Citations, (also called Local Directory Listings), are a key part of local search optimization and are critical to your local rankings in search engines like Google and BING. They can also help you attract customers from a wide variety of channels across the web. Having many citations that are consistent and all display the same information about your business helps to improve your ranking in local search results.
Citations have been an important ranking factor in local search for awhile now, with the accuracy & ‘quality’ of your listings considered the most important. Back in June of 2011 David Mihm published the Local Search Ranking Factors where he noted that 25% of the Top Twenty Local SEO factors were related to citations. In March 2015 BrightLocal released the Expert Citation Survey 2015 where they noted that 55% of the panel experts ranked citations as a critical ranking factor for SEO. Business with more citations rank higher than businesses with none.
So what exactly is a citation? A citation is any mention of your business and address on the web. It can be shown in a variety of ways including:
An example of a citation might be a YELP business review listing on the right side of the search results where your business is listed along with 1 or more reviews but not linked to any website.
However, many of the companies citations come from (Yelp, Google, WhitePages, and Mapquest) will gather information about your business whether you volunteer the details or not. If you don’t control the listings, they’ll automatically gather this information from places such as social media and your website. If the information is incorrect, it opens up the opportunity for your listings to be inaccurate. This is common among businesses that have moved.
Both the how and where your business is listed is important in making sure your website is listed prominently in local search. Citations from well-established and well-indexed directories like Yelp and Superpages help improve the comfort level the search engines have about you and your business.
Citations become even more important in target small business segments like martial arts, heating and air, auto service, etc. Many of these don’t have websites themselves so without that information, the search engines rely whatever information they can find in the listings.
Citations and links from these kinds of websites can dramatically improve your local search engine rankings, especially when they are consistent and accurate. So creating new listings, cleaning up inaccurate ones, and merging duplicates are all critical parts of local search optimization. With hundreds of sites to go through the process can be tedious and time consuming. There are third-party citation services such as BrightLocal that will handle this for you
What used to be called Google Places is now Google My Business and is the first place you need to be listed. Google remains the current king of search engines, having 65.4% of search queries in the U.S. In fact, Google receives nearly 6 billion searches per day!
Google My Business connects you directly with customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+ so you are knocking out multiple birds with one stone. Setting up is as simple as marking your location, creating a profile, and then verifying it offline through a code they send you via snail mail. Once you enter that code online you are ‘Live’!
Bing is responsible for about 20% of all searches in the United States and another 13% through Yahoo, which Bing also powers. Ignore them at your own risk. The setup process is identical to Google My Places. You simply add your listing, verify it via snail mail, and then publish.
Even though Bing powers Yahoo search, the Yahoo Local business directory is managed separately. Even though you may have already added it through Bing you still need to register with Yahoo as well. One unique element they offer is Yahoo a $29.99 upgrade that offers an expanded presence in more than 50 other local directories and the ability to enhance your listing with offers, more photos, and extra details.
Yelp is a must for business owners local or not. Yelp is one of the best places on the Internet for consumers to find a quality review and has become the dominant force when it comes to social reviews. That’s what makes it unique and it allows you to maximize word of mouth and interact with your customers in a different way.Yelp gets 142 million unique visitors per MONTH
We all know that our days of looking through that large Yellow Pages book sitting by the phone are gone. Why get off the couch when we can just grab our phone and do a quick search? Since online search is the primary tool to finding businesses today, it’s vital to make sure your business is listed in a variety of places where your customers may be looking. Using these free online business listings is an important piece of your overall inbound marketing strategy and just one more tool to help you meet your customers where they are.
The problem is that inaccurate citations actually cause you to lose rankings in many areas, such as Google Maps search. The search engines see the inconsistencies, and don’t know which are correct. This causes the search engines to lose trust in your business in comparison to others with more accurate listings.
Anyone who has searched for a business or service in a search engine, particularly Google, has seen how much the distance from your current location makes a difference in your results. But you may have noticed that only three map search results appear in the Google Maps results. This ends up causing lots of competition, especially in larger cities.
Citations can help here! The more citations you have that match, the more reputable your business will look to the Google Search results. Even the small listings help! (Just a note: citations are not the only criteria for search. Other criteria include Google reviews, proximity to searcher’s location, and your Google My Business listing content.)
This is especially important for small businesses trying to compete with larger corporations. Being able to boost your local rankings for the areas you serve can give you a leg up, especially with good citations across other sites!
There are plenty of places to find comprehensive lists of these directories with priorities and rankings and even third-party services who will submit and update them for you. In fact we use them to handle this for our clients so we’re happy to help point you in the right direction!