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How to Build Citations and Grow Your Local SEO Rankings
Citations, in the context of local SEO, are like the breadcrumbs that help search engines, especially Google, authenticate and validate the presence of a business in a particular location. Think of citations as the local SEO equivalent of backlinks in traditional SEO. While a backlink is a vote of confidence to a website, a citation is a nod towards the legitimacy and prominence of a business in a locality.

What Exactly is a Citation?

A citation is a mention of your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) on other webpages, even if there is no link to your website. An example of a citation could be a local directory like YellowPages where your business is listed but not necessarily linked back to your website.

Example of a Citation:

Business Name: Downtown Deli.
Address: 123 Foodie Lane, Tastytown, TX 54321.
Phone: (123) 456-7890.

Here’s another example, this time in the context of an attorney:
Business Name: Jane Doe Law Firm.
Address: 456 Justice Blvd, Legaltown, NY 12345.
Phone: (987) 654-3210.

Citations can be found in various places like business directories, local newspaper websites, chamber of commerce pages, and local business associations, to name a few.

Why are Citations Important for Local SEO and Google Maps Rankings?

Understanding the importance of citations requires a deeper look into Google’s local ranking algorithm and how it’s distinct from its website ranking algorithm for general search results.

Google’s Local Ranking Algorithm

Google’s local ranking algorithm determines how businesses are ranked in local search results, such as the Local Pack (the box of local business listings that appear at the top of Google’s SERPs) and Google Maps. While Google doesn’t disclose the entirety of its algorithm, it’s generally understood that local rankings are influenced by:

  • Relevance: How well a local listing matches what someone is searching for.
  • Distance: How far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search.
  • Prominence: How well-known a business is, based on information Google has about a business from across the web, including links, articles, and directories.

Citations play an integral role in “prominence.” When your business’s NAP details are consistently cited across a variety of reputable directories, websites, and platforms, Google considers your business as more prominent and potentially more trustworthy.

Google’s Website Ranking Algorithm

On the other hand, Google’s website or “blue link” ranking algorithm determines the order in which websites appear in the general organic search results. This algorithm considers:

  • Relevance: How closely the content on a webpage matches the searcher’s query.
  • Authority: How trustworthy and authoritative a website is, usually determined by the number and quality of backlinks.
  • User Experience: Factors like mobile-friendliness, site speed, user engagement, and the structure of the content.

While there is an overlap (e.g., relevance and authority are vital in both), the website algorithm emphasizes factors like backlink profile and on-page SEO elements more heavily. Citations don’t play a direct role in this algorithm, but backlinks (which are sometimes a part of citations) can influence a site’s authority.

Key Differences Between the Two Algorithms:

  • Geographical Proximity: The local algorithm puts a heavy emphasis on the geographical proximity of a business to the searcher’s location or the location specified in the search query.
  • Citations vs. Backlinks: Citations are crucial for local SEO because they help confirm and validate the existence, relevance, and prominence of a business in a particular locale. In contrast, for website rankings, the quantity and quality of backlinks a site has are more essential.
  • Business Reviews and Ratings: For local rankings, customer reviews and ratings on Google and other platforms like Yelp play a role in determining the reputation and trustworthiness of a business. For general website rankings, user reviews are not a direct ranking factor.
  • Behavioral Signals: For local SEO, behavioral signals like click-through rate from the search results, check-ins, or even the frequency and duration of Google Maps directions can potentially influence rankings.

Why Citations Matter Even More Than You Think

Apart from directly influencing local search rankings, citations also play a role in customer discovery and trust. When potential customers see a business listed consistently across various trusted platforms, it enhances the business’s credibility.

Furthermore, even if these directories or platforms don’t provide a direct link to your business, the mere presence in various locales boosts brand visibility. This could mean a potential customer spotting your business on a local blog’s recommendation list or an event’s sponsorship page.

Tools and Services for Citation Building and Competitive Research

Building and maintaining citations can be a labor-intensive task, especially for businesses with multiple locations. Thankfully, several tools and services can simplify this process:

  • Moz Local: This tool allows businesses to create and maintain business listings on the sites, apps, and directories that factor most into local search engine results.
  • BrightLocal: Apart from helping with citation building and cleaning, BrightLocal provides audit services to check the accuracy of your citations.
  • Whitespark: They offer a local citation finder tool which helps businesses find citation opportunities based on keywords and competitors.
  • Yext: This is a comprehensive tool that manages your business’s online presence, including the creation and management of citations.
  • SEMrush: While primarily known as an SEO tool, SEMrush also provides features that can help businesses identify citation opportunities and track local rankings.

For competitive research, knowing where your competitors are cited can offer insights into potential citation opportunities for your business.

  • Ahrefs: This tool, while predominantly for backlink analysis, can be leveraged to see where your competitors are getting citations from.
  • SEMrush’s Listing Management Tool: It helps in tracking your local search performance and compares it with competitors.

Finding New Citation Opportunities

  • Google Alerts: Set up alerts for your competitors to see where they’re being mentioned online.
  • Search operators: Use Google search operators. For instance, if you’re a baker in Boston, searching for “Boston bakeries” or “Bakeries in Boston” will often pull up directories or lists—these are potential citation opportunities.
  • Check Competitors’ Citations: Tools like Whitespark can show where competitors are listed. Often, you can get your business listed in the same directories or platforms.

25 Powerful Citations to Boost Your Local SEO Rankings

  • Google My Business: An essential platform that directly affects how you appear on Google Maps and local search results.
  • Bing Places: Microsoft’s counterpart to Google My Business.
  • Yelp: One of the most popular review sites, used by many consumers to discover local businesses.
  • YellowPages: An old but still very relevant directory for businesses.
  • Facebook: Business pages on Facebook serve as a form of citation.
  • Foursquare: Especially important for businesses that receive foot traffic.
  • LinkedIn: Business pages or personal profiles mentioning a business can serve as citations.
  • Angie’s List: A must for local service providers, from plumbers to therapists.
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB): A trustworthy source for consumers, being listed here can add to your business’s credibility.
  • Manta: A directory aimed at helping small businesses get discovered.
  • Hotfrog: A business listing site that’s been around for a while and holds credibility.
  • Citysearch: Geared towards city-specific businesses, often used for restaurants and entertainment venues.
  • MerchantCircle: Designed to help local businesses connect with local customers.
  • TripAdvisor: Imperative for businesses in the travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors.
  • Zomato: Essential for restaurants and eateries.
  • Thumbtack: A platform that connects professionals with customers.
  • ChamberOfCommerce.com: A directory that lists businesses associated with local chambers of commerce.
  • Local.com: Offers listings of local businesses and events within a city.
  • SuperPages: An online directory with features like business reviews, ratings, and more.
  • MapQuest: Being listed here ensures that people can easily find directions to your business.
  • BizJournals: Business news site with local directories in various cities.
  • Zillow: A must for real estate professionals, from agents to property managers.
  • Houzz: Essential for professionals in the home improvement sector, from architects to interior designers.
  • Kudzu: Useful for various businesses, especially those in the home services niche.
  • Spoke: A community for finding and researching business people and companies.

Start Building Citations and Grow Your SEO!

Think of citations as a shoutout. Google sees websites mentioning your business name, address, and phone number and thinks, “This business must be important!”

So, the more shoutouts (citations) you have, and the more trustworthy those websites are, the better chance you have of ranking higher on Google Maps.

In simple terms: To be seen on local Google searches and Maps, get your business details mentioned on many good websites. The more, the better!