What are citations for local SEO, and why does your business need them?
Citations are mentions of your business information on trusted websites. Citations come in two varieties, structured and unstructured.
Structured citations have the business name, address, and phone (or NAP) as well as category keywords, website, and may also include hours of operation. Structured citations may or may not have a link to your website. Examples of sites with structured citations are Yelp, YellowPages.com, Superpages, Yahoo Local, your local Chamber of Commerce and Factual.
Unstructured citations are also mentions of your business, but on sites not specifically marked up for listings. With unstructured citations, the more local flavor the better. Unstructured citations can come from local blogs, newspaper sites, job sites, local events, or local charities.
Google looks at all citations to make sure the your business information is consistent. One important thing you must check: make sure the name, address, phone number, and website are the same on every listing. If your citations have inconsistent information, the search engines have lower confidence in the accuracy of that information. Mismatched information can keep you from getting a good placement in Google Maps or specialized local search results.
Citations are believed to account for 25% of the Local rank factor for businesses. Many directories automatically list businesses from data they collect, but many citation sites still require manual submission. Ensuring that your business information is consistent everywhere is time-consuming, but necessary for optimal local search results. Interestingly, many search specialists believe the unstructured citations (local blogs, newspapers, event listings) will push a business search result over its competition.
Must Have Citation Sites
Setting up a Google Places page is critical, and your other citations should match the information there. Moz Local is a great tool for checking your listing on the top structured citation sites. Just type in your business name and zip code and it will show you what listings you still need to set up or claim. A secondary tab shows your customer reviews, and a third tab gives you a to-do list for optimizing your listings.
Moz Local has some hidden resources as well, such as the top citation sites by city.
There are certain structured citation sites that supply information to many other sites, so those should be your first priority. After that, there are several second tier sites that will help solidify your information for search engines.
Main Structured Citation Sites
- Google Places
- Bing Places For Business
- Yahoo Localworks / Yahoo Small Business
- CitySearch. You may also want to read How To Add A Free CitySearch Business Listing
- Nokia / PrimePlaces
- Facebook Pages
These Sites Also Provide Citations for Local SEO
- Angie’s List
- Better Business Bureau
- Judy’s Book
- Best of the Web
- Star Advertisers / Local.com
- Magic Yellow
Most of these you can sign up for manually; a few of them are partnered with Yext, a service that lists your business information on sites in their network for a hefty fee. Listings from subscriptions services can take from 3 to 90 days to show up, but there is less risk in getting listed. Many citation sites have a way to submit a free listing, sometimes easy to find , sometimes hidden. If I were going to pay for citation submissions, I would probably go with something like Whitespark’s service, which lets you build ala carte citations strategically.
Whitespark also has some pretty neat tools, like the Local Citation Finder, which lets you see where your competitors are getting citations for specific search phrases. You’ll need to purchase the $20CAD monthly plan to get a lot of use out of it, but there is a lot of insight you can glean by seeing what first page ranking businesses did to help themselves.
Update March 2014: Moz is also offering a service, Moz Local, that distributes citations to Neustar, Acxiom, InfoGroup, Factual and Foursquare for $84 a year. You can also manage your listings to make any necessary changes. It’s pretty awesome, and you should definitely check it out.