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Local Citations: What Are They, Why They Matter, Where & How Do I Get Them?

Local citations in SEO are an important factor in enhancing your local search results. Citations are mentions of your business name, address, phone number, zip or postal code on other webpages. Sometimes the citation includes a link back to your site but if it doesn’t, the citation is still valuable. Citations in local SEO are a key ranking factor in getting your business to the top of local search results.

Being in the top three of the local box is prime real estate for local businesses. Here is an example of the local box search results for “plumber near me”:

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 12.35.42 PM

Local citations are considered complete when the citation includes these three items:

  1. Company name
  2. Address
  3. Phone number

These three items are referred to as your “NAP”. It can not be stressed enough how important it is that your “NAP” is the same across all citations.

When possible add as much information about your business as possible in your citations. This includes a brief description of the business, hours of operation, photos, reviews, and website URL.

Why Do Local Citations Matter?

According to Moz, “Citations are a key component of the ranking algorithms in Google and Bing. Other factors being equal, businesses with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher than businesses with fewer citations.” Local ranking algorithms used by both Google and Bing factor in citations when it comes to local search rankings. In the latest Local Search Ranking Factors survey, local search experts rated citation related factors as making up approximately 13.31% of the Top 50 factors.

Citations assist search engines, like Google and Bing, verify that your business exists. When multiple credible sources have the same accurate information about your business, it signals to search engines that your business is legitimate. The last thing Google or Bing wants is a fake business listed in their search results. It's hard for a business to fake membership in a chamber of commerce/city business index, or have an article in a local online newspaper or popular blog.

Just like Blake Nielson wrote last month about acquiring high authority backlinks, it’s important to create citations on high authority directories. Listing your business on prominent national and local sites helps your business create authority, establish trust, and will improve your business’ ability to rank in local search results. Moz.com explains, “Citations in less-competitive niches, like plumbing or electrical, where many service providers don't have websites themselves. Without much other information, the search engines rely heavily on whatever information they can find.”

Where Do I Get Local Citations?

Before you build citations it’s important to understand more about where to get them.  There are various places to get citations. Below I break down potential citations sources into six categories:

  1. Search Engines

  • Google
  • Bing

     2. Data Aggregators

Data aggregators gather and validate data and distribute business listing data to other sites. The primary data sources are:

  • Infogroup
  • Localeze
  • Acxiom
  • Factual

      3. Local Search Engines

Local search engines crawl the web for citations that will validate or correct the business information in their own indexes. Build citations on sites like:

  • Yelp
  • Foursquare
  • Yellowpages
  • BBB

and others can increase search engines' confidence in the accuracy of your NAP.

       4. Local & Niche Blogs

Local and niche blogs are a perfect way to get your business listed. Do a quick Google search for "[your city] blog" or "[your neighborhood] blog," or “[your niche] blog” and you'll likely see good candidates. Some examples of local and niche blogs are:

  • Lawyers.com
  • Cityofchicago.org
  • Denver.com
  • theplumber.com

Wherever and whatever your business is there is most likely a blog that you can get your business listed on.  

      5. Locally and/or Industry Focused Directories

Local directories are well-indexed by the search engines and are highly associated with a particular city or region. Two examples of terrific locally focused directories are Best of the Web's Regional Directory and Yahoo's Regional Directory. You can perform searches for things like "[your city] directory" or "[your state] directory" to find good prospects for these kinds of citations.

If a website is focused on topics and keywords related to your products and services, it may be included among the sites that the local search engines count as citation sources—even if that website or directory is not focused on a particular region. Searches like "[your industry] directory" or even "[your keyword] directory" will give you some ideas of the kinds of sites on which to get listed.

       6. Where Your Competitors Have Citations

Understanding where your competitors are listed is a good way to find industry specific sites and additional directories/blogs to get your business listed on. My general rule of thumb is if my competitor has a citation there then I should, too. However, I have seen some competitors of clients that have very spammy citations. I am not recommending that you add a citation on spammy sites.

There are many great tools out there to help you find competitor citations. My new favorites are Ahrefs and BrightLocal. If these two options don’t fit within your budget, don’t worry, there are other ways to find where your competitors are mentioned. In Google search enter “your competitor’s name” (the quotations are important). Doing this will pull all the places where your competitor is mentioned. This is a time consuming way to find citations but you will find places to list your business, which will in turn help your business rank higher locally. In other words, it’s worth it!

How Do I Get Citations?

Once you’ve found the site, blog, directory, etc. that you want your business to be listed on, you will have to build/create the citation. Below are five of the most important tips for building citations:

  1. In order to get citations you will need an email address. I have had the most success when using a business email that is associated with the company domain and not a generic Gmail or Yahoo address. Citation submissions are trusted and go live more often when you use a domain-based email.
  2. Your NAP should be the same on every site. Consistency is key, regardless of formatting, make sure your NAP is consistent throughout all citations.
  3. Category Selection. This is harder to keep consistent because not all sites have the exact same categories to choose from. I follow the rule to choose the category that best describes what my business does.
  4. Include all the details about your business. Submit photos, your company logo, a complete business description, hours of operation, your social accounts, and anything else about your business.
  5. Claim your listings. The majority of sites will require you to verify your citation. The verification process is done via email and/or a phone call to your business number. Verified citations are an additional trust signal to help your listings have more authority.

Citations in local SEO are a key ranking factor in getting your business to the top of local search results. Taking the time to build citations is worth the additional resources that it requires. You will have increased visibility in search engines which will in turn lead to more traffic to your site. I recommend creating all the citations upfront and early in your local campaign. This will allow you to enjoy the positive effect of citations toward the beginning of your campaign.

Thomas Plaizier

Marketer at 97th Floor.

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