An introduction to how citations can be beneficial to your local SEO strategy and why you should be taking care of them from the beginning.
1. What are citations?
If you already have a website, you will have an example of a citation sitting on it. A citation is a reference on a website that includes your business’ name, address and phone number which is known as your NAP. It is another thing Google uses to judge the authority of your business online. However, your NAP doesn’t have to link back to your website, it simply needs to exist in multiple authoritative places.
You can also have a partial citation that only includes your business name and phone number or address. Although, this is not as beneficial as a full citation, which would include your business’s complete NAP. It also doesn’t matter how your information is visibly formatted, as long as it’s complete. For example:
Digital Jumpsuit, Croft Myl, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX1 2EQ (01422 646868)
It is important for your citations to match the address on your website and Google My Business profile for them to be beneficial to your local SEO strategy. As previously mentioned, the format you choose to display your citation in doesn’t matter, as long as you stick with it. 100% consistency is key for your name (abbreviations? Ltd?), address (suite number? Floor?) and phone number (+44? Spaces or no spaces?) when building citations.
2. Why are citations important?
Citations are one of the main factors that Google evaluates your website on, along with links and reviews, to determine where you appear in local listings. To Google, it’s logical that if a business is mentioned a lot online then it should rank a lot higher than one that isn’t mentioned at all. This is especially true when those mentions are featured in places that are relevant in terms of search term and location.
Google also uses citations to when it is verifying the accuracy of contact details on local business listing as well. This is because listing contact details that are incorrect or out of date makes them look bad and people question their reliability as a search engine. Therefore, if the same NAP information is listed the same way on 50+ websites, it can be very confident that the information is correct and list the NAP in local search results.
A final reason that citations are important for local SEO is that they also increase the awareness of your business and provide more ways for people to find your business online. It makes sense that the more places your NAP is listed then the more likely it will be that people will see it and as a result more people will be likely to contact you for your services in the future.
3. Where can you get citations?
In the world of local SEO, there is a misconception among beginners that the only place you can get citations is from local or industry specific online directories but this isn’t true. Of course, directories are a great place to start from but you can get citations on blogs, forums, social media and other sites. So, it isn’t a good idea to restrict yourself to only going after directories to get citations – think outside the box and look at alternative sources:
- Press releases
- Article and guest post bylines
- Question and answer sites
- Image and video descriptions
- Profile pages
- Forum signatures
The best place to start and the most productive in the beginning is directories though and here are examples of 20 of the most recommended ones for UK-based businesses:
Of course, your ability to be listed on these sites depends on your location and type of business but you should be able to get citations on 75% of those. Every website on that list comes with a free listing option which won’t allow you to link back to your website but will cement the citation in place. Here are some tips when signing up:
- Set up a new email address specifically for this task – you don’t want to be flooded with marketing emails and spam.
- Provide all the details the website asks for about your business – from NAP to open hours, descriptions and in some cases images.
- Claim ownership of your business if the website allows you to do so – this is typically done through some sort of verification.
If you place your citations on these websites, you’ll make a good start but you shouldn’t stop here. The next step is to find out where your competitors are listed and try to replicate these. This can be done by searching their name a postcode in Google to see where their NAP is listed. If you’re unsure who your competitors are then you can search the keywords you are trying to rank for and take note of the businesses that are listed at the top of the page and continue searching for where their information is cited.
At the end of your local citation process – getting citations in local directories, copying competitor citations and additional citations from other sources – you should easily have 50+ citations in total, which should be more than most of your competitors. Building citations shouldn’t be a one-time job in your local SEO strategy and you should always be looking for new opportunities to list your business’ NAP. It is also good to check if your rivals have any new citations every six months.