One of the eight most influential ranking factors for a local business is citations. Whenever a local business is mentioned online, with or without a link, THAT's a citation! And whenever a local business gets a citation, that's another drop in your higher rankings bucket!
As you can see from the pie chart, citations are currently influencing the rankings in the Local Pack as much as Reviews and On-page content. That's why they're worth getting. Here's the best way to go about doing that while maximizing the efficiency of your citations.
What's a Mention?
An online mention of a local business – a citation — can come in any one, or any combination, of the following four identifiers associated with the business.
- Link to website
Usually it'll be a combination of these four identifiers like business name, address & phone or maybe the name of the company and a link to the Web site. But, at least theoretically, if the mention was only, say, the business name (or even just the phone number) then that would still constitute a mention. And the reason for that brings us to the most important fact that you must know about citations, which is...
Citations work best ONLY when your NAP is consistently IDENTICAL
Always remember that search results are produced by an algorithm which depends on data that is typically pulled from multiple sources. It's within that multiplexity of big-data sources that your NAP — your business's Name, Address, & Phone — MUST be IDENTICAL if you are to expect to gain maximum advantage from your citations.
In other words, the full advantage of a citation is diluted if the address is listed two different ways or if there are multiple phone numbers or alternate versions of the company's name. The variations in the data are interpreted as two, or three (or more) different businesses. And that's not good. A hundred citations might get split 60/40 which would mean that neither "business" gets the full effect of 100 citations.
The chart below shows how broad The Local Search Ecosystem actually is. Here you can see 4 Primary Data Aggregators pulling information from 39 sources composed of 36 KeySites and 3 Core Search Engines.
Now that you have some clue about the interrelational complexity of the data sourcing, it isn't hard to imagine how diluted your citations would become if your NAP were different in just two or three locations from where the primary aggregators are pulling data.
So, your #1 citation strategy is to make SURE that your NAP is identical in EVERY data source known to humankind.
This is easy if you are starting from scratch because you now know how to do it right and there's nothing to fix. On the other hand, if the business has long been established, there are likely to be different variations of the business listing. And, even though it may be challenging to correct the inconsistencies, it must be done if a business expects to succeed in Local Search.
Generally speaking, the larger the aggregator or keysite, the more influence on ranking. So, when getting listed or when correcting inconsistencies, we suggest you start at the top with the primary data aggregators and then work your way through the directories and keysites based on their 1st, 2nd, and tertiary tiers of relevance.
Primary Data Providers
Your first step is to make sure you're listed with the four Primary Data Providers – Localeze, Acxiom, Factual and Infogroup. Claim your listing if you are, submit your listing if you aren't.
We recommend using the free Moz Check Listings Tool. It helps you quickly learn if listings are missing or showing NAP inconsistencies. And if you need a way to manage your listings, the Moz tool has a paid version we think is worthwhile considering how much time and effort it saves.
Primary Data Providers
|Acxiom||Add||$50||Be consistent with ALL data in all your listings – especially with these 4 major data providers.|
|Neustar Localeze||Add||Free/Paid||If your business is listed, you can modify, close, or enhance it. If it's not, then add it to their directory. The free listing isn't very powerful so we highly recommend using the paid version — the cost of which is determined on a personalized basis.|
|InfoGroup||Add||Free||This Add link takes you to Express Update, the site Infogroup created to handle submissions and corrections to their data.|
|Factual||Add||Free||Before submitting your business to Factual, be sure to read their FAQ page.|
Important Local Directories
Next you should use PowerAPP to check Superpages, Yelp, Foursquareand YellowPages.com. These are all important local directories that feed business data to various Web sites and mobile apps.
You should also check your listing on Apple Maps Connect. You want to know that people using Apple Maps are seeing accurate information about the business.
