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How To Use Citations For A Local SEO Advantage

You may have already heard of the importance of local citations when it comes to SEO for the city or area where your business is based. In this article we’ll explain what they are, why they are such an important factor in local search, and how and where you can build them.

So without further ado:

What Exactly is a Local Citation?

The best way to think of a local citation is as a mention on another website of your company’s name and contact details. That can be either a full citation, which would include your company’s name, physical address and phone number (commonly termed NAP), or a partial citation, such as your company’s name and website, or even just your company’s phone number.

One point about citations is that they still have SEO value even if there is no link to your website. A citation with a link is better than one without, sure, but search engines give an online business credit for the number of citations it receives from different sources online. A plain text citation will still be scanned and counted for that site’s authority.

use citations for local seo
Local businesses need online mentions to gain search visibility.

Why is a Local Citation Important for SEO, Especially Local Search?

To put it simply, citations are critical because search engine algorithms use them as a ranking metric for local search queries. So a business with numerous citations from relevant websites is likely to outrank one with few citations, assuming other factors are roughly equal.

Citations also act as evidence to search engines that a business is credible and real. A listing in a trade or city directory, or a mention in an online news hub, can’t easily be faked, and so the more such mentions a business receives, the more a search engine considers it legitimate (and thus may rank it higher).

Having lots of citations also suggests that your business is prominent, active and popular. Plus a high volume of citations means you’re more likely to get seen and thus more likely to be contacted by potential customers.

The Importance of NAP Consistency

To ensure that citations give your business a boost in local search, you need to check that the NAP in your citations exactly matches the details used on your website and your Google My Business listing. The precise format for the address and phone number doesn’t matter; what does is that they are used consistently.

Why? Because this makes it easier for Google to connect these citations as belonging to your business and no-one else’s. As a first priority, check your NAP on your business’s social media pages, and its listings in the more prominent directory sites.

It’s not really necessary to spend time discovering and checking every last citation of your business online. Check the key ones (Google My Business, social media pages, Yell.com, Foursquare, Yelp, Tripadvisor, etc) and you should be in a good position.

How to Find Directories and Build Citations

The first thing to do, before you research where to claim a listing, is to get your information ready. Create a spreadsheet with your exact company name, physical address, phone number, email address (ideally one that uses your business domain), ideal category, opening hours, social media handles, company logo, photos of the business, etc. This will make for a handy reference as you complete your listing details on numerous sites.

Next, do an online search to find lists of the best citation resources. Start from the top of each, and work your way down. Most of the companies on these lists will email you to verify you are who you say are; a few will also call you on the phone number you listed.

After that, you’ll want to look for additional directories in both your niche (say photography or plumbing) and your locality (say Hampshire). A series of online searches should throw up numerous directories, portals or trade sites that would make for a useful citation. Use search terms such as:

{location} business listings

{niche} directory

{location} {niche} listings

As you find sites that look useful, add them to your spreadsheet to contact later.

Finally, don’t forget local blogs, as well as industry-focused blogs. Here you could try search terms such as:

{location} blog

{location} {niche} blog

What are the Directories you Should Prioritise Being Listed on?

Not all citations are equal, and some directories carry greater weight than others – often because they have been around for a long time, have high volumes of web traffic, and are very strong domains.

Excluding Google My Business and Facebook as a little too obvious to be useful for inclusion here, we would recommend that you ensure you are listed on major sites including 118 Information, Apple Maps, Bing Places, Foursquare, Free Index, Hot Frog, Scoot, Thomson Local, Yelp, and of course Yell.com!

It’s also well worth checking out this handy checklist for local SEO best practice.

Were these tips useful? What has been your experience as a business owner trying to get citations and improve your visibility for local search? Please share your thoughts or leave questions in the comments below.

If you don’t have time to do this kind of work yourself, our Yell Connect service takes the stress out of it for you.

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