As a business owner, you may have come across the term local citations in your search to find strategies that will help you reach new customers. And like some business owners before you, you may have questioned whether you truly needed them.
The short answer is: if you have a physical location or serve customers in a specific geographic area, then yes, you need local citations if you’re going to impact your market and win your share of customers.
You see, these days your customers are primarily relying on web searches to find the best products and services in their area. And they aren’t just using Google.
There are tons of different websites, local business directories, maps apps, and social networks that are geared to helping customers find the best local business based on their search query.
With this in mind, wouldn’t you say it’s important to have a business listing on all of the sites and apps your customers are using when shopping online?
That’s exactly what a local citation service can help you achieve. Before we go into the 8 best local citation services, let’s cover the basics.
What is a local citation?
A local citation is a mention of your business on a third-party website or app that displays your contact information and links back your website.
Most local citations will include the businesses name, address, and phone number (NAP).
Local citations can help improve your local search ranking, and are also a great way to generate leads from potential customers.
There are dozens of different directories where you can list your business, and the best approach is to submit your information to as many of them as possible.
The most common (and important) local citation for you to have is Google Business Profile (GBP). This allows your business to be discoverable in localized searches performed on Google and Google Maps, such as “fitness center near me.”
But that doesn’t mean you should stop at Google. The best practice in local SEO is to expand your online presence to any directory website or app that has a relevant business category for your company.
Why? Because search engines love local citations.
When a search engine can find the same information about you in multiple places, it makes you more credible and legitimate. Therefore, a business with a lot of local citations will rank higher on local SERPs (search engine results pages).
When starting out, look to Bing Places for Business, Yahoo Local, Foursquare, Apple Maps, etc. to establish an online presence that will put you in the search spotlight regardless of your target audience’s search preferences.
How do local citations work?
The web is bursting at the seams with data. So, how exactly do local citation services get your information out to all the directories?
Often, these services use local data aggregators to make their process more efficient. Local data aggregators are companies that collect and process data. They bring in many different kinds of data from local businesses, individuals, and other sources. From there, they analyze this data, break it down, clean it up, and organize it in a way that makes sense and is usable by others. These data aggregation companies charge money for access to their data, and companies who pay for this data use it to score leads, create ad campaigns targeted to certain demographics, and—you guessed it—populate online directories.
There are four main local data aggregators in the US: Acxiom, Factual, Neustar Localeze, and Data Axle (formerly known as Infogroup). Each local citation service can choose which local data aggregators they use to collect their data and list it online, or if they even want to use a data aggregator service. Some local citation services actually build their own directories from the ground up.
In addition to data aggregators, some citation services offer direct-to-site submissions which means you can also be listed on websites that require a manual submission.
How do you create a local citation?
There a few ways to create local citations depending on the service provider.
You can either create local citations manually on the site you want to be listed on, or you can use a local citation building software, like Direction Local, to automatically build business listings on dozens of directories, review sites, apps, social media networks, and voice search tools.
The main question you have to ask yourself when getting started is: how much time do I want to spend building and managing my local citations?
Many local listing websites are free. For instance, Google Business Profile is a free service that any business with an address can use. The same applies for listings on Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps and more.
However, if you set out to manually create business listings on dozens of sites, you’ll find that it takes countless hours. And even with all that effort, a single inconsistency in the way your name or address is displayed could negatively impact your efforts.
The most efficient way to build local citations is to use a local citation building tool — also known as, a local citation service.
What are local citation services?
Most commonly, a local citation service is a business listing on an online directory or reviews website, like Yelp.
In the context of digital marketing, a local citation service can also refer to a SaaS product (Software as a Service) that houses and distributes your business data to create new local citations and ensure your data is accurate everywhere your business is listed online.
Local citation services are relatively new to digital marketing. However, their infancy should not outweigh their importance.
In fact, a local citation service can streamline your digital marketing efforts and lead to much faster local ranking improvements, ultimately, making your business more discoverable when customers search for what you offer.
