Before the internet, local business owners would have to set up business listings in places like the Yellow Pages or in the local newspaper. Thankfully, this is no longer necessary due to the rise of online directories and listings. Tools like Google My Business, Facebook and others help businesses show up in search results when people are searching for services.
Many business owners want to know how to improve their position in search results and increase their chances of being found. One of the many ways to do this is to improve the quality and quantity of your local citations.
We’ll cover what local citations are, how to grow them and what impact they can have on your local business.
What are Local Citations?
A local citation is an online reference to your business that includes company name, phone number, address, zip code and website address.
Typically, the most basic forms of citation contain the name, address and phone number of a business (NAP). Citations help local people find business locations and can have an impact on your search engine rankings in your area.
Citations can be found in a variety of online spaces, including social media platforms, business directories, event websites and even on apps.
In order to get the most out of local citations, you will want to actively manage your listings to ensure accuracy. Inaccurate listing information can cause confusion for users and discredit your information for search engines.
What Information Do local Citations Contain?
In addition to NAP, local citations can contain:
- Business categories or specializations
- Hours of operation (including holiday hours)
- Website address
- Business description
- Customer reviews
- Location images
- Social media links
- Department specific phone numbers
- Payment forms accepted
- Email addresses
- Fax number
Do local Citations Always Contain Links?
While citations don’t always contain links back to your website, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t valuable. Search engines are smart enough to understand the value of a listing, even if there isn’t a direct link back to your website.
Having said that, backlinks are always valuable. Backlinks are one of the major ways that search engines determine the authority a website has and typically prioritize sites with a better backlink profile. Because a citation is a very authoritative link, citations that include links are better than citations without links.
It also gives a human visitor a chance to go directly to your site without having to look it up online.
How do Citations Impact Search Engine Rankings?
At a very basic level, online citations help search engines, like Google, verify that your business exists where you say it does. The more citations you have (and the better quality) the more legitimate your business is in the eyes of search engines.
Depending on a variety of factors, local citations can either have a positive or negative impact on your local search engine rankings.
Some of those factors include:
- Correctness of data
- Number of citations
- Quality of listing
When search engines compile data, they want to make sure that the information they are displaying is accurate. This means you are less likely to rank well if you have inconsistent information in your local citations. Cleaning up citations is the first step to improving your local SEO.
The number of citations you have also matters. You will want to be listed in almost every relevant business directory or local website. Relevancy is the key here since having your business listed everywhere could confuse search engines seeking to understand what your business is about and is not helpful for a user who is less likely to interact with a listing that does not meet their initial user intent.
Finally, the quality of the citation also matters. Is the website it appears on trustworthy? Is it relevant? These are questions you should be asking before adding a citation.
Some examples of high-quality citations include:
- Bing Places
- Apple Maps
- Industry specific listings
- Official city directories
Having all three of these factors covered (accuracy, number and quality) is an easy way to bolster your online reputation with search engines and increase the likelihood of your business appearing when people are searching for your services.
How to Build Citations for Your Business
Now that you know what citations are, it’s time to help you build a quality citation profile for your business.
To build local citations:
- Make sure NAP is the same on every site. Consistency is key to getting the most value of your citations. There will be some variations in formatting, but don’t worry about that. Just follow the directions and fill out the information accordingly.
- Add as much description as possible including what your business does, images, logos and even categories of what you do. Again, consistency is always preferred here.
- Make sure to claim your listings like on Google my Business, Bing and Apple Maps. We have an entire guide on how to claim a Google My Business account if you need help.
- Make sure you’ve covered the essential places for a citation (listed above) before trying to find new citations.
How to Find New Citations
To find new citation locations, start by looking at industry-based organizations that provide listings specific to your location.
You may want to start by searching your specific location for something like “city* business listings” or “industry* business directory.”
This should give you an idea of what kinds of local opportunities exist that will help you get the edge on your competition when it comes to owning the most citations.
Improve Your Online Reputation and Your Citations
Building quality citations will certainly help your business be found by search engines and users alike, but it is only part of a comprehensive local SEO strategy.
In order to really have a leg up on to your local competition, we encourage you to cultivate a good reputation management program in addition to citations. Having a sparkling online reputation gives you the authority search engines are looking for while also gaining your potential customers’ trust.
You need to have both to win in the game of local search!
Binary Fountain makes online reputation management and citation management easy with our reputation management software.
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