Even if you have a strong organic SEO presence, you should still focus attention and effort on local SEO. When it comes to ranking at the top of the search engines, Google places a lot of emphasis on how many citations a business has as well as the sources of these citations.
We’ll explain in detail what citations are, why they’re important, and how you can go about getting them for your business.
A citation is a mention of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) somewhere on the web. The most high-profile examples are places like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Yellowpages.com, as well as other major directories that list businesses. In these directories, there will be a link back to your website, which is called a structured citation.
However, a citation doesn’t always include a hyperlink. If a media outlet like the Daily Mail, the New York Times or The West Australian write about your business but don’t include a link back to your website, then that would be considered an unstructured citation.
More About Structured and Unstructured Citations
As part of your local SEO strategy, you should focus efforts on getting both types of citations. You can get structured citations by submitting your NAP info to directories. As we mentioned, the major directories like Yelp, the online Yellow Pages, and others that are related to your area and niche should be at the top of your list.
You should also consider hyper-local citation building. Hyper-local citations are from a source that is either directly related to your business category, city or region. These can make the biggest difference in your local rankings because they are specifically related to your specialty and location, which is a powerful signal to the search engines.
They are important because it helps the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing understand local businesses. Instead of just using strong signals like link building and keyword prevalence, the search engines also take into account how often your name is mentioned in local resources like online directories, news outlets, blogs and social media.
The New Local SEO
In the last few years, Google has made some adjustments to how SEO works for local businesses. The newer algorithms have leveled the playing field and allowed smaller companies with one or a few locations to rank right alongside national and global firms.
Here’s an example of local SEO in action:
Let’s say you and your family run a pizza parlour. You make the best pizza on the planet. The recipe for the dough has been passed down for several generations, and you use local and organic ingredients. You and your family are committed to the business. In fact, you’re so passionate about it that you spend all of your spare time working in the restaurant.
None of you have time to invest in a link building strategy to get found online. You’re too busy providing an ideal customer experience.
Now let’s take a look at ABC Pizza down the street. They’re a global chain, almost like the McDonald’s of pizza. They have thousands of locations, millions of backlinks and a team of 100 people who are focused solely on getting each of their restaurants to rank globally online. The thing is, their pizza isn’t that great. It doesn’t get many positive reviews, and none of the locals think it’s even worth mentioning.
This is where the Google local algorithm comes in and how building citations should be a huge part of your local SEO strategy.
It’s no mystery that Google is in the business of delighting its users. With that principle in mind, who do you think they’d rather have appear as number 1 in a search query for, “pizza (or insert your business category) near me”? If they consistently gave ABC Pizza the top spot just because they had the most backlinks and keywords, then people would stop trusting Google to provide the best recommendations, and Google would lose credibility.
So, the moral of this story is that Google wants to show your business as number one! But, they do need to know that you exist and that you’re legitimate. That’s why citation building is so important.
Yes, getting citations is a bit of a process. And yes, it takes some know-how, and you’ll benefit by having automated tools, which we’ll mention in a moment. But in the end, it doesn’t take a giant team of digital marketing experts to help you rank.
There are 4 reasons why you should focus attention on citations today:
- Boost Maps Visibility
The major search engines all prominently display a map when someone does a local search. The top 4 or 5 locations will show up in the map results. Searchers will see each location on a map as well as a listing for the business that includes the company’s name, address, phone number, hours and reviews. There are also links to the website and a way to get directions to the location.
By having as many relevant citations as possible for your business, you’ll be able to signal to Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines that you’re a legitimate business. This encourages the search engines to place you higher on the map.
Just like people don’t often scroll past the first or second page of Google, people are not very likely to click to view multiple pages of Maps locations, either. The citations that you build today will encourage Maps to show your company when people type a query like “Plumber near me” or “Plumber Perth,” for example.
- Boosts Local Rankings
The same data inputs that help you show up in Maps will also help boost your local rankings. If anyone in your area is searching for a product or service that you offer, having complete and consistent citations in all of the relevant directories will allow you to show up higher in the search results.
If you do this correctly, then you’ll earn a top spot on Maps as well as a secure spot on the first page of Google and the other search engines. Now, when someone is searching for something that your business provides, you have a much better chance of that person contacting your business or visiting your location.
- Boosts Domain Authority
Structured citations act as a link back to your website. As you know, the more credible websites that link back to your site, the higher your domain authority will be. Domain authority simply means how relevant a site is for a specific term or category or business. It’s displayed as a score from 1 to 100, and the higher your score, the higher probability you have of being on the first page of the search engines.
It also means that you can potentially rank more competitively for both mainstream keywords as well as longer-tail phrases that aren’t just specific to local businesses.
This metric was originally developed by Moz, a software company in Seattle.
- Sends Valuable Traffic
If you’re listed in places like Tripadvisor, your local Chamber of Commerce, Yelp and other highly ranked directories, you’ll naturally get more traffic to your site. And these aren’t just casual searchers. The people that visit online directories are looking for something specific.
For example, if someone is on Trip Advisor reading reviews about Bed and Breakfasts in Sydney, chances are they’re looking for one to visit.
Also, as a result of being more visible on Maps, having higher local rankings and a boosted domain authority, you’ll be the lucky recipient of more traffic. More traffic potentially leads to more leads and sales.
Tips to Find Citation Sources
- Find where your competitors are listed by googling their “business name” and excluding their own domain from the search. This will give you an idea of what directories they’re listed in, so you’ll know where you should get started.
- Search Google for two business names at once by typing “business name 1” “business name 2.” You’ll often get another list of directories to target.
- Type into Google “City + State/Region/Country.” Granted, you might get a lot of information about the location, but you’ll also see a list of places where you could submit your business name. Add the word “listings” to the query if you’d like to narrow down the results to directories only.
- Use Link Intersect tools in Moz, Majestic and Ahrefs. Type in a couple of competitor names and see who is linking to them. You could find directories and other sites that weren’t on your radar.
Now that you know the importance of citations and how to go about getting them, you’re well on your way to earning top rankings and dominating local search. Remember, citations are both an immediate and a long-term strategy that you should continually monitor while also being on the lookout for new opportunities. If you’d some guidance getting started, contact us today to see how we can help.