- Posted by Chris Lively
- On April 21, 2021
Citations & Directories? What are these, how do you acquire them, and what is their value?
You already know that local SEO is a central factor in the success of your digital marketing strategy and that when you’re learning how to improve local search rankings, there are a few different things you can try. One of these tactics is establishing and properly managing citations, a task that beginner SEO strategists and business owners alike should master.
We’re going to take a closer look at how to set up citations and why they matter so much to your SEO goals.
What is a Citation?
A citation or directory is a link or URL that contains information about a business or organization. For local citations, the goal is to list your business’s rich NAP information (name, address, & phone number) along with your contact information (phone number, contact email, and website URL) on directories that users use, like Google My Business, Facebook, and Bing.
Why are Citations Important?
When it comes to local SEO, citations can be one of the best ways to improve your local search rankings. And because they’re relatively easy to set up and manage, your investment of time and energy (and expense) is generally pretty low – but the payoff is significant.
Citations are a multi-purpose method that can drive measurable results across the board, including:
- Improving your local rankings, especially when you choose your citations carefully and aim for a balance of quantity, quality, and accuracy
- Offering the opportunity to claim a critical spot on page-one search results, which are often dominated by online business directories
- Earning referral traffic, especially from potential customers who are loyal to certain directories for specific uses
One of the most important things to understand about citations is that your set-up process is key. Unless you take a smart, systematic approach, dealing with citations can end up being a time-consuming mess.
Types of Business Citations
Ask a few SEO strategists their opinions on the best citation websites, and you’re likely to get a variety of answers. The fact is that there are several different options for citation websites, and there’s also some debate about which ones are the most valuable. But one thing that the SEO community does agree on is that there are a few citation sites you can’t afford to skip:
- Google My Business
- Bing Maps
Let’s break down the different types of business citations so that you can learn a little bit about each one in more detail:
Map & Navigation Citations
Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, and Where To? are just a few of these navigation citations. These platforms are used daily for directions.
Social Networking Citations
Yelp, Instagram, Facebook, and Tripadvisor are all great engagement platforms for businesses. These platforms also contain reviews which are a large ranking factor in the local space.
Opendi, Cylex, Hotfrog, and hundreds more! These general citations may not have the engagement or review options but are extremely valuable in keeping location information consistent across the web.
Niche or Geo Citations
These are industry or geo-location-specific.
Building Your Citation Library
So how do you go about building a library of citations? There are a few different approaches; you can manually create logins for each directory and update each. This sounds like a solid plan until you have tons of logins and platforms to update if you need to change your information.
A more systematic approach that agencies use is some form of listing syndication. A syndication platform allows you to make updates to multiple directories within one dashboard. These platforms are normally contracted to each citation with an API that allows you to push data to multiple citations.
I’ve taken both of the above approaches over the years, and I honestly believe that a mixture of both is the key to local ranking and customer engagement.
Here’s a short and sweet, step-by-step guide that will help you learn how to get citations for your business:
1. First, check for local citations that already exist.
Before you jump right into building new citations, you’ll want to see which ones already exist for your business – and whether or not they’re accurate. Once you have a collection of citations, carefully evaluate them to correct any missing or inaccurate information.
2. Start with Google.
There are some SEO experts that consider Google to be such a fundamental asset, and they wouldn’t even call it a “citation.” Whether you would personally label Google as a citation or not doesn’t matter; what does matter is that you have a complete and correct Google My Business listing. Google is the king of local search, making it the best place to start your local SEO efforts.
3. Work on creating core structured citations.
There are a handful of high-quality platforms that are open to virtually any type of local business, including Facebook, Bing, Foursquare, and Yelp. Some are free, while others require paid listings. Aim for accurate listings on the core platforms, and eliminate any duplicates.
4. Move on to geo- and industry-specific platforms.
Depending on your industry and location, there will be specialized platforms specifically suited to you. For example, a hotel might create citations on their local chamber of commerce website, community hubs, and travel review websites.
Tip: Not all directories or citations are equal
Larger players in the game like Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp have a ton of added value and are worth the additional management effort they require. In a perfect world with a mixture of individually managed citations with a library of citations just focused on the location data of a business would be ideal. This allows an individual to keep their business data accurate and consistent while also working within the platforms with more user engagement.
To mention Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp again, these platforms have far more engagement options than lesser-known directories like Tupalo, Cylex, or eLocal. These lesser-known directories hold value because they can be used to keep location data consistent. Why is that important? Google will crawl the web and index information about any business. The more a business populates, the higher the ranking value Google gives the business.
So now we’re using the citations and the data within them to our advantage – we have a library of data-driven citations and are also using platforms that users use on a daily to engage with customers. At this point, we have the support of Google with our citation consistency and engagement with local customers. This is a win-win in the citation building game.
Managing Your Citations
Once you’ve created a few new citations for your business, the work isn’t done – actively managing your citations is essential to your search rankings, revenue, and online reputation. Like many aspects of SEO, it’s an ongoing project that you should consider long-term maintenance.
Neglecting to manage your citations properly can turn them from a benefit to a risk to your SEO and online presence. From competitor edits to local listings to inaccurate information, there are several issues that can crop up.
Partner With VDigital Services for Your Local SEO Search Needs
Learn more about how a professional agency partner can keep your Local SEO citation and directory needs up to date by contacting V Digital Services today.