Local online citations—from Chamber of Commerce websites to industry directories—are an important part of almost every local SEO strategy. In fact, local citations are a key way small and medium-sized businesses can get into the online marketing space.

The good news is: It’s not rocket science to capitalize on online citations. But there are a few key pitfalls you need to avoid so that you don’t end up hurting your online site authority - especially when you are trying to help it!

Online Citation Pitfalls to Avoid

Pitfall 1: Inconsistent name, address, phone number (NAP) listings. There is nothing that undercuts Google’s confidence in your business’s legitimacy and relevance like inconsistent listings of your basic information. And when Google doesn’t trust you, they don’t “recommend” you to others in the search engine results pages (SERPs). So make sure to get your business’s information out there, but make sure that all the information is correct and consistent. You should also check the listings that are out there already to make sure they are up to date.

Pitfall 2: Prioritizing the quantity of citations over the quality of citations. It’s great to have lots of references to your business out there for search engines and potential customers to see. But not all citations are created equal.

It’s better to spend time cultivating the really valuable, relevant citations—the ones that have a lot of domain authority or are particularly relevant to your customer base—than trying to appear on every random list that exists on the internet. (Take my word for it, there are a LOT of random lists on the internet.) This way you can reap the benefits of local citations without allowing local citations to take over your life.

Pitfall 3: Assuming that local citations on big sites are always better. Sometimes major listing sites like TripAdvisor or Healthgrades can get your information in front of a lot of potential customers and boost your SEO by association to their domain authority. But other times, your business can get lost in a sea of a lot of businesses.

So when you’re building local citations, make sure that you consider the niche markets that your business caters to. In addition to making sure that your information is front of an audience that is highly attuned to the services your business provides, search engines will also begin to associate you with the very particular goods or services that define your business.

Pitfall 4: Neglecting your Google Business Profile page. Although some people don’t consider Google my Business page as a citation (because they argue that it is the primary place people look for information and other citations just point to this primary place), you need to take your Google My Business page very seriously.

From your NAP to the type of category you choose, the information on this page will be served up to searchers and be used to compare your business against other citations. Filling out the information on Google My Business is simple, but it can go a very long way to adding value to not just your local SEO, but your overall SEO.

Pitfall 5: Don’t spend hours on the unimportant stuff. Let’s just say this: There could be situations where your inner OCD may not serve you well when working on local citations. Yes, it’s important to dig for citations and make sure they are correct and consistent. But finding all of the citations and trying to correct all of them (which sometimes involves trying to get in contact with unresponsive people managing a stagnant website) can be an exercise in diminishing marginal returns.

Moral of the story: Do the big ones and important ones and the ones that are easy to change. But don’t beat yourself up because you can’t change an out-of-date, obscure directory. Your time would be better spent elsewhere. If you want to know what sites are worth changing, Moz’s domain authority tool can help you prioritize.

Pitfall 6: Listing inconsistent website URLs to each of your citations. This is so common, that I’d be remiss if I did not include this pitfall. Like your NAP, how you list your website in your citations can have an effect in citation relevance. Use the exact URL that your site ‘answers’ to, e.g. use https, www, or non-www. My site answers to https://www.seo-web-consulting.com – so that is the URL I use when adding my website URL to citations.

So now that you know what to avoid, get out there and build up those citations! Your local SEO ranking (and new customers) will be glad you did.

Valerie DiCarlo

Valerie DiCarlo

Valerie is principal and owner of SEO Web Consulting successfully serving clients since 2005 with ethical, holistic, most up-to-date, best practice SEO and online marketing solutions. As a respected boutique SEO consulting firm, our mission is to demystify SEO and provide measured results. All services are customized to meet your specific business need.