Local citations are any mention or listing of your business on the internet and serve as a key ranking factor for local SEO.
In this article, we will introduce you to local citations, explain why they are important, and teach you how to get local citations.
- What Are Local Citations?
- Types of Local Citations
- Why Do Local Citations Matter?
- Local Citation Factors
- How to Get Local Citations
What are Local Citations?
A local citation is any mention of your business on the internet that includes some or all of your business information such as name, address, phone number (also known as NAP), or website.
These citations help search users find your business in local searches as they can also have an impact on where you show up in search results.
Local citations are everywhere and are commonly found on things like business directories, social media sites, and aggregation websites.
Types of Local Citations
There are two different types of local citations: structured and unstructured.
Let’s take a look at what makes the two different and some examples of each:
Any listing of your business on formal directories such as data platforms and major directories is considered to be a structured citation.
These citations include information like your business name, address, and phone number and are listed on third-party websites or in relevant business directories such as Apple Maps, Google My Business, Nextdoor, or Yelp.
Most structured citations are posted on popular websites that have pre-existing databases of business information and are deemed trustworthy by Google.
Below are some different examples of structured citations:
- Search engines: Properties like Google, Bing, and Yandex.
- Social media profiles: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.
- Major directories or platforms: Yelp, Yellowpages, and the Better Business Bureau.
- Primary data aggregators: These are organizations such as Foursquare, Neustar Localeze, Factual, and Data Axle.
- Industry-specific platforms: Platforms or websites that are more specific to your industry such as your local chamber of commerce website or professional associations that support your industry.
- Your own website: Your website can and should be the most accurate and authoritative representation of your business on the web. NAP info is important, but your website should also include other accurate info-related items like your operating hours, description of your business, company logo, and a business email address that customers can use to get in touch with you.
Unstructured citations also include key information about your business, but what makes them different from structured citations is that the information is not grouped together in a formal business directory.
You can usually find these types of citations on reviews, wikis, government databases, blog posts, or online news articles that mention your business.
While they are not purposefully structured for publication on local business listings, they do still serve as a reference to your business.
The best unstructured local citations you can get are ones that link to your business.
Why Do Local Citations Matter?
The short answer for why local citations are important is that they improve your local SEO, which gives you a better chance of getting your business in front of your customers when they perform local searches.
As far as where local citations fit in with local SEO, there are four main perks:
The first benefit of citations is that they verify to Google and other search engines that your business exists and is legitimate.
When you have citations on multiple trusted online directories, it tells search engines that your business is trustworthy and has accurate NAP information.
On top of verifying your legitimacy to search engines, citations can also give you a better chance of showing up in local search results.
Citations are believed to serve as a ranking factor for local search, so having credible citations can give you a boost when it comes to local search.
The more trustworthy Google determines you are, the more likely it is to include you in search results.
Page One Piggybacking
If you search for the best type of cuisine in just about any city, TripAdvisor and Yelp are almost certain to be among the first few results.
Having citations on trusted directories like that will give your site the best chance of potentially piggybacking off those first-page results.
Help Customers Find You
You want it to be as easy as possible for your customers to find you, and that’s going to be hard to do if you don’t have local citations.
A recent Bright Local survey found that 93% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year.
When you have credible citations on the internet, you make sure your customers are able to find that information when they search locally.
Local Citation Factors
When Google and other search engines use citations to assess your local search value, there are four key factors taken into consideration:
- Accuracy: How accurate is your key information?. If your basic contact information is not the same across most or all of your citations, it will hurt your chances of being included in local search results.
- Distribution: How many citations you have also plays a part in local search. It is important to have at least a few citations in trusted online directories so Google can verify your info.
- Quality: It is good to have several citations, but it’s also important to make sure they are quality citations as well. Quality is determined by the authority of the online directories and other platforms that list your citations.
- Relevance: Citations on popular platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook are great places to start, but it can also be helpful to be listed on industry-specific sites relevant to your business.
How to Optimize Local Citations
To squeeze the most value out of local citations, here are some tips on how to optimize them for search engines.
- Consistent NAP Information: The most important element of citations is to have accurate information. If you don’t have consistent NAP information across your citations, you’re sending Google mixed signals and hurting your shot at being ranked.
- Descriptions: Your business description should be used to help search engines better understand your business. One way you can do that is by including your most relevant keywords in your description.
- Photos: Nearly 28% of all Google search traffic goes to the images indexed by Google Images, so having photos for your business might give you an edge when in local search results. Learn how to optimize your photos for search engines.
How to Get Local Citations
There are a few different ways to go about getting your business listed on the internet.
Below are four suggestions that can help you get local citations:
Submit Your NAP to High-Value Sites
One of the first things you should do when pursuing citations is to go ahead and get your business listed on all of the key business directories and platforms.
We already know that quality is a factor with citations, so start with the major players like Facebook, Apple Maps, Yelp, and Yellowpages.
Just having a few credible citations listed on the platforms mentioned above can go a long way for your local SEO.
Individually submitting your NAP information to different directories and platforms is a surefire way to get your business listed, but it can be rather time-consuming to tackle on your own.
Thankfully, there are companies known as data aggregators that collect your NAP and other information and then distribute it to large groups of online directories and websites.
To make your business accessible to those groups, check out aggregators like FourSquare, Data Axle, and Neustar Localeze.
Don’t Ignore Local and Industry-Specific Platforms
Data aggregators can be helpful in casting a wide net, but sometimes you can see better results by getting your business listed on local and industry-specific websites.
A lot of people look to their local chamber of commerce for recommendations or turn to an industry association to find out what businesses are popular for a certain type of business.
Though these platforms might not have as wide of a reach, they do have a target audience who may be looking for your business based on industry or location.
Pursue Unstructured Citations
Unstructured citations might not present as much value as fully structured citations, but they can definitely still be beneficial.
The biggest downfall about them is that unstructured citations are definitely harder to get than structured citations because you will need someone to care about your business enough that they are willing to write about it.
However, things like product reviews, press mentions, and blog articles about your business all have value, and many even link directly to your website.
If you have built up a good share of structured citations but are looking for more, unstructured citations can be worth your time if you are willing to put in the work to secure them.
Local citations help verify your business online, improve your local search rankings, and make it easier for your customers to find you and your key information.
Before you dive into pursuing citations, make sure you have all your NAP and other important business information updated so that any new citations will have all the accurate and consistent details about your business.
If you have exhausted all your avenues for local citations and want to learn how to take your company global, check out these International SEO Best Practices.