In top five most important techniques Local citation building is the one in which you can influence your local SEO ranking, according to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factors Study. Because of this Local citation building is one of the main things your local business needs to focus on if you plan to claim more local search real estate.
Before you get serious about creating citation building, it’s worth understanding the basics and moving on to a local optimization strategy to figure out what a local citation is, how to look for new citations, and how to look for new business listings.
Immediately after you see the word “citation,” you may be remembering your time at school where you put your head buried in a book trying solely to find a source for his term paper. If you are already sweating a lot, you can relax.
In the context of Internet marketing, a citation refers to your company name, business address, and business phone number on a third-party website. Part of the name, address, and phone number is often referred to as NAP and is a particularly important part of creating a local citation building, as we will see shortly.
Your online citations can take many forms and can include any mixture:
Back in 2008, marketing expert David Michm began to notice the development of links with the emergence of local SEO and links. He mentioned,
“In the Local algorithm, links can still bring direct traffic from the people who click on them. But the difference is that these ‘links’ aren’t always links; sometimes they’re just an address and phone number associated with a particular business! In the Local algorithm, these references aren’t necessarily a ‘vote’ for a particular business, but they serve to validate that business exists at a particular location, and in that sense, they make a business more relevant for a particular search.”
He called the citation a new link, that is, citations have been part of the local search ecosystem for more than a decade.
Those business names and details that you mentioned can appear all around the web, including on business directories, review sites, industry-specific publications, local media outlets, social media pages, Google My Business, and even apps. Google and other search engines use citations to verify data and consumers use them to find local businesses.
Once a citation has been indexed, it acts much like a link and can help to promote your local search rankings.
Citation has two main types structured and unstructured.
Unstructured citations don’t follow a structured listing format with data assigned to a specific field (like name, address) that is why they are known as unstructured citations. However, they can be distributed for information, for example, when your business is mentioned in an article in a local newspaper or blog.
In structured lists, data is given to a particular area, such as a business name or phone number. This may take the form of a directory list into which you enter data by form. Including a Yelp list, Facebook page, or yellow page are all examples of structured lists.
You will have the control of most of the citations. If you submit your site to a business directory, you control what information is provided and can usually go back and edit that information as required.
Other citations, such as those resulting from local media coverage, are beyond your control. Some citations are free, others require payment, and some may require a backlink to your site in order to activate it.
At Syndiket, we believe four types of SEO exist – and we have an acronym to represent those 4 types of SEO. The acronym is T.R.A.P.
“T” stands for Technical, “R” stands for Relevancy, “A” stands for Authority, and “P” stands for popularity. Search engine optimization has many smaller divisions within the 4 types, but all of them can be placed into one of these 4 buckets.
Generally, technical SEO for local businesses carry the least importance for ranking. Technical SEO has a bare minimum that is required and this usually includes things like site speed, indexation issues, crawlability, and schema. Once the core technical parts are done, minimal upkeep is required.
Relevancy is one of trivium elements of SEO. It has equal importance with popularity signals and authority signals. Relevancy signals are based on algorithmic learning principles. Bots crawl the internet every time a searcher has a search. Each search is given a relevancy score and the URLs that pop up for a query. The higher the relevancy score you attain, the greater your aggregated rating becomes in Google’s eyes. Digital marketing is a strange thing in 2020, and ranking a website requires the website to be relevant on many fronts.
Google’s Co-creator, Larry Page, had a unique idea in 1998 which has led to the modern-day Google Empire. “Page Rank”, named after Larry Page himself, was the algorithm that established Google as a search engine giant. The algorithm ranked websites by authority.
Every page of a website has authority and the sum of all pages has another authority metric. The authority metric is largely determined by how many people link to them (backlinks). The aggregate score of all pages pointing to a domain creates the domain score, which is what Syndiket calls “Domain Rating”, per Ahrefs metrics. The more a site is referenced, the more authority it has. But, the real improvement to the algorithm came when Google began to classify authority weight.
If Tony Hawk endorsed Syndiket for skateboarding, it would carry a lot more authority than 5 random high school kids endorsing Syndiket. This differentiation in authority happened in 2012 with the Penguin update. Authority SEO is complicated but VERY important.
Popularity signals are especially strong for GMB or local SEO, but popularity and engagement are used for all rankings. The goal of this signal is for Google to verify its own algorithm. You can check off all the boxes, but if your content is something real people hate, Google has ways to measure that. Syndiket has proprietary methods of controlling CTR (click-through rate) but we also infuse CRO methods into our work to make sure people actually like the content. Social shares and likes are also included in this bucket.
If you just start your business and your business is new, you are required to speed on local citation building quickly. Local search experts agree that you should build 20-50+ new citations within the first 2 months of your business opening its doors.
