When it comes to local SEO, there are several things you can do to optimize your website. But there are things besides your actual website (called off-page factors) that you can optimize, too, including online citations of your business. In this post, we explain what a citation is, where to get them for your business, and why these are important for SEO.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
What is a citation?
A citation is simply a listing for your business that lives somewhere else on the internet. For example, you might have a listing on Yelp or TripAdvisor, or even a local directory for your county or city. All of these are citations that help boost your local SEO.
Citations consist of two main things: your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) and your website. Think of these details as your business’ fingerprint online. The more times Google sees your fingerprint in directories and other authoritative sites, the more confident Google is that it’s recommending a great business to searchers.
Be careful when adding citations, though, and make sure the details you submit are consistent all across the web. Even changing the slightest detail, like using St. instead of Street, changes your fingerprint. And if Google sees conflicting fingerprints, it doesn’t know which one to trust or show in the search results. This ultimately means it won’t show any, which hurts your visibility online.
Some general advice
Before we explore a few of the more popular citation sites, a quick word of advice: Be where your customers would expect you to be. If you run a bakery, and every other bakery in your city has a listing on Foursquare, get on Foursquare! Find out where your competition is, and claim your listings on those sites. This not only puts you in front of your target audience, but it also puts you where Google expects you to be.
Moreover, quality is better than quantity. It is better to have a few high-quality citations than to have dozens of low-quality ones. Despite what most business listing services may tell you, there are only a handful of useful citations you need in order to benefit your local SEO.
Lastly, relevant citations provide more value in the eyes of Google (and your customers) than ones that have nothing to do with your business. So for citations beyond the ones we’ll go through in this next section, carefully weigh the benefits with the costs.
Now let’s take a look at some of the most valuable citation sites you can pursue for your business.
Where to get citations for your business
- Data aggregators.
Google licenses data from Infogroup, Acxiom, Factual, and Neustar to build its local business index for the United States. These companies vet business information quite thoroughly, requiring verification of your phone number and mailing address. They also license data to other directories and mobile apps featuring local businesses. Because data aggregators are the source for so many other websites, having an accurate, detailed listings on these sites is critical.
- Consumer directories.
When looking at consumer directories for citations, choose the ones that have greater authority in Google’s eyes, as these will help your local SEO incrementally more than less well-known sites. Check out this list of the top 50 citation sites for businesses in the U.S. to help you select ones that make sense for your business.
- Industry directories.
Citations from industry-relevant websites build authority for your business and give Google an idea of what keywords your business should be found for in the search results. These are the directories that rank for the same words you want to rank for, so claim those listings, optimize them, and keep them up-to-date. Especially if you want higher chances of ranking in the search results!
- Local directories.
Definitely get yourself a listing in your local chamber of commerce and neighborhood business association. You can do a quick search on Google to find other relevant local directories in the towns and cities you service with your business.
Longer-tail industry and local directories
If you operate in an industry or country covered by Whitespark’s lists of top citation sources, you can stop here. However, if your business is in a country or market in which they have not yet done research, you can perform similar research yourself.
To find industry and local directories, all you have to do is search Google for [your keyword] and [your city]. If you’d like, you can even get more specific and add the word [directory] to the end of your query, or [submit] to the beginning.
Note the directories that appear in the top 20 (or so) organic results. This equates to roughly the first two pages of the search results. These are websites with a reasonable degree of credibility in Google’s eyes, so being listed on them will definitely help improve your digital thumbprint.
How do citations help your local SEO?
While having a strong citation profile won’t make or break your SEO, it can help give you greater visibility in local, geo-targeted searches. The goal here is more along the lines of keeping them up-to-date and consistent, so people can find you when they search in your area. If you already have a strong citation profile, you’re in great shape! Building a few more citations won’t really do much more to help your rankings; your efforts would be better spent on some other aspect of SEO, like your content or site structure.