Through Local SEO, neighborhood businesses are more discoverable and are better able to promote themselves online. Citation-building efforts greatly help as an important ranking factor for Local SEO: the more quality citations your business has, the better your search engine rankings.
In this article, we’ll cover an important part of Local SEO: citation building.
Local business owners need to beef up their online presence as a competitive advantage. True, many businesses might be doing well without it, but more and more customers are making buying decisions online and on mobile these days, looking for nearby products, services, and solutions.
76% of people who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a business within 24 hours and 28% of those searches result in a purchase.
It is for this reason that Local SEO is growing increasingly more important. Local SEO is an add-on to regular search engine optimization, and by having a lot more quality local citations, you can actually rank better in organic results.
What Are Citations (And What's The Big Deal With Them?)
Citation-building is one of the most important aspects of Local SEO. If you’re a business that works with a lot of customers from in and around the neighborhood, you’ll want to rank well on search engine results whenever folks look for services or products similar to what you offer.
Citations are publications of your core business data on the Internet. At the very least, the core components of a citation would include:
- Your company name
- Your business address
- Your business phone number
- And a link to your business website
In addition, citations may also have the following additional components:
- Business categories
- Your business description
- Directions (how to get there)
- Email address/es
- Fax numbers
- Hours of operation
- Links to your business pages on social media
- Map and coordinates
- Other phone numbers
- Owner responses
- Payment forms accepted
How are citations important to your business? Citations influence consumer discovery and local search engine rankings. Citations help establish your credibility and legitimacy as a brand and therefore encourage more customers to do business with you.
For this reason, you must take a more active effort in ensuring that your citations have the correct information on them. Not only do accurate citations influence your ranking on search engines, but they also have a positive impact on your business reputation and your revenue.
Which Businesses Gain Most From Local SEO?
While Local SEO can be for just about any business that wants to rank locally, certain businesses can actually this more to their advantage:
- Businesses with multiple locations
- An enterprise or directory type of website
- A franchise
- A review site or a news site
Types of Citations
Before you get too excited and sign up for every single business directory out there. Know this: not all citations websites are relevant to your business. And today’s SEO is all about relevance.
Of course, there are a few basic, common sites which you should sign up for or create a profile for, such as Google My Business, top social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, and services such as Bing Maps, Glassdoor, and Foursquare.
Beyond these, you have hundreds of other websites where you can list your business online. But you’ll want to pick only those that are relevant to your business. Have a look at this list of business directories we’ve compiled below:
Now, before you go signing up for every single business directory you can find online, remember that citation categories exist for a reason.
Choosing the right type of business directories for your own business category is important. There’s a citation category for just about any kind of local business: roofing contractors, coffee shops, dentists, pet stores, and more.
Some websites will have a higher domain authority over others. But for our purposes of citation building, category relevancy is more important than domain authority.
Isn’t Citation Building The Same as Link Building?
We’re more inclined to say that no, citation building and link building are two different things.
Some digital marketing professionals might argue that citation building is the same as link building, but remember that the algorithms in search engines today are a lot more sophisticated and are better able to discern intent.
Citations are all about providing proper business information while generating backlinks is more geared towards getting other websites to show their approval of your content (by means of a link).
What this means is: citation building is great and it will get you far with the local market, but in particularly competitive spaces or industries, your regular link building will give you a better edge.
How Do Citations Improve My Local Rankings?
Having a quality amount of citations is considered a significant ranking factor for local SEO. By publicly listing your business in trusted directories lets Google know that your business exists and is a part of the local community.
By doing so, you set yourself apart from, say, someone just starting out, someone not as serious with a similar business, or some other fly-by-night operation.
Google can figure it out with the quality of your listings and the accuracy of the information on those listings. And this why we’ve always stressed the importance of consistency in your listings and the choices you make as far as directory listings are concerned.
In addition, as citations improve your local rankings, you also gain a little more leverage from the rankings of the business directories. Many of these online business directories actually rank very well in local search or in a particular industry. This way, you can get some valuable referral traffic as more people can discover or find your business a lot easier online.
