If you are a business owner in your community, you have probably heard about something called a local citation. You may have wondered what this term means. In simple terms, a local citation is any mention of your business on the internet. They can range from a partial citation such as a mention of your company name all the way to a complete citation that includes the company name, address, and phone number.
Does a Citation Need to Include a Link?
While a link back to your website within a citation can be helpful in giving your website an extra data point for search engines, it is not necessary in a local citation. Even without the link back to your website, the Google algorithm will still identify that your company was mentioned through the local citation information and give you credit for the mention. The more often your company is mentioned other websites, the greater your local ranking will be on search engines.
One type of citation is a structured citation. These citations are located in a business listing directory such as:
- Any other online directory such as your local chamber of commerce website
These citations will include the most information about your business such as the company name, address, phone number, website, and even directions or a map to your location.
Yelp and Facebook also include an option for customer of your business to leave reviews or comments regarding your products or service. These reviews are often used by potential customers or clients when deciding whether or not to visit your establishment.
An unstructured citation is simply a mention of your business information on any website that is not a business directory. There are many places to find unstructured citations such as:
- Magazine sites
- Newspaper sites
Unstructured citations may include a blog about your products or services or even a mention of special deals your company is currently offering. They may include a phone number or website link in addition to your company name but, this information is not required as long as your company name is mentioned.
Why Are Local Citations Important?
There are two main reasons that local citations are extremely important for your business. The first is to verify that your business exists to search engines such as Google. If the only mention of your business comes from your own website, many search engines will struggle to verify that you have a legitimate business. By having your company name mentioned on other reputable websites, the search engines can easily verify that your business exists.
Local citations will also help you to establish prominence for your business in search engine algorithms. Have you ever wondered how search engines rank the pages that are displayed at the top of the results list? The algorithms for these search engines factor in citations when ranking local search results. The more citations your company has on the web, the higher your company’s listing will rank in search results. The key to ranking higher in the search results is to get your company name and information mentioned as often as possible throughout a variety of websites.
Are Some Citations More Important Than Others?
While having your company name mentioned anywhere will help you, having it mentioned on certain websites will help more. For example, having your company mentioned on the white house website will be more beneficial than having it mentioned on a small-scale blog. Citation value is separated into different classifications of importance.
Core Search Engines
Search engines are not distributors of business data. They receive the data and categorize it when determining how to display the information in search results. These include Google, Bing, and Apple Maps.
Primary Data Sources
These are the data collectors that verify information from a variety of sources and distribute the information to other sites. They include InfoGroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual.
Tier 1 sites are the prominent sites on Google and are often used by people who are searching for businesses. There are two types of sites listed in tier 1, generic and Hyper-Local and Niche sites.
Hyper-Local and Niche
Tier 2 sites are still prominent on Google search results but may be lesser known such as:
- Merchant Circle
These sites are not frequently listed in Google searches and are not very well known by the general public.
- Local Database
- My Local Services
These sites have a very low authority and are rarely heard of.
When looking at citation options to get your business more attention from search engines, it is important to consider the quality of the citation.
Consistency Is Important
When it comes to local citations, it is important that each citation for your company lists accurate information. To do this, you will want to look at each site that features a citation for your business and make sure that there is only one listing and that the listing contains accurate information about your business. You will want to focus most of your attention on the Core Search Engines, Primary Data Sources, and Tier 1 sites. You should then verify your tier 2 citations as well to ensure accuracy within those sites. Tier 3 and 4 are the lowest priority when verifying citation accuracy as they will not make or break your SEO.
How to Build Local Citations
There are five important steps to follow when creating citations for your business. It is important to follow all five steps to ensure the best possible results.
To create listings for your business you will first need an email address. It is always recommended when doing anything related to your company to use a company email address rather than your personal email address. This means an email address that is associated with your company’s domain not a Gmail or Yahoo address. Having a company domain email address will cause your listings to be more trusted and more likely to go live after creation.
Be sure that your name, address, and phone number are the same on every site that your listing appears. The formatting may be different on individual sites and that is fine as long as the information contained in the listing is correct. Check to make sure no numbers have been inverted or swapped in the address and phone number fields and that there are no spelling errors in the company and street name. These errors may cause your listing to be less trustworthy and delay it going live.
Read through all category choices and choose the ones that best describe the type of business you own. Then be sure to select the same categories on each site you are posting the listing to. This consistency will make it easier for search engines to verify your business and see that it is a legitimate company.
Add as much detail as you can without going overboard. You can add photos, your logo, a description of your company, hours of operation, contact information for social media accounts and much more.
Claim your listing. Once you have created the listing on a site, most will ask you to verify the listing before allowing it to go live. This verification process will be done via email or phone. For phone verification, the company will call your business and request that you enter a pin number you had previously received or give you a pin number to enter online. Verified listings have more authority and a higher level of trust.
Finding Citation Sources
There are a few ways you can go about finding citation sources for your company listing. Which option you choose will depend on how much time and money you have to devote to the project.
Hire a Company
If you have the money to invest in the project but lack the time to do it yourself, hiring a company to do the legwork for you is a great option. These companies will find the most reliable citation sources for businesses in your local area and compile a list of the top citation sources for your local area.
Search for Citation Sources
You may also choose to search for citation sources on your own. This process can be lengthy but the rewards for your company will be great. Begin by finding the top national citation sources. These may include:
- Google My Business
- Apple Maps
Once you have compiled this list of national listing sites, you can then look for citations based on your business category and location. Begin a search that contains your company type, city, and state.
Review that results of other citations for similar businesses. You can do this a general search or search out specific competitors and review their citations. This will help you to determine which direction to go while creating your own citations. You can accomplish this by searching for the following:
- (city) Business directory
- (city) Directory
- (city) Business Listings
- (keyword) Directory
- (keyword) Business Directory
- (keyword) Business Listings
When determining how to best optimize your local SEO, citations are considered one of the basic foundations for any company. Citations should be created before you focus on engagement, content, and link building. One of the greatest parts of local citations is that you never have to worry about them again unless any part of your business information changes. These changes may include moving to a new location, new phone number, make changes to the company name, etc. If any of these things occur, it is important to update your citation listings to maintain the most accurate information.