Did you know that, according to Review 42, between 70% to 80% of people will research a company on the Internet before visiting the company or buying a product or service from it? Despite this, only 17% of businesses invest in improving their SEO.
However, SEO, as well as local SEO, can make a huge difference to the success of your business.
If you’re thinking of improving your Google rankings, then you might be wondering:
“What are business citations, and how do they impact my SEO?”
“What is the importance of business citations?”
“How do I optimize my business citations for local SEO?”
When you don’t have the answers to these questions, it can be confusing to know how to get started with local citations for local SEO.
That’s why we’ve put together this article. In it, you’ll learn everything you need to about what local citation is and how you can use it to get more customers. Finally, your business can grow even more quickly. Read on to learn more.
What Is a Local Citation?
A local citation, also known as a business citation, is the presence of your business on the Internet in a specific form. This form is related to your business’s address, so it’s any combination of your web address, zip code, address, number, or company name.
Some examples of what a business or local citations can be are:
- Your business name and phone number
- Your business name
- Your business name, address, and phone number
- Your business name, website, address, and phone number
- Your business name and website
- Your business phone number
There are two different types of local citations. The first is a complete local citation, which can also be called your “NAP.” This includes your business name, phone number, and address. Other citations that don’t include all of these are sometimes called partial citations.
Other terms that appear are the UNAP and NAPW citations. “U” stands for URL and “W” stands for your website. So, these types of local citations include what’s in the NAP as well as the website.
Categories of Business Citations
There are two different categories of business citations. The first is the structured citation. Wit this category of citation, your NAP business information exists in a business listing directory. Examples of business listing directories include:
If you’ve ever looked up a business on Yelp, for example, you’ve seen a structured citation. It appears just below the map picture, and it includes the business’s address, phone number, and, sometimes, the website.
The other category of business citation is the unstructured citation. When this appears online, it’s usually the same content as above, so it’s either your business’s NAP, UNAP, or NAPW. However, there is a difference.
When it comes to unstructured citations, they don’t appear on business listening directories. Instead, they appear elsewhere online.
Common places where this occurs are wikis, magazine sites, newspaper sites, and blogs. For example, if you run a restaurant and someone reviews it, your address might appear as an unstructured citation at the end of the article.
Why Business Citations Are Important
There are two big reasons why business citations are important. First of all, they help with your local SEO strategy. If you’re wondering, “What is local SEO?” we’ll explain that now. Basically, off-page local SEO makes it easier for people to find you locally.
Let’s say, for example, that you run a pizzeria. If someone is looking for a pizzeria near them so they can get it a pie delivered as quickly as possible, they might discover your pizzeria while they do their online search.
However, this won’t be possible if you don’t have your local citation anywhere online. If you have it only in one place—for example, Google Maps—then they might find you.
But if you have it listed in multiple places, they’re more likely to find your restaurant and buy from you. And if they love your pizza, then you’ve now added another customer to your loyal customer base.
Verification and Trust
The other reason business citations are important is that they build verification and trust. If your business name, address, and phone number appear in multiple business listing directories online, then these directories are verifying your business exists.
This verification in turn will make customers trust you. They’ll consider your business a legitimate one and will want to walk through the door.
Additionally, if your business citation appears as an unstructured citation in a blog post about the best shops in your industry in your area, then customers will not only trust your business but also consider it one of the best.
If you have high-quality reviews on Yelp, Google Maps, and other business listing directories, customers will also know that your business is worth buying products or services from.
Classifications of Business Citations
There are different classifications of business citations. Depending on your industry, some might be better for you than others. Let’s return to the pizzeria example. It’s way better for you to appear as a top-rated restaurant on Yelp than on a random website.
Core Search Engine Websites
The most important websites for your business citations to appear are Apple Maps, Google, and Bing. Note that these aren’t distributors of business listing data, so you won’t be giving them your address. However, you want your address to appear on searches.
Primary Data Source Websites
Primary data source websites are the second most important place that your local citation should appear. These are data aggregator sites that aggregate data from web research, utilities, telcos, and the government.
Then, they validate the data and distribute your business’s listing to other websites.
Primary data source websites include Factual, Localeze, Acxiom, and InfoGroup.