What can a local citation service do for your business?
With a local citation service, you can easily expand your digital footprint, increase your business’ credibility, and provide more opportunities for your customers to find and contact you.
All in all, you want to keep your online presence accurate by cleaning up any erroneous data, merging together duplicate listings, and continually creating new listings.
But digging through the web manually and trying to find, update, or add a listing yourself is pain-staking work. It can take a lot of time to even figure out which directories to submit to.
First, you have to find the directories online, make sure they’re legitimate, check to see if your business is already listed, enter your info or make changes to existing info, and then check back later to make sure the submission is working properly.
For most business owners, the time that it takes to do all this can be more wisely spent elsewhere.
This is where local citation services come in. A local citation service can do all the heavy lifting for you, and ensure all your listings are the same across the board. This will save you countless hours, so that you can focus on running and growing your business.
What are the differences between local citation services?
Just as every business is unique, no two local citation services are alike.
Here is a comparison of eight of the most well-known local citation services, including what the process for working with them looks like, what they offer, and what sets them apart from one another. It’s important to do research and learn about each company before working with them so that you fully understand the pros and cons of each.
Understanding both the drawbacks and upsides can help you choose a local citation service that is the right fit for your business.
1. Direction Local
Direction Local is our unique local citation software that goes beyond just ensuring your listings are accurate, so you know your site will be found by those who need it.
When you sign up with Direction Local, you get something different from any other similar citation service. You get full on-boarding and support from a team of local SEO experts based out of Washington DC and Silicon Valley who are intent on moving the needle for you.
We know how important SEO is for businesses to grow and succeed, and we can help you make sure that your online information is consistent and accurate. Unlike the other services on this list, we will work directly with you to help you meet your marketing goals, at a price point that fits into any budget – starting at $999/yr.
Direction Local also has industry-specific directory integrations with places such as NextDoor, TripAdvisor, WebMD, Doctor.com and more!
2. Moz Local
Moz Local uses all four of the local data aggregators to gather and list information, meaning you get good coverage across the internet. They also use Foursquare, which doesn’t function in the same way a traditional data aggregator does, but does send information to Pinterest and some local search apps, so it can get you some extra listings. Moz Local can also help to identify duplicate listings.
However, some people note that their user interface can be difficult to use and navigate, and it can take from two to eight months for them to complete their listings of your business. At an introductory price of $129 a year, Moz Local will submit to eight different directories, and 5 GPS services, which isn’t much coverage for the price.
If you’re looking for an SEO reporting platform, BrightLocal is a great option to consider.
BrightLocal offers tons of local SEO features including locating and monitoring citations across the web, search rank tracking, online review monitoring, and easy-to-read SEO reporting. All these different reporting features will break down exactly how you’re doing with local SEO, show you what could be improved and prove your ROI on your local SEO efforts.
When using BrightLocal, you can choose if you want the service to build citations from your submission or from data aggregators, which gives you more control over the process.
For direct-to-site submissions, you can expect to pay two to three dollars per listing. If you choose to use a data aggregator, it starts at $60 per year. Unlike some services, you don’t have to keep paying to keep your listings active if you choose to submit them manually.
BrightLocal will also help you find duplicate listings, inaccuracies, and opportunities to create new listings, but like Moz Local, these listings can take a few months to go live.
Check out how BrightLocal compares to Direction Local.
Yext offers a convenient and user-friendly dashboard, so you can manage more than 100 listings from one place. New listings and edits go live quickly, and you can get reports about how your listings are performing.
When it comes to data aggregators, they only use Foursquare and Factual, which doesn’t give you all the coverage you may need. At a price point of $499 a year, this may not be the most budget friendly choice.
Learn more about how Yext compares to Direction Local.
Whitespark is a local citation finder. If you’re not familiar with the term, a citation is basically a reference to your business’s name, website, address or phone number somewhere on the internet.
