Local Business SEO - Ultimate Guide: Part 1: References/Citations

Everyday local search becomes more integrated into the old fashioned search results.  Google expanded its local search universe again recently and shows no signs of slowing.   

 

The Google Local Business Center is so great because you can dissect a listing and really understand why it is ranked.  Not only does the business owner have the opportunity to provide details, but Google finds other sites that reference a business and includes it in the listing details.  For example, searching custom closets Broadview, IL  brings up the listing for Crooked Oak.  When viewing the listing details, not only can I see business details such as payment options and hours of operations, I can also see where Google is pulling this information from.

 

 Google Local References

 

Here we can see information is provided by the business owner, servicemagic.com, insiderpages.com and superpages.com.  If I am a business owner selling custom closets near Broadview, IL I now know the bare minimum of where I should be listing my information. 

 

The most important thing to take away from this: references to your business are the “link juice” of local search.

 

On the place details page, we can also see coupons, images, reviews, user content and other web references.  All of this information factors into the ranking of the business on Google.  The question then becomes, what are the best sites to list your business on to maximize results.

 

I will always contend that the best place to start is at the source.  If you want to be found on Google, claim your listing with Google.  The same goes for Yahoo! Local, Bing Local and Yelp.  You might say, hey Yelp isn’t one of the “big three” but Yelp is the leader in the social space for local businesses.   I have worked with many businesses, especially in the beauty and restaurant industry, that live and die by their Yelp profiles.

 

Outside of these major sites, I recommend looking at the large data providers that distribute their data to hundreds of places.  Not only do these data providers provide data to Google and the rest, they power most Internet Yellow Page (IYP) sites, and the data stored in most GPS units.  Our data provider here at ezlocal.com is Localeze whose distribution channel is said to reach 90% of the local search market.  You can also easily list your business information on infoUSA , whose reach is also very large.  To get a good idea of the data food chain, check out this great visualization by getlisted.org.  Essentially, the more places you get your business listed, the better off you are.  Google is the king of data, and as you can see from the visualization, all of this data gets back to Google Maps.  As I said above, all of this data getting back to Google as web references.  Again, these references are the juice of local search.

 

It is important to realize, it is not as simple as hitting the big three data providers and calling it a day.  The data provided by, let’s say, Localeze to a site like Superpages is not nearly as robust as a profile that you create directly into Superpages.  Generally, infoUSA, Localeze and Acxiom merely get you listed on these sites.  When you claim or create your profiles on each of the smaller sites individually your profile will be more prominent on each of the sites.  A more prominent place on these sites usually means you will be moved closer to the top of the link hierarchy on these websites which, in turn, increases the likelihood of your profile page being crawled and indexed by the search engines.  When your robust profile is indexed by the search engines, you have another reference to your business.  Keep in mind, there are around 16million businesses in the United States alone.  If Superpages has 16million not-very-robust profiles provided by Localeze, how long is it going to take before your profile is crawled by Google?  In short, claim your business profile on all of the smaller directories for the maximum effect.

 

Here is a short list of what I feel the best directories to start with are.

 

Google, of course, followed by Yahoo! Local, Bing Local and Yelp.  Then, I recommend the big providers Localeze and infoUSA.  Then for the smaller sites: Superpages, Insider Pages, Angie’s List (if applicable), ServiceMagic.com (if applicable), Citysearch, Judy’s Book, Kudzu.com and Best of the Web Local.