Local Citations: The linchpin of online visibility
If you’ve read up a bit about local SEO, you may have come across the term ‘citations’ and the integral role they play in helping local businesses improve their rankings. If you haven’t, then take note – local citations are the backbone of any local SEO strategy.
To put it simply, a citation is any place online that highlights the following details about your business:
- Phone Number
Together, this information is known as NAP and it’s a foundational block of Local SEO. Google and Bing have a special ranking system that is based on a set of algorithms which essentially dictate where a business will be placed on SERPs for certain keywords.
When ranking local businesses, Google and Bing look to citations as a factor when deciding where to place each business on the results page. In the latest Local Search Ranking Factors survey, local experts estimated that citation-related factors make up an estimated 13.31% of the top 50 factors.
Why are local citations so important?
You can view the citations as playing two important roles for businesses:
Local citations provide important information to internet users about your business. Consumers in the research phase of the buyer’s journey tend to look to local search citations within a business listing to find a product or service. The directories will provide viewers with important information about your business as well as guiding them towards it. It’s a simple method of gaining more online visibility.
Local citations can boost your organic and GMB rankings. Making sure that your NAPs are consistent across all directories as well as ensuring that the directories you use are of high quality will have an influence on rankings. The more consistency Google sees from your directories, the more trust it accrues for your business, which will strengthen its chances of ranking well.
Local citations and the 3-pack
Getting into the coveted 3-pack can be seen as the holy grail to local SEO success for a variety of reasons and it is something that can’t be achieved without having a strong base of reliable citations. If you’re not familiar with what a 3-pack is, you can see an example of one below.
When you conduct a search for a local business, Google will put together a list of businesses that best match your query. These three will change depending on your location to give you the businesses that are closest to you. That means that your business will be competing with others within a specific geographical location to get into this 3-pack.
So what else should I know about 3-packs?
Well, they always appear at the top of the page above the organic rankings, usually along with a map. Getting into this 3-pack dramatically improves your visibility since it’s the first number of businesses that viewers will come across on SERPs. It doesn’t just end there however since nearly 60% of all searches are now performed on smartphones. This shift in balance will favour local businesses in the 3-pack takes since those top 3 golden positions will dominate most of the screen on mobile, resulting in a higher pull of traffic.
Another advantage of being inside this golden frame is that it’s an indicator of a business’ reliability, which of course is important because customers are more likely to purchase products or services from firms that they can trust.
What citations can I use for my business?
This varies from business to business since it’s often niche dependent. For example, it wouldn’t make sense for a local gym to give their NAP to a business directory that specialises in plumbers: this would confuse both the online visitors and Google. As a rule of thumb, stick to directories that are in your niche.
Look to sign up to more general directories that are deemed to be the most trustworthy by Google. Get a strong base from these directories and then filter your way out to more niche-specific directories.
How many citations should I sign up to?
This is a tricky question to answer since it’s not a case of the more the better. A good rule to follow would be to sign up to as many trustworthy directories as you can. It’s crucial to avoid any spammy-looking directories since these links pointing to your business will do more harm than good. Remember, the aim of the game is to gain trust from Google and having a reliable portfolio of directories pointing towards your website will do exactly that.
The different types of citations
Not all citations are the same. Generally speaking, there are two different types of citations, structured and unstructured:
These are where your NAP is in a business listing directory such as Yelp, Foursquare, Bing and Yellow Pages. Structured citations are important because they validate the popularity and credibility of your business to a search engine.
In general, unstructured citations are your NAPs being on any other site that’s not in a business directory, such as a blog, newspaper website or another business website. Although these are far less common than their more-traditional counterparts, they are no less valuable since they are still sharing valuable information about your business.
Using NAPs to build trust
As a local business, you want to gain trust from two sources: Google and your target market. The reality is that NAPs go further than influencing local rankings. Customers are more likely to lose trust in businesses with incorrect or inconsistent information and it’s easy to see why. Choosing not to update important business information is a sign of idleness, a lack of professionalism and competency, only encouraging customers to shop elsewhere.
Google equally takes a dim view of this and only rewards firms where their NAPs are consistent with the business information they’ve provided across all directories. Be warned, if you haven’t achieved this then Google is likely to place you further down the rankings.
Tips for building citations
Building citations is a time-consuming process that takes a lot of planning, patience and action. Many businesses don’t have the luxury of having so much time at their disposal and so alternatively, you can outsource the work to a reliable Citation Building Services Agency. However, if you’re up to the task yourself then follow these top tips:
- Create an email address. We would recommend that you use your business email address that is associated with your business since these listing submissions will be more trusted.
- Ensure that your name, address and phone number (NAP) is consistent on every site. If there’s one thing you can take away from this post it’s the importance of consistency to facilitate trust with search engines. Stay consistent across all of your listings and you’ll be rewarded.
- Category selection. Again, make sure that you keep your category selection consistent across sites. It also goes without saying that you want to choose the most relevant category that describes what your business does.
- Detail, detail, detail. Don’t be lazy when describing your business. This is an opportunity to communicate what products/services you have to offer as well as what makes you unique. Don’t skimp over the company logo or photos, since these small details help to generate more trust in online viewers.
- Claim your listings. Most websites will send you either an email or contact you by phone and ask you to type in a special pin number that they’ve sent you.
- Be patient. Trying to get all of your business listing verified is a tedious and sometimes long process, with some listings taking as long as a week to verify your account. Take your time and be patient.