You are going to hear the term citation used in different ways from SEOs and even Google. Please do not get confused. The best way to understand what is happening in search is to look at the history. I will not get into details, however, I will mention originally, links were links and citations were simply mentions.
So what does that mean?
Before schema.org, before Author Rank, before almost anything we knew that tried to match duplicate content, Google had a series of filters that the index engine used to recognize various content elements such as author name, post dates, company names and locations, etc. These data elements were put into the knowledge graph. This is just one example.
There were, at that time, many filters that acted upon the content once fetched to index various aspects of the content. One was a filter looking for duplicate content. The term index was a simple table of terms with an ID. In the very early days, duplicate content was a simple pattern matching and probability analysis that could recognize duplicate or near duplicate content from a simple sentence to paragraphs or even whole pages. Today, recognizing duplicate content is very sophisticated.
Please understand that web content creators are very traditional. They always have been. Google follows tradition. This is one reason why I recommend following tradition as a way to create and rank content.
Content creators often put citations in block quotes. Filters paid particular attention to the
<q> tag and tried to match the source. Somewhere along the line, the cite attribute was added to attribute the quote to a page, author, or site. This was done to help search engines.
In addition to this, schema.org added a citation property to CreativeWork and Text for the same reason.
<q> and schema.org markup are powerful tools for search engines.
What's changed since then?
Google has become much more sophisticated to analyzing content using linguistic semantics starting in 2005 and 2006. Using various analytic methods, Google can understand content much better and even match duplicate content authorship. It can even match writing styles to recognize and match authors of unsigned work to signed work.
Google dropped AuthorRank as a ranking factor. Or so they say. This does not mean that AuthorRank was dropped entirely. The data elements of AuthorRank was/is still of value. In fact, I truly believe that AuthorRank may still be used as a TrustRank factor to help understand a sites authority. I have no specific proof of this that I can remember today, however, it makes sense. For example, Rand Fishkin has his own blog and also founded and posted to moz.com for many years. A simple search for his name shows what Google thinks of Rand. It would make sense to credit MOZ as having more authority because of Rand's posts. It makes sense to keep authorship data in the knowledge graph even if no actual rank value is assigned. Do a search for his name and look at his card to the right of the page. It should be eye opening.
The knowledge graph has much more data that it can store for search intelligence since it was created. For example, social engagement on social media. With more data to understand, making ties between content and real people is far more possible. Again, searching for Rand on Google makes this very clear.
Where citations work in rough order.
- Duplicate content. (full or partial)
- Duplicate header tags.
- Non-duplicate content with accreditation.
- Non-duplicate content with accreditation with a link.
- Duplicate content with accreditation.
- Duplicate content with accreditation and a link.
- Duplicate content in a
- Duplicate content in a
<q> tag with a cite
- Duplicate content in schema.org markup.
What can help Google understand authorship.
- An author page on your own site with schema.org markup.
- An about page on your own site with schema.org markup indicating NAP
(name, address, phone) data.
- Social media links on your site.
- Signed work on your own site. (your name or more in text)
- Signed work on other sites.
- Links from signed work to your author page or site.
- Social media links on signed work.
- Social media engagement.
- Having a Google login.
- Having a Google My Business account. (even for a blog as a business)
- Articles written about you or your work. (being news worthy)
- Being engaged in professional websites.
- Being profiled on sites that directly feed the knowledge graph such
This is just a start. You will want to look at how your citations are made. Add links, blockquote tags, cite attributes, schema.org markup, etc. to strengthen your citations where you can. Create a strong presence within the web, social communities, and professional communities.
And oh yeah. SE does not hurt either!