Ranking well in local search isn’t easy. There are hundreds of different factors that influence local search rankings, and getting a top position requires understanding and optimizing for all of them. While most digital marketers are aware of the basics of local SEO – like having claimed profiles and optimized landing page, often times the “off site” factors are less understood and poorly executed.
Just like “regular” SEO which requires a mix on on-page optimization (like keywords in title tags, headings, and body copy) and off-page optimization (like link building and social signals), local SEO requires well optimized profiles as well as solid external signals.
The most important of these external signals are citations. What are citations? A citation is basically a mention of the name, address, and phone of a business that Google can discover around the web.
For example – if your business is listed on YellowPages.com, and the local information on YP matches the info from your Google+ Local page and your landing page, Google can be more confident that your business actually does exist, and that your local info is accurate. The more citations Google can find, the more confidence Google will have in your business, and the higher you will rank.
How to Build Citations
The first and most direct way to build citations is to optimize your business profiles on the biggest local portals and directories. Many of these major sites will already have your location listed – even if you’ve never signed up – but you’ll have to ensure that your local data is accurate. And of course, if any of your locations are missing from these major portals, you’ll want to add it.
Some of the biggest and most important providers of citations include -
- Facebook Local
- Yahoo Local
Establishing your business on these major local directories, and ensuring that your local data is correct on all of them, is a great first step towards building citations.
Citation Building Tips
The first thing to consider is that when building citations, consistency is absolutely critical. Google is looking at citations to determine that your business information is correct – if you’re sending mixed signals, this can seriously impact your rankings.
Another issue to be aware of is the difference between “structured” and “unstructured” citations. A structured citation is one that appears directly in the context of a local listing – on a directory or local search engine. An unstructured citation can appear on a blog post, in a newspaper article, or really anywhere else that isn’t explicitly local. Having both of these citation types is ideal. (Although getting the main structured citations from the big directories should be top priority.)
There are other great ways to get citations aside from getting established on the major local destinations. Other options include
- Regional Directories. While a site like YellowPages.com is important nationally, major local city and state directories send great local signals to Google.
- Local Blogs and News Outlets. Building unstructured citations can be hard – you usually can’t just sign up for them. Reaching out to local blogs or newspapers for a mention of your business can be a great way to get started.
- Industry Directories. Major industries are likely to have plenty of highly relevant local directories where businesses can be listed. This type of citation can be very helpful in telling Google what your business actually does – not just where it’s located.