Citations occur on websites, apps, local business directories, and social media platforms. Citations have a large impact on local search engine rankings. Citations help businesses get discovered locally on search engines such as Google.
What is a Local Citation?
A local citation is any mention of your business on the web; it is any combination of your company name, phone number, address, zip or postal code, and website address.
In 2008 the term “citation” was first coined by David Mihm in his pivotal post, Local vs Traditional SEO: Why Citation Is the New Link.
Citations in SEO are a key factor in improving your local search results
A local citation should include the company name, address, and phone number, which is referred to as your “NAP” (Name, Address, and Phone Number). It's a critical factor in local SEO and influences which companies Google and other search engines show for local intent searches. Local citations are the backbone of any good local SEO strategy, but what are local citations and how do they affect local search?
Types of Citations
There are two citation categories.
A structured citation is your business information (NAP) on a business listing directory. When you see lists of citation sites, these are business listing directories where you can submit your business and claim a citation.
Unstructured citations are blogs, magazine/newspaper sites, wikis, etc.
Why Citations are Important for Local Business Rankings.
Verification & Trust
Citations help search engines verify that your business exists. It signals to search engines that your business is legitimate. Listing your business on the prominent national and local sites helps your business create authority, establish trust, and will improve your business’ ability to rank in local search results.
Local search ranking factors
The more citations your business have online, the more prominent your business appears to Google. Many factors determine citation quality. Having a strong citation profile is one of the simplest ways you can optimize for local SEO. Local search citations are considered part of the foundational basics.
How can Local SEO Citations Help My Business Grow Online?
Professional SEO experts are familiar with the most important citation ranking factors. As far as possible, they also track changes to ranking factors. The algorithms of major search engines are updated as technologies evolve.
This demonstrates the importance of getting your local business citations into these popular and frequently-searched online directories. It can be tough for local businesses to get their websites into the ultra-competitive first page of organic search results and if your business is featured in one of these directories, you have a good chance of getting in front of potential customers searching for businesses like yours.
Professional SEO experts may invest hundreds of hours in ongoing SEO for a single website and it also takes time to plan and generate high-quality, properly optimized onsite content.
In local SEO, there are two types of local business citations
This is the most common way to see NAP presented on a page, with name, address, and phone number listed by each other, in a format consistent with the rest of the listings on the site. These come as a result of submitting business listings via specific fields, so it makes sense that they show up this way.
Far less common, but no less valuable, are citations in which the information is spread across a web page. This includes things like blog posts, forum threads, or press mentions.
There are three approaches to practicing local citations SEO, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Manual Citations Submissions
This is where someone enters data into the business listings site by hand. With this approach, you can reach some of the more niche directories, and also you have the added benefit of a human eye, leading to fewer submission errors. The downside is that if you aim to do this yourself, it could take you a long time.
Automated Citations Submissions
This approach uses a citation building system to automatically fill in submissions forms on citations sites. Unfortunately, unlike manual submissions, this often leads to errors, and automated systems also don’t have as wide a reach as you would if you built the citations manually.
Data Aggregator Submissions
This is a far more accurate way of automatically building citations across the most important business listings websites and online directories.
Why are Citations good for Local SEO?
One way in which even small, local businesses can fairly easily obtain exposure on Google is in “local” results, meaning those that appear for searches specific to particular locations. They also include results that are returned to you because Google recognizes your location.
Appearing in these results has long been important to businesses with physical locations. With spectacular growth in mobile usage in South Africa, this is now as essential for many businesses as the Yellow Page were before the Internet age. Getting it right can result in your business appearing in multiple locations on page one of Google, as well as Google maps and other places on the internet? Businesses with many branches can get the same results across all of their branches.
The technology behind local search algorithms is quite complicated and advancing rapidly, which also means constantly changing. The basic principles of what is likely to get you good exposure, however, is fairly constant. As in the real world, this largely revolves around building trust and authority. The methods are just slightly different online.