Have you ever parked your car to do some shopping only to return later and find a police officer writing you up with a citation? I don't want to talk about it either.
Fortunately, there are other kinds of citations that every local small business owner would gladly like to collect. Let's talk about those citations instead.
Local Citations: The Good Kind!
Hey, did you hear about that new restaurant that just opened on the corner of Main and Oak? That's right! Paradise Cuisine. Great Indian food! You should try it.
If you've got a brick-and-mortar business that welcomes customers/clients or if you provide a service in a set geographical area, word-of-mouth advertising is a great boon for your business. Local citations are pretty much the same, but rather than verbal communications, these are mentions of your business online, such as business directories, online reviews, and social media outlets.
To be effective and draw in new potential customers, local citations need to include your name, address, and phone number, which is why we refer to them as NAPs. And especially in this digital age we live in, they should also include your website. When they do, we call them NAPWs.
Local citations can be a very effective tool in Local SEO. Here's why.
How Local Citations Help Local SEO
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Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines may seem like your friends. They're certainly helpful when you ask them questions like where in your area you might find a good cup of coffee, an accountant to do your personal taxes, or where you might find an accountant who will do your personal taxes for a really good cup of coffee.
But search engines aren't human, and they don't know the answers to your questions any better than anyone else. What search engines are really good at, however, is compiling repeated references from a wide variety of reliable sources about businesses. Just like with people, if one says your business is located on the corner of Main and Oak, he may be right, but he also may have confused it with another. If, however, multiple people say the same thing, it's easier to trust the original claim.
Likewise, search engines look to see if your name, address, phone number, website address, and any other information you list are consistent across high authority sites. This consistency suggests the information provided can be trusted, which in turn establishes trust with customers that you're legitimate and up and running. And that can bump you up in search engine optimization pages.
In a nutshell, local citations:
- Use high-authority sites to validate the existence of your business
- Establish trust among search engines and with customers
- Can ultimately elevate your SEO status
What Are the Two Types of Local Citations?
Did someone tell you there were two - or was it just a good guess?
Either way, you're right. Citations can be accomplished in two ways - as Structured Citations and as Unstructured Citations.
Structured citations are complete business NAP or NAPW listings found in high-authority, online directories such as Yelp, Facebook, D&B, or Yellow Pages or in directories that list specialized services like Lawyers.com or Angie's List.
Unstructured citations are looser in nature. They are contextual references to your business that typically appear in forum discussions, blog posts, or mentions on local news sites.
How Are Structured Citations Built?
Get a free list of the top 50 local citations in the United States:
When it comes to building structured citations, there are literally thousands of business directories on the web. But that doesn't mean you need to whittle your fingers to the bone filling out your information in every one of them. A better approach is to get yourself listed in one or two major aggregators. These are companies that collect information on businesses and distribute them to a long list of other sites. The "big three" aggregators include:
- Express Update (by Infogroup)
- Neustar localeze
It's easy enough to do. Just search the sites for your business listing and, if it exists, claim it and make sure the information is accurate. If there is no listing, submit one. It's free to do on Infogroup and Neustar Localeze, but there may be a fee with Factual.
Then follow suit with other relevant and familiar sites such as Yelp, Bing Places, Foursquare, and Yellow Pages. There's ton's more where they came from. With each site, if they provide you room to add other relevant information such as photos, by all means, do!
The third tier for citations should include any local business associations like your local Chamber of Commerce as well as industry-specific directories that are also specific to your geographical location.
But what if you find submitting to multiple sites to be too time-consuming? Just stick with a handful that you feel strongly about being listed on. Another option is to use a submission and management service such as Yext, Bright Local, or Whitespark to manage your citations from a single location.
Building Unstructured Citations
Get a free list of the top 50 local citations in the United States:
It should go without saying that unstructured citations are a little more difficult to build. Hopefully, you've impressed a few customers enough that they've provided a positive review or two about your business on local online sites.
You can also provide links to those businesses that you supply or provide services for or that supply your business.
Another helpful way to get noticed is to sign up as an expert in your industry with "Help A Reporter Out," also known as HARO. The platform is free, and it connects journalists with industry experts who can provide context for their local stories.
Local Searches and the Google 3-Pack
According to Google, 46 percent of searches are local searches. And when it comes to the market share of searches, Google walks away with over 92 percent. Remember that.
How do you go about a local search? Typically, you'll type the product or service you're looking for in your browser alongside your location. For example, you might type "Indian Food Boise" or "Indian restaurants near me."
If you're using Google as your search engine, Google Maps using GPS will identify what they see as your location and will provide you with a 3-pack of choices based on an algorithm that most closely matches the relevance of what you are looking for, the prominence of the business amongst its competition, and the proximity the business has to your location.
Google being Google is going to promote its own services so most searches will draw from their own Google My Business citation listings. Therefore, if you want a chance of your business popping up in the top three listings in the top-rated search engine in the planet, it's imperative you get a Google My Business listing. That's one you definitely don't want to skip!
Consistency is Key
If you have a great company but potential customers or clients don't know who or where you are or how to reach you, it can be difficult to grow let alone stay in business. That's why your online visibility is so important.
Getting your business information listed in multiple authoritative sites and building positive reviews can go a long way to improving that visibility. The key is in keeping the information up to date and consistent across the board.
If your business moves to a new unit at the mall or your phone number changes, every site where you are listed needs to be updated. It's understandable that the demands on your time might make it difficult to follow through, but if you can't stay on top of it, you should make sure you have someone that can. It's all about consistency.
We hope this explanation about local citations was helpful, but if you have more questions, feel free to contact us on the form below. It's our job to help you get noticed!