Acquiring local citations should be a cornerstone of any company’s search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. If you want to bolster your ranking in local search results (and, honestly, who doesn’t?) then you need to start taking your citations seriously.
A citation is any reference to your company on the web—these include your business name, physical address, zip code, URL, or phone number. The more your company or its information is name-dropped on the web, the more likely search engines will recognize your website as an authority and rank it favorably on search result pages.
In this guide, we’re going to dive into the details regarding local citations, how you can get them, and how you can squeeze the most value out of each.
Types of Local Citations
Not all citations are created equally. Sometimes you will hear someone discuss how difficult it is to accumulate local citations for their business when, in reality, they’re a bit misguided as to what constitutes a citation in the first place.
In the traditional sense of the term, citations refer to your “NAP.” That is, to your business’s Name, Address, and Phone Number whenever it’s mentioned online. Citations that do not include all three of these criteria will sometimes be referred to as “partial citations” by certain more traditional SEO purists.
However, it’s not 2009 anymore and, as such, the terminology has shifted slightly over the past decade. Today, you will hear about all sorts of local citation types such as NAPW, UNAP, and various other combinations that include your Website name and URL.
Generally, a local citation constitutes any combination of the following pieces of information:
- Business name
- Business name and website
- Business name, website, and phone number
- Business name, phone number, and address
- Business phone number
- Business address
- The list goes on…
The Bottom Line
Don’t get caught up in the nitty-gritty details. Despite what you may hear, you don’t need a link to your URL for your citation to have value. Instead, all you need is for your company to be named—that’s it!
Search engines like Google and Bing recognize that your company was mentioned via the NAP (or “partial NAP”) and accredits it for the reference. Consequently, search engines will then regard your business in higher esteem and accord it a more favorable ranking on local search results.
The takeaway here is to not sweat the small stuff. As long as your business is mentioned by name, your local rankings will be positively affected. However, citations that include links are even more valuable than regular NAP or partial citations.
Building a Plan to Acquire Local Citations
To this point, we’ve covered how local citations are web-based references of your company’s information, including its name, address, or phone number. When referenced on the web, local citations increase your search engine visibility.
Therefore, you’re going to want to do whatever you can to maximize the number of local citations your business receives by following the steps below.
Step 1: Yes, Google Counts
Most business owners simply assume that a company’s Google My Business listing doesn’t count toward their PageRank score. However, the truth is that all Google-driven references to your company are extremely valuable assets that help drive traffic to your website, and each of them should be counted as a citation.
Knowing this, we suggest completing your Google My Business profile to help give your company a bump in visibility right off the bat.
Step 2: Build Your Core Platforms
The next step is to start building out your main structured citations. These are social media channels and other directories where you can post your business information at little or no cost, with each of them counting as a structured citation.
To get started, we suggest focusing on the following fundamental platforms:
- Apple Maps
Now, when it comes to managing your structured citations you can choose to either manually fill and track each of them, or hire an automated third-party service to handle all the legwork. It may be the case, though, that small-scale organizations are better served by simply taking care of these initial citations on their own.
Step 3: Get Industry-Specific
The third step is to narrow down your citations to your location and industry. If you operate a legal clinic, then register your company with your local bar association’s business directory or other directories such as FindLaw. There are other industry-specific registries for doctors, contractors, fitness trainers, and many more.
It’s also a good idea to register with your local chamber of commerce, business association, and other online business communities (even on social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Meetup) to get easy, free citations relevant to your industry or geographical location.
Step 4: The Finishing Touch
The last step is to put in the work to earn unstructured citations. These are the citations that do not come from local directories or private registers. Instead, unstructured local citations come from private reviews, newspaper articles, and other mentions of your business on blog posts and social media platforms.
If you have a knack for writing, try pitching a local media outlet with a story surrounding your business. Often, landing an article in a highly-viewed media outlet or blog can be the deciding factor in determining where you rank.
As Google’s algorithms evolve, it’s important that you stay informed as to what they look for in a citation. As it currently stands, you’re best served by seeking out local, industry-specific citations that are relevant to your city, province, or state. This way, search engines can verify that your business does indeed exist, is active, and is likely to be of interest to those around you.