Why you need to care about local business citations
Online citations & local SEO (search engine optimization)
The importance of taking your company online is difficult to ignore in the modern world.
80% of people use the internet to search for information about local services and products, and most do not look beyond the first or second page of results when searching.
A strong online presence is critical to building your customer base and growing your business over time.
Today, we are going to dive into one of the topics that often gets overlooked: citations & local SEO.
We are going to break down the concept and highlight the main benefits, but before, let’s see what citations are.
Let's dive in.
What are citations
In SEO, citations are basically mentions of your company’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) on a website that is not your company’s.
And Google loves seeing a beautifully structured citation on a relevant, reputable domain.
Business listings, citations, and NAPs pretty much all mean the same thing. If you're a complete SEO rookie, just assume these all mean the same thing. 🙂
What is a NAP
It stands for:
Google’s local search algorithm interprets your NAP information as an indicator of relevancy and legitimacy, supporting your local SEO strategy’s success.
Think of it this way: every single NAP that's published out there on the web is a signal of digital credibility (in the eyes of a search engine algorithm anyway).
And, if you want each one to *count* towards your domain authority, you must make sure that every single citation is exactly the same.
They all must be identical.
An unstructured citation occurs on any website or app that isn’t specifically structured for the publication of local business listings. For example, mentions in a news article, a blog post, or on a social media platform act as a reference to your business, just like a structured citation. — Moz
An unstructured citation doesn't exactly damage your digital credibility, but you do miss out on some SEO citations juice for your main domain!
Over the long-term, just one unstructured citation can cost you tens of thousands of dollars due to less-than-stellar search engine rankings. You just wouldn't ever know that because you wouldn't know any better! You don't yet know what it's like to be in a lucrative search ranking.
You underestimate how many people out there actually search on Google for the products you sell and the services that you offer.
Just wait until you're in the top spot.
That coveted #1 Google ranking.
Building citations (and doing it correctly) is one of the simplest, most profitable things a business owner can do to guarantee their credibility.
Say no to unstructured citations.
Start with Google Maps if you're new
If you don't know what a local business citation is, you should start with Google Maps.
And then do the exact same thing with Apple Maps.
Apple Maps has been WORKING the last couple of years. So many improvements have been made and they're very well-positioned to snag a decent chunk of market share.
If you're a business owner who needs help with building (or cleaning up) a portfolio of business listing citations, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Citations Checker" and we'll link you to a free tool that basically checks the health of your citation portfolio. If needed, we can get the entire thing spic and span before next month for you too. 🙂
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Organic search has exploded (especially local SEO)
In what regards the local SEO relevance, let’s just consider that in the past two years, there has been a 900% growth in “near me tonight/today” searches and a 200% increase in mobile searches for “open + now + near me.”
Local companies have a tremendous opportunity to gain market share and boost their growth.
Citations are particularly important for businesses starting from scratch in the digital world.
As a business that recently entered the world of SEO, citations ensure you’ll appear in search results in local queries.
Moreover, citations enable Google to verify that the address mentioned on your website is the correct one.
As it crawls the web and identifies multiple reputable sites listing the same business info, Google will learn to perceive you as a legitimate local business – increasing the chances of showing it in local search results without a penny invested in Google Ads.
If your NAP is found on other websites
If the algorithm identifies your NAP details on various local sites, it will associate your presence with prominence, increasing your local rankings.
If any unstructured citations exist, Google will pass over them and treat them as if they're invisible. A simple inconsistency is the only thing standing in the way of sending another powerful signal to Google.
Your SEO agency knows the reputable online directories
An SEO expert can help you determine which platforms have high domain authority and relevance in your industry.
There are multiple types of citations, but all SEO experts have come to an agreement that Google My Business, Bing Maps, Facebook, and Yelp are the most relevant (if you are located in the United States).
Of course, the most relevant ones depend on your industry.
Honestly though the more the merrier - so long as it's reputable.
