Link analysis is an established topic within webometrics. It normally uses counts of links between sets of web sites or to sets of web sites. These link counts are derived from web crawlers or commercial search engines with the latter being the only alternative for some investigations. This paper compares link counts with URL citation counts in order to assess whether the latter could be a replacement for the former if the major search engines withdraw their advanced hyperlink search facilities.
URL citation counts are compared with link counts for a variety of data sets used in previous webometric studies.
The results show a high degree of correlation between the two but with URL citations being much less numerous, at least outside academia and business.
The results cover a small selection of 15 case studies and so the findings are only indicative. Significant differences between results indicate that the difference between link counts and URL citation counts will vary between webometric studies.
Should link searches be withdrawn, then link analyses of less well linked non‐academic, non‐commercial sites would be seriously weakened, although citations based on e‐mail addresses could help to make citations more numerous than links for some business and academic contexts.
This is the first systematic study of the difference between link counts and URL citation counts in a variety of contexts and it shows that there are significant differences between the two.
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