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What are Local Citations? (and why they're important for Local Business Optimization)

By Valerie DiCarlo on Jul 28, 2018

Local citations are online listings of a company’s name, address, phone number, and other relevant information on websites that have directories and business references.

Local citations aren’t new. In an earlier era, they took the form of the yellow pages or phone books, or diner menus filled with local business listings. But in the online context, local citations continue to be important because they can help drive customers (and revenue) to your business.

They do this both in the traditional way (as one more place potential customers can be exposed to your business) and in new ways (by directly affecting your business’s local SEO).

In this blog I’ll break down what local online citations are, share some categories of local citations, and provide you with tips to get the most value out of local citations.

What are local online citations?

As I mentioned above, local citations are any online mention of the name, address, phone number (NAP) of a business. That is the core. However, it can also include other components such as a link to a website, reviews, photos, hours of operation, and more.

What types of local citations are there?

While many people associate citations with big websites, social media platforms, and apps such as Google (Google My Business), and Yelp!, local citations can occur in a number of places.

Many industries have strategic platforms—such as publications and professional associations—that list relevant businesses. For example, an auto insurance company’s magazine could curate a list of mechanics or car dealerships. In the healthcare industry, many people look to HealthGrades before choosing a doctor.

There are also geographically relevant locations for online citations. For example, town tourism bureaus and Chambers of Commerce may reference local businesses on their websites.

Local citations can also appear in media outlets and blogs. A blogger who writes about the music scene in Tampa could have a list of venues where someone could go to enjoy live music in the city. A regional newspaper may have a list of “best” businesses in the area that their readers voted on.

Local citations can appear in all sorts of places, so you may have to do some digging to find out where your business is listed (or where you want your business to be listed!).

What’s the value of local citations?

In a nutshell, local citations are one of the factors search engines take into consideration when determining what websites appear in the local 3-pack and top local SERP. Being at the top of these can send more traffic (and profits) to your business.

I write more about the value of local citations (including the SEO damage that companies can endure by not managing local citations) in another blog. But ultimately, what is important to know is that managing your local citations well can have an effect on your business’s bottom line.

How do you manage local citations?

If managing your local citations well can benefit your business, and mismanaging (or ignoring) your local citations can have a negative impact on your business, what should you start doing to get local citations to work in your favor?

Here are a few simple steps you can take in the order of urgency and importance.

  1. Clean up the bad stuff. In the case of local citations, “bad stuff” means any inconsistencies, inaccuracies, or gaps in information (especially your NAP - name, address, phone number) across different listings. You can find business citations by googling your company (and all current and former addresses and phone numbers). You can also check the usual suspects—Google My Business, major social media platforms, general review sites such as Yelp!, and geographic and industry-specific sites that you know about.
  2. Create a complete profile for the major review sites. By having a complete and accurate listing on the big, multi-industry sites such as Google My Business, Facebook, or Yelp!, you can verify your identity and basic information to search engines. As important as other local citations are, you want to make sure these types of sites have your information right because of the weight search engines give to the information on them.
  3. Create clear listings for all physical locations. (But do not list any PO boxes or virtual offices). This is especially important for businesses that have more than one brick and mortar location. You need to make it crystal clear to a search engine that the different addresses you reference aren’t inconsistencies, but multiple locations. You also want the search engines to know what each of those locations are. One way you can communicate this to search engines is to create landing pages (on your business website) for each physical location and appropriately link back each citation to the appropriate landing page.
  4. Decide if you want to put in the effort for additional manual listings. Moz has a great tool that helps businesses find citations that are relevant for their city and their industry. Peruse these sites to see if it would be worth your time to bolster your local citations in additional spaces. Note that if you do decide to do this, you should make a commitment to managing and updating these citations with any changes in your business, such as moving location or changing hours of operation. If the citations become outdated, it could actually hurt your local SEO.
  5. Consider how to get listings organically in your community. You know your target audience best. If they regularly read a local newspaper, you may want to use your local connections to get a local citation there. If you belong to an industry association in your area, you could ask them to add your business to their online directory. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box for solutions on how to get more, valuable listings! (Just remember to keep them all up-to-date and consistent!)

If you find any information that needs to be corrected, you can either correct it yourself or contact the people who manage the listing. 

Although you can pay for services to manage your local citations, the quality of these services varies.

At the end of the day, local citations play an important role in your local SEO performance. And as a result, you should make sure that you are actively managing these citations so that they boost your bottom line.