How can it be a bad thing to have your domain published on other reputable domains across the Internet?
For example, for healthcare providers, HealthGrades is arguably the most important. 🙂
But every single business must have a Google Business Profile (formerly and most commonly known as Google My Business)
The difference between citations and link-building
When you build citations for local SEO purposes, you are primarily trying to increase the quantity and quality of NAP mentions.
Link building refers to the process of getting links from other websites back to yours; it’s one way for a site to earn “link juice” (i.e., authority) in Google’s eyes.
Both are important, but SEO specialists argue that citations get the edge for local businesses.
What are business listings?
Business listings and citations mean the same thing.
How to pick the ideal citations
As mentioned, your SEO expert will provide you with recommendations, but you can consult these lists of top industry citations per business category as well:
For more citation opportunities, check out this list of some of the most popular directories.
How to get quickly listed in premium business directories:
Plenty of authoritative local directories incorporate data feeds from others when getting listed; therefore, your information can flow downstream automatically.
There are three main methods to use for citation listings:
Manual submission (i.e setting up your Google Maps citation)
This method involves a person entering data into listing sites by hand. It’s a time-consuming process, but it ensures the information is 100% accurate.
You must be listed on Google Maps if you're a brick and mortar business where people come to a physical location. I'm telling you, you're missing out on a TON of traffic by not taking 20-30 minutes one Saturday morning and getting this set up.
Services like Whitespark and Brightlocal can submit your NAP data to the primary data aggregators, which results in your details being shared on multiple other sites.
Guest blogging is most commonly associated with backlinking/link building, but if you can list your exact NAP within your guest blog post, you'll earn yourself another business listing citation.
Guest blogging means you'll publish a piece of content on someone else's blog and include a link that refers back to your domain. Ideally, you'll want to find the most relevant piece of content to link back to.
Backlinks are hugely powerful. Reputable backlinks will give your domain more juice than a little citation will. You want tons of both citations and backlinks though. 🙂
Simply publish on platforms like Medium.
Have a consistent "outro" that you paste at the end of each article.
Include your NAP every single time.
What are the best tools for local business citation management
Whitespark, Yext, ReviewTrackers, Moz, SEMRush, and Local SEO Checklist are just a few of the most popular citation management tools.
To determine which is the best option for your needs, here are a few rules of thumb:
- Determine if the selected tool allows you to select industry-specific directories.
- Examine how it sets up the citations (direct API or aggregators).
- Determine if it provides duplicate detection and management.
- Examine the tracking features and their accuracy.
- Establish if the pricing is suitable for your budget.
How to optimize local SEO citations
If you decide to do manual submission
Citations are the foundation of your local SEO profile.
Studies show that citations make up 13% of how Google and other search engines rank your site in local search results.
But citation management is more than just putting your business out there.
To really optimize your online presence, there are a few factors to keep in mind:
What most business owners lack
Citation Consistency — NAP Consistency
The most important information for local SEO is getting the NAP (name, address, phone number) right on every site where you’re listed. It must be identical everywhere.
A single inconsistency can cost you a potential customer and hurt your rankings.
Remember this: a single inconsistency will cost you money. A citation with a single inconsistency is completely valueless to your digital reputation.
Pro tip: Put your company's exact legal name in the footer of your website. Make sure you use this version of your company address when creating new social media profiles and building your local business citation portfolio. This will help you remain consistent and ensures your domain reaps the most search engine rewards.
How to optimize your backlink and local citation portfolio
Having a short description of your business that includes keywords can help search engines identify what you do and where you’re located—and ultimately show it to relevant users in the area who search for those terms.
Gathering links to your website will help build trust with Google and improve your site’s authority—but only if they exist and work properly! Make sure every one of them leads back to the homepage or an appropriate landing page on your website. This is a great opportunity to drive traffic to another page on your site instead of just the home page, so think about what makes sense for each listing.
