms of more conventional citations are listings on a local online directory.
Local Citation Flow
Let this sink in deep if you are a business owner – if you have a very low citation flow its time to work on a citation strategy. Your position in the search engine results pages for local search results depend on how high your citation flow is and is one of the most important out of many signals being used to position your listing. In our next article, we will be writing about Trust Flow which works hand-in-hand with citation flow and encompasses how Google determines the quality of a website, the people behind the scenes and the visitor's sentiment to create an overall snapshot that determines your position in the search engine results.
Useful reading: http://moz.com/learn/local/citations