Next you should check your Facebook profiles. Update and correct where needed. Duplicate content, if any, should be eliminated. We don't recommend that you spend a ton of time on social media profiles, but
we DO recommend that you always check Facebook and maintain consistency and accuracy. That's because Facebook is the one user verified social media site mainstreamed by so many people that your customers expect to find you there.
|SuperPages.com||Add||Free||Make sure the data you have listed here matches your listings everywhere else because many businesses will pull your info from these Internet yellow-page-type listings.|
|Yelp||Add||Free||Yelp is a VERY important site because it powers Bing's Local Listings. You must first register as a user. Then search for your business. If it isn't found, then you must Add it. If it isfound then, as the owner, you must claim it and complete the profile.|
|Yellow Pages||Add||Free||Search for your business. If it isn't found, then you must Add it. If it is found then, as the owner, you must claim it and complete the profile. When asked to register, you can opt to login with your Facebook login profile. However, we suggest creating a separate profile for any business listing with unique login details — necessary if you are doing this for clients and advisable if you are the owner of the business thus making it easier to outsource the management at a later date.|
|Apple Maps Connect||Add||Free||You'll be asked to register or login with an AppleID. We suggest creating a separate profile for any business listing that you're doing for clients. It's also advisable to create unique login details for your own business in case you outsource the management at a later date. Start with a search for your business. If it isn't found, then Add it. If found, claim it and complete the profile.|
|Foursquare||Search||Free||Start with a search for your business. If it isn't found, then Add it. If found, claim it and complete the profile.|
|Facebook||Search||Free||Start with a search for your business. If it isn't found, then use your account drop down menu and choose Create Pageor go here.|
Local Niche Directories
Your next step is to get listed in all of the "best" places for your location and your industry. Fortunately, Whitespark has published a comprehensive resource that lists the best citations for your business by category. We have found this to be the absolute best place from where to get this data. You'll find a plethora of business categories all organized by region including US, Canada, UK and Australia. Bear in mind this resource is a constant work in progress as they seem to be adding new features every time we check it.
Start with Whitespark's recommendations for citations for your country and industry, but do realize this is just a start. Research your own geographic area – state, region, city and/or neighborhood – for the best additional local citation opportunities. However, when it comes to local citations, don't necessarily measure quality as high Domain Authority or professional polish. Local and hyperlocal sites can be ugly and dreadfully un-optimized, but can still be great sources for gaining brand recognition and new customers within your market area.
Earning Local Links
This strategy doesn't have to be difficult even though many people think gaining links from community involvement is way too hard. So, to prove otherwise, we've created this simple flow chart to show how easy it can actually be to gain the local links that can have a huge positive effect on your local rankings.
The first step is to assess what is already being done within the community. Next, you should determine if such efforts have already earned recognition that isn't yet being shown online. In such cases, you should see to it that the recognition is put into online format, making it a citation.
Next, the business should begin contributing to their community as a supporter or sponsor if they're not already doing so. Do some research and make a list of existing web sites that offer opportunities and possibilities for contribution and sponsorships. Look especially for causes that are somehow related to the business and/or appealing to the heart-strings of the business owner(s).
Ideas include charity runs, community arts and concerts, food drives, affinity group awareness efforts, volunteer community clean-up efforts, park beautification projects, etc.
The easiest way to quickly gain local links is to find groups or events that already recognize supporters and contributors on their Web site. Then it's simply a matter of making your contribution and providing the necessary information.
The bottom line is that every local business should establish a brand-building budget. And then use that money to support community causes that offer local link opportunities.
Summary: Here's Your 3-Point Citation Checklist
In order of importnce, you should...
- NAP - make SURE your NAP is listed and identical in EVERY major data source listed above as well as those keysites and directories which are relevant to your business.
- Claim existing profiles, correct inconsistencies and, if unlisted, submit the business to:
- Major Data Providers
- Important Local Directories
- Local Niche Directories
- Gain local links
Quality over Quantity
Your overarching emphasis should always be Quality over Quantity. NAP consistency is key and having a few citations from reputable and authoritative sites far outweighs a lot of mentions from more or less obscure sites.
Google's algorithms are constantly improving toward better and better recognition of high quality citations much in the same way they keep getting better at recognizing high quality links. Increasingly and persistently, quality will get you better results than quantity. So whatever your efforts, do them as perfectly as possible and let the powerful lens of time magnify the perfections of your efforts.
Now - Get out and Get Local!