What is a Local SEO Citation?
A local citation is an online reference to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). Like links to your website, Google uses them when evaluating the online authority of your business. Unlike links though, citations don’t need to be linked to your business’s website in order for you to be credited for them by Google and other search engines.
“Over time (many years in some markets) Local Citations are listed naturally by the listing sites. Many will never list your business without prompting, many will do so off tax rolls 1 or 2 years after your inception, others will follow suit of other larger citation sites. But there is another faster way.”
So Why are Local Citations so Important for Local Business?
SEO citations are any page or website online where your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP) is listed. We discussed this in relation to your Google My Business site and how important it is to match exactly your NAP to your website NAP.
One of the reasons citation sites are so great for local business SEO is because the main search engines, like Google and Bing, trust the quality of the best citation sites – which can help you get shown higher in the search engines if you follow guidelines correctly and stick to NAP rule.
Go to Google at the top of the page and search for the keyword that best describes your niche business along with your local town or larger area or state. You will typically find that citation sites/online business directories, dominate the first page of search results, but not all of them are free, not all are ones you want to be listed on.
What Should be Included and what can be Included in Citations?
A typical citation site will contain minimal information – like your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP). Ideally a citation listing should contain all three pieces of information together for maximum effectiveness. These citations are sometimes referred to as ‘full citations’. Beyond this, some sites also list more information, reviews and short bios.
When getting your business listed on citation sites, you want to ensure that your business’ name, address and phone number is in the exact same format on as many citation sites as possible. Just like with Google My Business the NAP must be exactly the same, if you have Florida on one address and FL on another and Fl on another and an auto fill has inserted Fla yet another, this will not work. Pick one and be consistent, this does make a difference, this is the basics of one of the smallest parts of a total SEO optimized website network.
What is the difference between “Full SEO Citations” and “Structured Citations”
It’s also possible and common for these citations to include a link back to your website. Full SEO citations like this are often found on online directories, like Yelp, Google My Business, Merchant Circle and Superpages. These citation sites offer a free and/or paid submission service which is one way of generating a valid local SEO citation listing for your business.
Then paying the extra fee and getting a legitimate high authority backlink from that citation in addition. This is not necessary, but it will help in a positive way. It all depends on your budget and how much a small extra bit of traffic matters to your business. A restaurant may say yes, a CPA may say no.
The citations found in established online directories are almost always well-structured to include all the information of a full SEO citation and are often referred to as ‘structured citations’. They’re called structured because of how the information is displayed but also because it is common in directories for citations to be grouped either by industry type or geographic local area.
The citation sites that list by city or location are more credible when it comes to them being considered ‘local SEO citations’. A ‘partially structured citation’ is often more casually presented and you’re likely to find these on blogs or in forum threads. These listings will list all of a particular type of business that has information on Corvette Customization. The listing will be by this type of category rather than by state or city.
Generally, partially structured citations are less powerful for improving your local SEO rankings. (This is not a hard and fast rule though.) Even a partially structured SEO citation can be compelling for a search engine if that citation is on a local website or an industry-specific site. Getting your business listed on high-quality citation sites/online business directories can boost your credibility depending on the SEO performance and authority of the citation site.
Top Reason SEO Citations are Required for Positive Local SEP
The main reason the search engines like citation sites is because they help confirm that a business is genuine, that its address is correct and its industry or service is valid. Seeing matching citations around the web for your business helps the search engines determine that you are a genuine business and a reliable source for content within your local area. If two businesses had matching SEO performance in all other areas but one had a high number or quality of recognized third-party citations, then this business would ultimately rank higher than the other.
Though local SEO citations are not necessarily considered one of the most prominent local SEO factors, it is a useful strategy when you’re trying to break into the top Google 3-pack for local SEO listings.
How to Optimize a Website for Local SEO Search with SEO Citations
Many small businesses’ today, struggle with the problem of attracting good local traffic to their website by considering it to be their sole prospecting effort. One of the best ways of obtaining the goal of increased customer prospecting is great content marketing. Another big area of concentration should be to maximize local search in almost any website’s location by use of Local SEO Citations:
Local SEO: Citations
Google search results for local business are affected greatly by something referred to as “Local SEO Citations”. This does not mean rewards for merit, or licensing, it has to do with listing services that group local businesses in a way that lets potential customers pick form lists of similar businesses. There are many of these lists covering many areas of interest. Most of these lists allow, in fact encourage local businesses to be listed for free. Some of these lists are large and commercial businesses, presented for charge and others are industry or community action groups for membership considerations.
These listing services must not only be attended to properly and professionally, but there must be a consistency to all a company’s Citations. This is called NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) or NAP+W when website address is included in the listing. (I bet you have not heard me say that before)
Citations are complete or partial references to your name, address, phone number, and website (NAP+W) online, and must always contain a consistent NAP+W. Having conflicting phone numbers, some listings with one number and others with another, can negatively affect your overall local search performance by confusing Google algorithms.
How do you get Added to Local Citation Lists?
- Local SEO Citations can be added manually or automatically with certain programs available on line. Be very careful of most of these “citation services” that charge one fee to add you to 30 or 50 or even 100 sites. If they add you to improper sites, or don’t add consistent information, or add you to spam sites, it can hurt your company’s SEO more than help it. A professional marketing company will not be cheap, but will attend to each citation individually and make sure the NAP is correct and all areas are properly filled out only on the best sites that will positively affect Local SEO.
The advantage of manual citations is that you can control them, but managing them can become tedious if you decide to move or re-brand. Automatic citations, on the other hand, save you time and effort, but you ultimately have less control over your business listings. It is most efficient and time saving to contract with a company like Cheetah Marketing Group to handle Local SEO Citations as part of an overall local marketing package.
- There is a third option, the use of a third-party firm whose business is strictly for local citations and listings. These third-party providers include BrightLocal, MozLocal, Whitespark, Advice Local, and Yext. All of these companies do a good job, but the price is very high for something that is only a part of the whole package, one part of what needs to be done to insure good local SEO with a complete marketing firm.