Local citations continue to be a crucial part of any comprehensive local SEO strategy. Not only do citations help users to discover local businesses across a variety of online platforms, but accurate citations are one of several contributing factors to local search rankings. This is especially true for businesses trying to improve their overall local online presence through profiles like Google My Business.
What are Local Citations and How Do They Help Local Rankings?
A local citation refers to an online mention of the name, address (okay if hidden), and phone number of a local business. Quality citations can improve local search engine rankings by increasing trust in the accuracy of business information. Think of it this way, if search engines see multiple trusted sources all vouching for the same information, the trust in that information improves. Google's local search algorithm is based on three primary factors: relevance, prominence, and location. One could argue that citation signals factor into all three categories.
Local citations can either positively or negatively affect local search rankings. The quantity of citations, the quality of the sites they exist on, and the accuracy of information all influence rankings.
When multiple sources have consistent business data, two things happen:
1. Search engine crawlers, like Google's WebCrawler, finds the same information in multiple places and adds more confidence to the business data.
2. Quality backlinks are created with more referring sources to the website, ultimately creating better Local SEO.
Common sources for citations include local business directories, websites, apps, and social platforms. Most directory listings are free, and in addition to basic details, will publish information like the business's website, primary category, additional categories, logo, photos, business description, hours of operation, payments accepted, services offered, reviews, and other attributes and features.
Which brings up another good point, listings. Where do listings come from, anyway? Search engines and other sources obtain business information from a number of sources, including:
- Business owners entering their own information
- Government sources
- User-generated content
- Sources like Google My Business and Bing Places
- Data providers (listings distribution)
Structured Citations vs Unstructured Citations
The most common type of structured citation is a business listing located in an online database like ezlocal.com or on a social media site like Facebook. NAP citations comprise basic fields of information, plus additional structured information about the business, like the website URL and primary category in a crawlable format. Most online publishers use structured data, also called schema markup, in formats like Schema.org and JSON-LD, which is basically a type of code that makes it easier for search engines to crawl, organize, and display content.
An unstructured citation is a web mention of a business occurring on any website or app that isn't specifically structured for publishing business listings. Examples might include a business being featured in a news article, a blog post, or a simple mention on social media.
The most important factors when it comes to citation sources are: 1) industry relevance, 2) local relevance, and 3) domain authority.
What is the Process for Building Citations?
Anyone who has gone through the process of manually claiming and building directory listings, knows it can be a very time consuming process. Fortunately, there's a much easier way to go about it. Listings distribution refers to the submission of business listings to data providers (e.g., Neustar Localeze, Factual, Foursquare, and Infogroup) using a submission platform. Data providers are referenced by hundreds of online listing directories, search engines, local search platforms, and mobile apps as trusted sources of data.
As the name suggests, data providers (aka data aggregators) gather consumer and business data and provide it to hundreds of listing directories, review sites, search engines, and more. They also power the latest apps such as Apple Siri, Google and Bing Maps, Facebook Graph Search, and personal navigation systems.
EZlocal Listing Distribution is an affordable solution that submits listings, and continues to resubmit, to all major data providers, providing maximum exposure while creating valuable citations that impact rankings. Through EZlocal Listing Distribution, business data is syndicated weekly, resubmitting the correct (or preferred) listing details to all the major data providers so it is used consistently across major search sites and directories. This improves Local SEO and saves valuable time (approx 300 hours of work).
How to Optimize Citations
Building valuable citation is more than just publishing your basic business information. Begin with NAP Consistency. NAP (Name, Address, Phone) consistency refers to having consistent name, address, and phone numbers across all listings. Service type business should opt to hide their street address if home-based. Many industry studies have shown that consistent NAP across listings and websites is a contributing factor to local SEO. To further optimize your online visibility, consider incorporating some or all of the following elements:
- Business categories
- Business description
- Services offered
- Payment forms accepted
- Contact email
- Hours of operation
- Owner responses
- Social links
- Alternate phone numbers
Hyperlocal Citation Sources
Beyond building and managing citations through services like Listings Distribution, additional valuable citations can be obtained manually through hyper-local sources. Mentions on niche local focused websites can offer an extra boost to visibility. Almost every business category has hyper-local business listing opportunities. See: 5 Quick and Easy Link and Citation Sources for your Local Business. Consider local chambers of commerce, local newspapers and guides, local offices of tourism, etc.
Using Google search is a simple way to find hyper-local citations. Look for citation platforms that are specific to industry and service area.
Google search city-specific citation sources:
“city” business directory
“city” business listings
Google search vertical/niche specific citation sources:
“keyword” business directory
“keyword” business listings
Google My Business Maintenance
It's critically important to make sure Google My Business listings are in the correct categories, the listings are 100% optimized, and being kept up-to-date with features like GMB posts, questions & answers, etc.
In addition to the local index model (local citation data), Google uses what is called the Knowledge Graph, which means that in order to keep Google My Business listings up-to-date, their local algorithm relies on both traditional structured content (citations) and information from business owners, individual users, and content scraped from websites associated with listings.
When profiles are built the right way, consistent and robust with details, and maintained, they go beyond improving ranking for local keywords. This approach helps improve overall online presence.
If there's one thing all of us in digital presence management can agree on, to help local businesses get found online, online visibility efforts must continue to be a priority. This means maintaining Google My Business, Bing, Yelp, EZlocal, and business listings on authoritative and niche sites across the web.
How visible is your business in local search? If you aren't sure or need help, request a listings management demo.
And if you're not already on EZlocal, create your free business listing today!