Whitespark has a lot of great tools to help you master local SEO, including an online citation finder. This tool will show you all of your current citations on the internet, as well as critical ones you might be missing. There are tons of different websites out there that customers turn to for insight into a business, so odds are you are missing at least one.
In addition to the citation finder, they have plenty of other tools to help you build your local reputation on the web. This includes services such as a local rank finder, reputation builder, and link prospecting, just to name a few.
Information on pricing is limited on their website, so you’ll need to contact them directly in order to discuss your business needs and get specific pricing.
For a one-time fee, you can use Whitespark to submit to aggregators and directly to certain sites. This can appeal to businesses who don’t want a recurring yearly expense. They also offer a custom service for researching new citation opportunities and will clean up your already-existing citations for a fee.
They offer a quick turn-around time, but their listings cost between $4 and $5 each, which doesn’t make them the most cost-effective option available to you. They also don’t integrate with Google Analytics or Google My Business, which is a drawback for many users.
Learn how Whitespark compares to Direction Local.
6. Advice Local
Advice Local will submit your listing to a fixed number of sites, which means you can’t select which sites you submit to, though they tend to be favored by niche services and some industries. They can claim and submit directly to Google My Business, Facebook, and Twitter, but don’t claim listings on all directories, and you don’t own the listings.
This means that once you stop paying for the service, your aggregator listings will revert to how they were before you used the service after one year.
Find out how Advice Local stacks up against Direction Local!
Synup charges a monthly fee and requires a yearly commitment. They don’t integrate with Google My Business, and submitting to extra sites can cost more in addition to the monthly fee.
They also offer a few other tools like reputation monitoring, SEO reporting, and data synching, which add value to the packages you can get.
Learn how Synup compares to Direction Local.
GeoRanker is great at helping you find your local listings and track your current search rankings.
GeoRanker will create local citations for you on tons of different sites across the web. They also have a local rank checker, so you can check-in and see where your business ranks in search engines in real time.
A lot of their tools can be used for free, which is great for small businesses just starting out with SEO. Once you advance, however, you’ll likely need to upgrade to a paid plan that starts at $99/month.
3 key concepts to keep in mind as you choose.
When choosing to hire any service, you want to make sure you’re going in knowing what to expect. There are a few things that you need to remember when using any of these local citation services.
1. You will have to collaborate with any local citation service you choose.
While these services will save you a lot of time and resources, none of them are completely hands-off. All reputable directories require that business owners double-check and verify their listings. This can usually be done via text message, phone call, or mail.
This helps the directories minimize cases of listing fraud, but it means that your involvement is essential. Yes, there can be a lot of red tape when it comes to verifying this information, so it can be a long process. But the right local citation service will work with you to make it go as smoothly as possible.
2. Choose a service that fits your business's individual needs.
Because each service creates listings for different directories, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be 100% covered across every available listing. So, you need to take a close look at the specifics of each service’s offerings and how they fit into your goals.
When choosing what service is right for your business, make sure to consider your industry, as some listing services are better for certain industries depending on the sites they list to. You also need to make sure that the service you choose will help you identify any duplicate or inconsistent listings, not only create new listings.
Plus, as seen above, the fees you’ll end up paying annually will vary depending on which service you choose, so it’s important to see what options are available in your budget range.
3. It’s about more than expense.
It may be tempting, but don’t simply choose the most inexpensive solution. Choosing a service just because it’s cheap may result in inaccuracies, duplicate listings, or other issues that can negatively affect your local search optimization. (And doesn’t that defeat the whole point?)
Higher price point packages can sometimes offer some helpful features that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Of course, it’s important to remember your budget, but when you have an SEO strategy that works, the new leads and customers you attract will be more than worth your initial investment.
Choose a local citation services that works for you.
Is inaccurate online data negatively affecting your local SEO strategy? Do you want more traffic coming to your website? The right local citation service will work directly with your business’s unique needs to push forward your SEO and enhance your online presence.
Dominate your Local SEO with Direction Local.