For these reasons, citation-building should be a part of your Local SEO efforts. And it should be right up there with optimizing your GMB listing, creating quality hyperlocal content, and encouraging your customers to leave reviews.
To help you get started with your citation-building efforts, here’s a step-by-step guide that we encourage local businesses to do.
1. Review Your Customers
Figure out where your customers are spending their time online. You’ll want to come up with a list, an Excel spreadsheet, or a Google Doc where you jot down where your customers will want to find your business; specifically, what you offer in terms of products and services.
2. Create, Update, and Optimize Your Top Online Profiles
You now want to create your top profiles. If you already have them, now’s a good time to review them, update the information you have there and optimize them further.
So the most important profiles are going to include:
As well as your listings with the following:
Essentially, what happens is that when somebody searches for your brand name, they already get some pretty good results.
Partly it’s reputation management, and partly it’s brand-building. Even better is when you actually do have some good reviews going for your business– you’ll want to highlight those.
3. Make Sure Your Business Info Is Consistent
We encourage you to have a ready folder with little writeups, updated business information, as well as other media including branding elements, photos, and video.
Starting with the profiles we’ve mentioned above, you’ll want to make sure that:
- Your business name, address, and phone number (NAP info) are all correct. This is incredibly important for local SEO.
- You have properly optimized descriptions of your business. Make sure that the copy you create mentions your main products or services that you’re trying to rank for, which means you have the right keywords in as well.
- You have your main products and services listed.
- You have a good set of updated photos and maybe even some video that accurately depicts your company, as well as your products and services.
- You have a healthy amount of reviews and testimonials
- You have a fairly good response time, specifically how timely your responses are when addressing your customers’ inquiries, questions, and even their complaints and other concerns.
- Your links back to your website, as well as links coming into all these online profiles of yours.
- Any advertising that you might decide to run on these platforms.
In essence, having updated and active profiles sends the right signals to Google that you are an active, real-world business, with real customers, and having a real impact within the community.
4. Optimize Your Website For Local Content
Next, you’ll want to make sure that you have a page within your site that’s properly optimized to help your Local SEO efforts.
You’ll want to have a page that has an embedded Google map (with your establishment in it), as well as links to your various local listings as well. Further optimize this page by paying attention to:
- The page title and description
- Your H1 H2 headers and subheaders
- Local copy: essentially mentioning stuff like landmarks, facts, local terms, directions, and FAQ information.
- Images of the neighborhood, each one with properly optimized alt texts, captions, and descriptions.
- Your correct NAP info (see above)
- A healthy set of internal and external links
- Your profile pages linking correctly to this page
- Use of proper schema: local schema, review schema, FAQ schema, and so on.
Note that this is just for one page on your website corresponding to one location. What this means is: if your business has multiple branches, offices, or locations, you’ll want to have a page for each and every one of these as well.
5. Pick The Right Citations
Now that you have the basic, top profiles done, you can now move on to even more citation-building efforts. As mentioned above, it’s quality over quantity, so you’ll want to prioritize business directories that are more relevant to your industry and space.
Head on over to these sites to get a better understanding of which sets of citation websites work best for business:
6. Use Local SEO Tools and Services
Understandably, Local SEO– and citation-building, specifically– can take a lot of time. There are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of business directories out there and you can use more of that time to actually run your business.
Local listings services go scour the internet for you, look for any mention of your business, and make sure that your NAP information (your business name, address, and phone number) are all correct. Some of the most popular local listings services include:
Another category of services is review management platforms. These services allow you to more easily encourage customers to leave reviews and testimonials about your business.
Again, note that there’s a whole bunch of other similar services out there, but these are just some of the bigger or more popular ones.
A Final Word on Citation-Building
In a highly competitive online landscape, being able to stand out is particularly important.
More customers are relying on their mobile devices, smartphones, and digital assistants to find products and services of interest near them, and it is for this reason that citation-building is important.
Citation-building not only helps new customers discover you, but it also greatly contributes to your trustworthiness and legitimacy as a real-world business.