You must be proficient in the art of generating new links to successfully use citation as part of your local SEO strategy.
Unexpectedly, this means you are going through the laborious process of collecting accurate business data (at least your NAP) for business directories. You can do this either manually, using your business data one at a time on each citation site, or automatically, using a tool or data aggregator.
Alternatively, you can use a service such as BrightLocal’s Citation Builder to create citations for you!
Many businesses prefer to use a data aggregator to improve performance when building local links. The four main data aggregators are fact sheets: Foursquare (since Asiex retires in December 2019), Factual, Neustar Localez, and Infogroup. Our own Miles Anderson argues that data aggregators are essentially information aggregators.
“Local Data Aggregators (LDAs) are companies that gather data about local businesses and then sell or distribute that data out to a network of local search engines, third-party directories, mapping services, GPS services and mobile apps. Submitting via Local Data Aggregators involves creating an account on each LDA and updating or submitting business data into the LDA’s database. The LDA then performs a verification of the business information before making this business info available to the third-party services that buy or take its data.”
If you decide to use a data aggregator when considering how to obtain new citations, it is worth keeping in mind that a data aggregator can take a lot of tedious legwork from the citation creation process.
Yelp is one such example of a data aggregator that you may already be familiar with when referring to Dan Libson of the Local SEO Guide, “Yelp is one of the primary citation sources. They syndicate their reviews in multiple places (Apple Maps etc) and among certain demographics are widely used for local discovery.”
Location3’s David Kelly has a different take, noting,
“As apps become more and more important, Foursquare and Factual have positioned themselves well in the aggregator space over the past year, providing robust data sets and APIs for mobile app developers. Apps can be hard to measure compared to typical sites, which has brought additional complication to analysis and strategy, but has offered unique opportunities as well. It will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve, and how the more legacy aggregators evolve to compete.”
Now we’ve answered the question, “what is citation building?” it pays to go a little further and ask, “what is good citation building?”
With Link, there is a segment of quality control to keep in mind. You should aim to build links to sites that are either widely used (like Yelp or the Yellow Pages) or are very related to your industry or location.
It is proven by researchers that quality and relevance of citations are more vital than quantity, so it’s better to make good quality sites where possible. 64% of local SEO experts say niche and industry directories offer the best measure of authority for structured citations, with 18% saying national directories offer the most authority.
Industry associations, local business groups and local news sites are the best candidates for good quality unstructured citations.
Before you start determining new business listings, you would need to determine what citations you already have. A tool like BrightLocal’s Citation Tracker is extremely helpful here. This not only makes it easier to search the Internet for all current links for your business. It also makes it much simpler to reveal incorrect information and irregularity in NAP and take suitable remedial action.
It is important to provide consistent and accurate information if you provide incomplete or inaccurate details can lead to a loss of trust not only in search engines that rely on data for ranking purposes, but also among consumers.
We interviewed a panel of consumers about local listings and local citations to find out if they’re as crucial from a sales perspective as they are from a search one. 93% of consumers said incorrect business directory information frustrates them, 80% will lose trust and 68% would stop using a local business wholly if they found misleading information in online directories.
If you’ve taken out any form of SEO before learning what citation building is, it’s probably that you’ll have done some competitor link research to determine what sites are linking to competitors and providing them a search engine edge. This same concept should be carried across to local citation buildings.
The process of finding new citations can actually be as simple as finding which sites your competitors are on that you aren’t. A tool like Citation Tracker is, again, helpful here, as it can automate the process of spying on competitors, compiling a citation report and then identifying targeted niche and local citation opportunities to explore.
According to a BrightLocal Expert Local Citation Survey, 90% of local search experts find the exact links very important for ranking in local search engines.
Add this to their position as the fourth most influential factor in local ranking, and you can easily see local citation as a tactical strategy that you just need to deploy.
But, like content, links or social networks, quotes are not your only competitive advantage. They should be used as part of a comprehensive local SEO approach to make a difference, but like a site without a back link, if you don’t have many quality links, you would not be able to compete.
Beyond the local power of SEO, citation can also assist in searching. Due to the fact that sites such as Yelp and Yellow Pages are prominent in local search results, they provide another way to display the places that are most important when local customers are actively looking for business like yours.
For almost a decade, BrightLocal has been managing the creation and updating of local SEO links for local businesses, multi-location businesses and agencies. Our citation development team is fully dedicated to manually updating or clearing lists, which means high accuracy and unmatched speed in the industry.
Not only can our citation service send manually and through data aggregators, but the citation tracker actually shows you the citations of your rivals, and you do not show the ability to compete in quotes and give you your citation profile.
The combination of building and monitoring citations with BrightLocal means that you can be absolutely sure that your all-important citations profile is progressing, latest and error free.