What are Citations, and How Do You Use Them in Your Local SEO

In Business Strategy, Digital Marketing, Marketing Strategy by Robb FahrionLeave a Comment

Reading Time: 9 minutes

You may have heard that citations are a crucial element of local SEO strategy. Many SEO professionals begin their careers by managing citations for clients and stakeholders. The primary reason is that citations are relatively easy to manage, and they can contribute a lot to local SEO strategy.

However, citations can also go horribly wrong if they are done incorrectly and can be tricky to clean up. That is why it is necessary to understand every facet of citations before using them to optimize the local SEO strategy.

What Are Citations?

Essentially, citations are online references that point to a particular business by featuring its name, address, and phone number (NAP). However, when SEO professionals talk about citations, they usually mean the groups of business listings that appear on several websites.

Even though most online citations exist on the Internet in the form of a business directory, there are certainly other types of citations as well. Most citation sources require the name, address, and phone number of the company.

But many websites also offer the opportunity to advertise additional information as well. SEO experts will always advise you to look for a trustworthy business directory before publishing your company’s citation. 

Types of Citations

There are usually two kinds of business citations:

Structured

You have already come across more structured citations than you think. You must have searched for restaurants serving your favorite cuisine in the city or looked for a hotel at a vacation destination.

You would have found the results as business listings on different directory sites like Yelp for restaurants or TripAdvisor for hotels. These types of business listings are known as structured citations.

They usually contain detailed information about the business that plays a vital role in helping the company achieve more exposure on the Internet. Consumers looking for products or services online would come across these listings and eventually choose one of those businesses. 

Companies that provide the details to business directories to get listed need to ensure that the information they provide is consistent among all of these sources. The consistency of information will allow search engines to recognize these business listings on multiple sites, which will improve the company’s ranking on search engine results pages.

Unstructured

Contrary to what most people believe, unstructured citations can also contribute towards local SEO and improve visibility for your business on search results. 

Unstructured citations are references or mentions of your company’s name on various websites and blog posts other than business directory listings. The benefits of unstructured citations depend on the domain authority and other quality factors of the source.

Benefits of Citations

These are some of the benefits your business can enjoy through local citations.

Improve Local Search Ranks

As we mentioned before, citations can contribute to improving search engine ranking for local SEO. When your business is listed on online directories with high domain ratings, it sends signals to search engine crawlers to improve trust factors for your company.

However, certain other factors can affect Google’s perception of your business, such as business listing quality, detailed accuracy, and domain authority of the online directory. That is why you should always look for structured citations and trustworthy sources.

Get Bumped to the First Result Page

You should know that most online business directories are featured on the first result page of every search engine. You might have noticed that business directories like Yelp or TripAdvisor always appear on the top-most search results. Getting your business listed in these directories will help you to feature your company’s name on the first search engine results page within these directories.

Get Referral Traffic

Many people are loyal to various business directories. For example, most food lovers would always look for restaurants on Yelp, while travelers prefer checking TripAdvisor for hotels at their preferred destination. Getting your business listed in such directories will allow you to get referral traffic from these sources, which could prove valuable for your business.

Sources of Citations

Now that you have understood the importance of citations and how they can affect your business visibility, let’s see how you can get these references. Before you start building local citations, it is prudent to find the ones already owned by your business and check for their accuracy.

There are several free tools available that you can use to check the vital citations along with the data aggregators for your company’s details listed on the Internet. But if you want fresh citations for your new business, you can start with these:

Google My Business

Most SEO experts think of Google as a fundamental asset for any business, so they usually do not term it a citation. But you must know that your Google My Business listing is extremely crucial for local SEO and ranking. Therefore, you should definitely create your Google My Business listing with accurate details and manage it as and when required. It will enable your company to rise higher in local searches.

Popular Structured Citation Platforms

Several business directories and smartphone applications offer specific structures to build citations. You will find that there is a set of premium quality platforms that offer listings preferred by almost every type of local business. Some of the most popular platforms in the United States are:

  • Acxiom
  • Apple maps
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Yahoo!
  • Yellow Pages

Other than these obvious names, there are several other business listing platforms used by owners. You can list your business details for free on most of these sites, but some other platforms may offer both free and paid listings.

You should make sure that you create and manage an accurate listing for your business on all of these platforms to maximize your local SEO. But also ensure that you do not post a duplicate listing for your company on any of these platforms. 

There are several ways to achieve your core citation goals. You can create a spreadsheet to keep track of building and managing your citation on each website manually. But if you feel that the job is too tedious, you can hire an SEO expert agency to take care of it.

Alternatively, you can also try some automatic citation management tools and services offered by several companies. These tools and services are useful to build citations and receive alerts if they get altered in some way so that you can rectify them. It allows you to track your citation progress over time so you can maximize your benefits from them. 

Geolocation and Industry-Specific Platforms

You may find that some platforms host business listings specific to a particular location or industry. These geolocation and industry-specific platforms offer structured citations that may have more value for your organization.

As we mentioned before, hotels and other tourism-related businesses will get their companies listed on TripAdvisor to maximize their visibility for potential customers. Similarly, doctors and medical experts can add their business details to the lists posted on a website like HealthGrades.com.

Attorneys and legal advisors would prefer to join the business listings found on FindLaw.com to maximize referral results to their business pages. You will also find that you can get your business details listed on the local Chamber Of Commerce website, local commercial associations, and business communities if they serve your purpose.

Just like the other popular sources of structured citations, some of these listings will be free, while you may have to pay for the others. If you are looking for paid sources of business citations, make sure that you check the ROI aspect before investing in it.

Unstructured Citations

As we mentioned before, unstructured citations can be from any source that does not publicize business listings specifically. For example, you can get your business details mentioned in a local news article, a local blog, or a social media post. There are several ways to get unstructured citations.

You can contact the local newspapers and see if they would be interested in publishing your business details in one of their stories or articles. You can also connect with the local influencers and ask them to feature the name or other information about your brand on one of their social media posts.

Similarly, you can connect with local bloggers or sponsor local events to get citations for your business. Focusing on the quality of your products or services can also get you organic citations in various local sources.

Most businesses tend to focus on unstructured citations once they have finished building Google My Business listing, some popular core citations, and location/industry-specific sources. Unstructured citations are not only useful to rank your business higher on local searches, but they can also get you a lot of referral traffic.

Your Business Website

Your business website can have the highest authority to represent your company on the Internet. That is because search engines like Google will always crosscheck your business details from your website. A business website also presents multiple opportunities to mention your company’s name, address, and phone number.

You can mention them on the contact page as well as the headers and footers on other pages, depending on your website design. Once again, make sure that these details are consistent on all the pages on your site.

Business citations can contribute a great deal to your company’s local search engine ranking. They also have several other benefits that we discussed in this article.

You should remember that building and managing citations for your business is an investment, and you should measure their values to ensure that you are getting the maximum return. We hope that this article proves useful while you are trying to build citations for local business SEO.


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Robb Fahrion
Robb Fahrion, Partner
Flying V Group