You might be asking, “What is a citation and what does it have to do with my business?”
Well, a “citation” is any reference to your business located on an external 3rd party website.
Examples of citations are:
- Online review sites
- Social media sites
- Industry-specific directories
- Local directories
- Local chambers of commerce
Some examples are Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Google+, and Superpages.com.
Any site that references your business information could be considered a citation, as long as it includes your NAP (business Name, Address, and Phone Number). Make sure to find local online directories in the area your business is located and operates in.
The best part is that the site doesn’t even need to link to your business website for Google to view it as a valid citation of your business.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 200 citation sources (e.g. Yelp) to get you started. All you have to do is enter your name and email address and we’ll send it to you right away:
— Chase Buckner, CustomerBloom
Once you have the list, submit an entry to each citation source one by one as you go down the list. Then watch as your Google ranking rises.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Look at the 3 businesses who are ranking on the first page of the Google “Local Stack” results for the keywords you want to rank for. Don’t focus on big corporate companies in those results. Focus on other small local businesses in the top 3 and see what citations they have. Then, go and get the same citations by submitting your business information to those same websites.
How Google Uses Citations to Rank Your Business
Google uses these citations to validate that your business is a legitimate business. That’s why it’s extremely important that the information is up-to-date on EVERY page. Your Google ranking could be hurt if even one citation is out-of-date, inaccurate, or doesn’t match the others.
The team over at Moz adds that, “Citations also validate that a business is part of a community. It’s hard for someone to fake membership in a chamber of commerce or a city or county business index, or being written about in a local online newspaper or popular blog. Citations and links from these kinds of websites can dramatically improve your local search engine rankings.”
It’s also harder to get accepted into these kind of sites. So make sure you take the time to go through their specific application processes and attend any meetings you need to. It could literally change your business.
How Citations Will Set You Above Your Competitors
In 2013, ConstantContact released the results of a survey that showed that 50% of small businesses know they have inaccurate business information on 3rd party sites. It also showed that 70% said they just don’t have the time to fix the information.
That can only be because they don’t understand how important it is. And now you do know how important it is. So don’t be one of the 70%. Make sure to search out ALL of your citations and ensure they’re up-to-date and accurate.
This is extremely important especially if you undergo changes in your business NAP, e.g. if you change locations or sign on for a 1-800 number. Make sure you go back to each and every citation and make the update. This is where many businesses go wrong. They forget to update one or two listing sites and then their business information is no longer consistent across all their citations.
Google punishes them for this. So make sure you keep track of all your citations so you don’t miss any. Use Excel or a similar application to keep track so, if down the line, your business information does change, you’ll know everywhere you need to change it. Also, be wary of outsourcing this task. If even one letter is off in one citation, it could hurt your Google ranking. So, while this may be considered “busy work,” it’s extremely important busy work.
Go Beyond NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number)
When submitting an entry for your business to one of these sites, make sure to fill out as much information as possible. While Google won’t use it for your ranking, your potential customers will want to know as much as they can about your business. They’ll want to see your hours, website information, and anything else you can provide. The more the better.
The hard truth is that, to have a successful local SEO campaign, you need consistent, accurate citations and lots of them. But it’s not all you need. These citations work with the other pieces of your SEO campaign. So make sure to check out last week’s blog post to see how these citations fit into a bigger local SEO strategy (and specifically how you can reference these citations using something called the sameAs property to make it even easier for Google to find the citations.)
Make a commitment to create one more citation every day. That way, it won’t become an overwhelming task for you. And, who knows, after you’ve created the first one, you might find you have a minute for a second one. And before you know it, you’ll see your Google ranking climb higher and higher.
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