When creating citations, use only one category that accurately describes what you do. This will help Google understand what types of searches you should appear in and will also improve the chances that people looking for your services or products will find you easily.
Adding high-quality photos of your company could help improve customer conversion rates and even the image search ranking. Make sure you optimize the image file alt text, and title and use good, clear pictures.
Good reviews improve your rankings and generate customer trust. Google and other search engines look at the sentiment expressed in online reviews as a way to gauge whether or not people like a business. Moreover, statistics show that 97% of customers are influenced by reviews when purchasing something, while 73% trust a local business that has positive online reviews. If you want to improve your local search rankings, you should encourage your customers to review your business publicly.
How can you track citation results
Various tools track citations performance – but none of them determines how they perform on your website and what happens after visitors arrive. You can add UTM tracking to your links and an identical campaign/source name to your URLs to keep better track. Then, you can search in Google Analytics for “citation” in the Source/Medium report.
The bottom line
While you may have heard of citations before without knowing exactly what they are, it is fairly obvious why they are so important once you understand them. Citations help build a solid online presence that puts your business first in the eyes of potential customers. We hope that this article opened your eyes to the power of citations and encouraged you to take control and begin building an effective strategy for your business.
The Internet is still an infant.. The Internet is still only 20 some years old. There's so much opportunity out there if you just take the time to build your online presence. You'll never regret focusing on building your company's digital credibility.
The Local SEO Complete Guide
More in-depth local SEO analysis coming soon
Links from one website to a different website are called backlinks. Backlinks are considered “votes” by Google and other major search engine websites. High-ranking pages tend to have a lot of backlinks.
Local Search Engine Visibility
The information below is pasted directly from this Google business answer. We're good at SEO, but we're not Google. We'd rather you get this bite from them.
When someone searches for a business or place near their location, they’ll find local results across Google in places like Maps and Search. For example, you can probably find local results if you search for “Italian restaurant” from your mobile device. We try to show you the kind of nearby restaurant that you’d like to visit.
To improve your business’s local ranking, use Google Business Profile to claim and update your business information. Learn more about how Google sources business information for search results.
Do this if you have a physical location
If you have a brick and mortar location at all, you should list your company on Google Maps (at the very, very least).
But your next step would be to pay attention to Apple Maps. They have made enormous STRIDES over the last couple of years. (So has Google, but Apple has been crushing it.)
How to increase your domain authority
- Build a reputable portfolio of local business citations
- Pro tip: Offer to write one guest blog post per month for another reputable blog in the industry. At the end of writing your piece, include a relevant link back to your website (or any other blog post on your own website). This essentially passes link juice through to your domain and increasing it's credibility and validity in the eyes of Google's search engine algorithms.
- Publish consistently to your own company blog
- If you aim to publish 3,000-5,000 words to your blog per month, you'll be golden in about 12-18 months. The hardest part is sticking through that year and a half without reaping any of the rewards. But, again, if it were easy, everyone would be able to do it. If everyone had the motivation to power through 1-2 years of ferocious publishing, it wouldn't be as valuable! If you're considering starting a business, you'd be very wise to focus on SEO long before you ever needed to depend on the company income.
10 reputable citation sources
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Complete Local SEO Management
Proper SEO management is not cheap and it's not necessarily quick — no matter what the lambo gurus tell you.
Sometimes it's taken us 18 months to get to the top 3 in Google. Others times, we've done it in days.
When it comes to SEO, every industry, every keyword in, in every city, county, state, and country will be different. No matter what. The only thing a reputable SEO agency can offer is their honest to God best effort. If any true SEO expert intrinsically cares about you or your company, they will help you reap rewards you didn't know existed.
If you'd like help right now, please email email@example.com with the subject line "complete local seo management" and we'll tell you where you need to go.
Sometimes the best thing we can do for you is connect you with another digital marketing and SEO expert who's best-suited for your specific industry. Most of the time, we are not the right fit for you.
Questions? Comments? Drop em below. 🙂