Tier 1 Websites
The next most important websites are Tier 1 websites. These are the websites that usually appear when people are researching businesses with a Google search. There are two types of Tier 1 websites: niche/hyper-local and generic.
Niche/hyper-local examples include Denver.com, CityofChicago.org, Avvo, and Lawyers.com.
Generic Tier 1 websites include BBB, Yellowpages, Facebook, and Yelp.
Tier 2, 3, and 4 Websites
As you go through Tiers 2, 3, and 4, their importance for the presence of business citations becomes less important. Tier 2 includes websites that have some domain authority and a bit of prominence when searches complete a Google search.
Tier 2 website examples are HotFrog, MerchantCircle, and Yellowbook.
Tier 3 websites have a little less authority and prominence, while Tier 4 websites are ones that you may not have even heard of before.
Consistency and Presence of Citations
If you want your local citation efforts to be as effective as possible in terms of SEO, you need to make sure that your citation is consistent. However, there’s no need for you to fix it up absolutely everywhere it appears.
You could do this, but there’s no need to prioritize how your citations appear in websites that are in the lower tiers of the classifications we just reviewed.
Instead, focus on the presence (and accuracy) of your citations on Tier 1 sites, Primary Data Sources, and Core Search Engines. To do this correctly, you need to:
- Search for all the different variations of your NAP
- Remove any duplicates
- Update inconsistent citations
- You have only one citation that is complete and accurate on these sites
Once you’ve done this, you can move your focus to doing the same for where your local citation appears on any Tier 2 sites. There’s no need to fix up your local citation on other sites, though you can if you want to.
Building Your Business Citations
Now that you understand the importance of having accurate business citations on the right websites, we’ll review how to build citations. This can be quite a complicated process, so we recommend getting help from a professional (like us) to do this.
Use the Right Email
When you’re creating a business listing, you need to provide websites with an email. You shouldn’t use a generic email like one from Yahoo or Gmail. In case, use your business email. This will make your submissions for listings more trusted.
Select Business Categories
When you set up your business citation, you’ll be asked to select what category your business belongs in. Select a category that represents your business’s services or products. Additionally, feel free to check off additional categories.
By providing details, you will make your business seem more reputable and trustworthy. Additionally, potential customers will get an idea of what it’s like to walk into your store. Details to provide include social account links, operating hours, and your business description.
Don’t forget about visual details, such as your logo and photos of your store.
When putting together your business citation, it has to be consistent. Make sure that your phone number, address, and business name all appear the same way on each website. If there are slight formatting differences because of the sites, you don’t have to worry about this.
Verify Your Listing
Finally, you want to verify your listing. You can do this over the phone for bigger sites like Apple Maps, Bing, and Google My Business. Other sites will allow you to complete this step by email. When verifying, you’ll provide them with a PIN they’ve sent you.
This is an important step because if your listing isn’t verified, it won’t have as much authority.
How to Find the Best Citation Sources
Once you’ve set up your business citation, you’ll want to find the right websites to put it on. This way, you’ll have more authority and improve your SEO. To get started, you’ll want to look up the top citation sources within your country or region.
Then, you’ll want to find the best citation sources in your business category or industry. Let’s go back to that pizzeria example. What are the best websites where restaurants appear online? You want your pizzeria to appear there.
Next, you need to look for local citation sources. This way, anyone who’s visiting your city or region can easily find your business.
Finally, it’s smart to take a look at where your competitors are putting their business citations. To do this, you can run a keyword search.
For example, if you have a vegan-friendly pizzeria in Chicago, you can use the keyword, “vegan-friendly pizzerias in Chicago.”
Then, with a keyword tool, you can find the 3 businesses that rank highest for it. You can find where their citations appear—both unstructured and structured.
With this information, you can find out where your competitors’ listings are and how they structure their citations. Then, you can apply this to your own business citation strategy.
Need More Information?
Now that you’ve learned about business citations and how you can use them to improve your business’s local SEO, you might need more information. Maybe you want to learn more about the best industry listings in your area.
Or maybe you want help setting up your business citations as it’s quite a complicated process.
Whatever information you need, we can help. At Iconic Web Headquarters, we’re experts when it comes to local SEO and business citations. We also offer a business listing service. You can learn more about this service here.