Local citations are indicators of reliability and trust that play a crucial role in your local SEO and visibility. However, if mismanaged, they can become a burden.
In this article, we will decrypt together what a local citation is and how to use it to improve your rankings on search results, including Google’s local pack.
What is a local citation in SEO?
In Local SEO, a citation refers to the mention of a local establishment in an online directory. It appears as a profile containing key information about a business, such as its name, address, and phone number.
You have probably seen hundreds of them on the internet while searching for information or reviews about an establishment.
How local citations work
NAP: The basis of a local citation
A local citation always contains three key pieces of information: the Name, Address, and Phone number. In local SEO jargon, this is referred to as NAP (Name, Address, Phone).
It can also contain the elements like geographic coordinates, reviews, business hours, business descriptions, images, videos, and links to social media or other business-related media.
Whether on your website or in online directories, Google carefully considers these local data to display your business in localized search results.
The importance of accurate information
A local citation is perceived by Google as “proof” that a local establishment exists. The more local citations contain the same information, the more the “proof” is confirmed. This sends positive signals to Google to present your establishment in search results. That’s why it’s essential to ensure that your local citations do not contain errors. Otherwise, the opposite effect could occur.
The majority of local citations are automatically generated. Therefore, they are likely to contain errors, especially in the business’s name or phone number. Errors may also occur later when a business has moved, etc.
Google regularly checks the consistency of your information. Thus, the data communicated on your website and all of your local citations on the web are scrutinized by Google. If they contain errors (e.g., a Google My Business listing and a Yelp listing with different phone numbers), you run the risk of losing positions in local search results.
In summary, to make your citations help improve your local visibility, be sure to carefully ensure that each profile contains the same information, especially the business’s name, phone number, and address.
The best practices for building your local citations correctly
- When creating a local citation, use only your business name. It’s unnecessary to add keywords related to your industry or geographic location, such as “Business Name + Web development + Toronto”. This practice, known as “Keyword Stuffing”, violates Google’s guidelines and can result in your Google My Business listing being suspended.
- As mentioned earlier in the article, ensure that the same phone number, name, and address are identical in each citation.
- Be sure to add as many relevant categories as possible in various directories. The categories should be related to your business domain, and the most relevant one should be listed first.
Cleaning up citations can be a time-consuming and challenging task, requiring manual access to several websites to edit inaccurate information, as well as track changes. In some cases, you may need to follow up with webmasters several times to ensure that corrections are made.
What are the types of citations?
There are two types of local citations: structured and unstructured.
This is the most common form of citation, which presents all of an establishment’s key information on a dedicated page, such as its name, address, phone number, and website. You can create or claim it by filling out a form like this one.
Unlike structured citations, unstructured citations do not appear on directories but on blog posts, press releases, or forums.
Their appearance is quite diverse. For example, an unstructured citation in an article may look like this: “SEOTwix is an SEO company based in Toronto since 2022.”
Then, later in the article: “Are you looking for an SEO expert in Toronto? Request a quote from SEOTwix (+ 1 877 849 8777).”
Here, all of an establishment’s key information will be present on the same page but not necessarily grouped into the same paragraph.
How can local SEO citations help your business?
Ranked 5th among Google’s Local Pack ranking factors and localized search results, citations not only help improve your search rankings but also convert new prospects into customers.
Being present in directories frequented by prospects who are searching for your products or services.
1. Ensure visibility to potential customers.
Being present in directories frequented by prospects who are looking for your products or services.
Prospective customers who are interested in your products and services may not necessarily be on Google. They may be active in directories.
General directories for creating local citations
These are the most popular types of directories for creating local citations. All local businesses from various industries are listed in them.
For example, Yellow Pages, Google My Business, Yelp, and Cylex are general directories.
Specialized directories for creating local citations
Specialized directories are websites that list professionals practicing in the same field (For example directory for health professionals).
Note that focusing on a single specialized directory is not enough to get the most out of local citations. You must list yourself in as many directories as possible so that they can help you rise to the top of localized search results. A thorough research effort will then be necessary to find local citation opportunities.
2. Get more reviews to improve your positions in local search results.
Very often, these online directories allow their users to leave reviews. Knowing that reviews are considered the 3rd ranking signal in Google’s Local Pack, they are not negligible for improving your visibility!
Beyond improving your positions, they will also have a strong impact on the decision of internet users to visit your establishment rather than another.
Indeed, internet users almost systematically read the reviews left by visitors on the food of a restaurant, the comfort of a hotel, or the quality of service before moving. In addition to being interesting for visitors, reviews are also important for your local referencing.
Thus, your customers can participate in improving your position in local search results by leaving reviews on your profile on Yelp, Google My Business, etc.
The different methods for creating local citations for your business?
Local citations can also be set up automatically. Unlike manual citation, its advantage is its time-saving.
However, it should be noted that these tools will take control of your listings during the contract period. This means that you will not own them, but the provider you have chosen will. If you decide not to renew, you will have to manually claim all your listings to regain control.
On the other hand, when using automated submission tools, you will be limited in the functionality of certain citations. For example, with Google My Business (often a partner of these automated submission tools), you will not be able to use Google Posts or add photos. When we know that Google My Business plays a key role in local pack SEO on Google, you need to be sure that you can access this tool at any time.
The last drawback is the very limited number of partner sites. In my opinion, it is not very interesting to use a tool to manage only 25 citations! Unless you manage many stores.
Submission by data aggregator
This type of submission allows you to communicate your business information to what is called a data aggregator. It will then automatically transmit them to its many partners. One of the strengths of this type of submission is that it can submit your establishment to sites that do not accept manual submissions. This is the case, for example, with certain GPS services and mobile applications. In these cases, local data aggregators are the only option.
The only drawback is the slowness of the procedure. It can take between 1 and 6 months for your data to be communicated to the data aggregator network.
Unlike other tools that allow you to create citations on a limited number of websites, the manual submission will allow you to list yourself on many more directories. You will also have absolute control over each of the listings presenting your establishment (modification, the addition of information, etc.).
As you have understood, the strength of manual submission lies in its ability to list your establishment in directories that automated submission tools do not have access to.
This manual practice requires time, but it is the one that brings the most results.
Local citations are an important strategic element in a local SEO campaign. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the information published about your business is correct.
Although they can have a strong impact on both traffic and conversions, citations are just one piece of the puzzle to building a powerful online presence. Therefore, it should be noted that focusing solely on citations does not guarantee the top position in local search results.
A successful local SEO also depends on other equally important factors such as optimizing your website, the speed of your site, optimizing your Google My Business listing, etc.