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The Ultimate Guide to Local Citations

Picture of Connor Wilkins
Connor Wilkins

CMO, Direction.com

What Are Local Citations and How Do They Impact SEO

Local citations act as digital references for your business, helping potential customers find you easily and trust in your credibility.

What Are Local Citations?

Local citations refer to online mentions or listings of your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) on various websites, directories, and platforms.

These citations help search engines understand the credibility and relevance of your business for local search queries. 

Sometimes (depending on the site), a local citation will also include information such as social media links, videos, images, services and products, business hours and more. 

At the end of the day, local citations play a vital role in improving your local search rankings and increasing visibility to potential customers.

A Local Citation for Direction.com on Apple Maps

How do Local Citations Help with SEO?

When people in your community search for a local business, Google relies on various sources, including your Google Business Profile, Google Maps, your website, business directories (local citations), and user-contributed content, to deliver the most relevant results.

By ensuring consistency across all these sources, your business appears more trustworthy and credible to Google. Consistency in the following business information helps Google display your business with confidence in local search results:

  • address
  • phone number
  • business descriptions
  • industry/categories served
  • social media platforms
  • user ratings and reviews
  • photos

The more accurate and consistent your local citations are, the higher your chances of ranking higher in local search results.

6 Positive Business Impacts from Local Citations

  1. Local citations can greatly impact local map search engine rankings by providing consistent and accurate information about your business across various online platforms, helping search engines validate and trust your business’s location data.
  2. By listing your business in relevant directories, you can benefit from the directories themselves ranking on search engines, increasing visibility for your business and driving organic traffic to your website.
  3. Local citations have a positive impact on consumers as they provide valuable information such as your business address, phone number, and website, making it easier for potential customers to find and contact your business.
  4. By having your business listed in directories, you can generate referral traffic as users browsing these directories may click on your listing and visit your website, increasing the chances of conversions and sales.
  5. Local citations create more opportunities for links that lead to your website, which can improve your website’s domain authority and boost its visibility in search engine results pages.
  6. Having local citations increases the chances of your business being reviewed by customers on multiple platforms, giving you more opportunities to build a positive online reputation and attract new customers.

There are Different Types of Local Citations

Structured Citations

Structured citations are the most common way to see what’s called “NAP,” short for name, address, and phone number. The NAP information found on a structured citation is the result of the submission of a business listing where the information goes into specific fields during the submission process for the directory.

Search Engine Citations

The most common local citations on search engines will appear on Google, Bing and Apple Maps.

Data Aggregators

Core data aggregator platforms include Foursquare, Data Axle, and Neustar/Localeze which are among the most important for businesses looking to increase their visibility on local search engines.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking service that provides ratings and reviews of businesses within a given area.

Data Axle is a business listing platform which offers access to over 10 million business records.

Neustar/Localeze is a provider of detailed, accurate and timely information regarding business listings across the country.

Major Directories

Key local business listings can be built on major social networks like Facebook and popular review-oriented sites such as Yelp, as well as other more niche platforms. Creating a presence on these sites allows your business to highlight services and products within the local area, connect with potential customers, and gain feedback from users.

Furthermore, having accurate information about your business displayed in these prominent locations will help search engines understand the relevance of each listing and give them an indication of its trustworthiness.

Geo and Industry Specific Platforms

Niche sites are an important part of any comprehensive local citation strategy since they have a highly targeted audience who are likely to be interested in what your company offers.

Moreover, having listings on geo-specific and industry-specific sites will aid search engines in understanding the relevance and importance of each listing, allowing customers to more easily find your website when they search locally or within relevant queries. Consequently, creating local listings on these platform is essential for businesses looking maximize their visibility within their local markets.

Unstructured Citations

Unstructured citations are less common than structured citations, but they aren’t less valuable. These are citations where the business information that’s key for being found and contacted by users isn’t grouped together like they are within a structured citation.

Instead, the information is spread out throughout an entire piece of information.

For example, if a mention of your business appears in a local blog or newspaper, your business address might appear halfway through, with your email at the end so that readers can get in touch about your offerings.

While this requires more effort on the part of the search engine to scrape the information, this doesn’t make this type of citation less valuable.

Owned Properties

Your website is the most reliable source of information about your business on the web.

To increase local relevance, add your NAP to the footer and contact page or your website.

How do I Build Local Citations?

Building the right citations for your business is crucial, and it’s important to focus on quality rather than quantity. While structured and unstructured citations can be beneficial for most businesses, there’s no need to obtain them from every website you encounter.

To ensure you’re building the citations that truly matter, follow these steps:

Step 1: Get Listed with Top Data Aggregators

In the vast landscape of online business directories, relying solely on business owners to submit their information would result in incomplete data. Thankfully, data aggregators bridge this gap by collecting and distributing business information to numerous websites. By ensuring that your details are included in their databases, you’ll gain citations across multiple platforms.

Currently, three prominent data aggregators – the “big three” – operate in the United States:

  • Express Update, powered by Infogroup
  • Neustar Localeze
  • Factual

Note: Acxiom, another significant data aggregator, discontinued its services at the end of 2019.

The good news is that claiming, submitting, and managing business listings through InfoGroup (Express Update) and Neustar Localeze is entirely free. Simply search for your business and claim the existing listing, or submit a new one if it doesn’t already exist.

When it comes to Factual, direct updates or edits to listings are no longer available. To modify your information on Factual, you’ll need to engage with one of their Trusted Data Contributors (TDC), typically involving a small fee.

I recommend checking your business’s details on Factual’s directory first. If the information is accurate, there’s no need for concern.

In cases of inaccuracies, you can use a citation builder and listing management tool, like Direction Local, to rectify the data automatically.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, most businesses may not find it necessary to invest heavily in Factual, so it’s not a major cause for worry.

Step 2: Submit Business Data to Other Core Sites

Maximizing the reach of your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information requires more than just relying on data aggregators. While the ‘big three’ aggregators distribute to various well-known sites, it’s essential to directly submit to the core sites in your country for optimal coverage.

In the United States, these core sites include:

  • Apple Maps
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Bing Places
  • YellowPages
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Foursquare

For a comprehensive list of significant citation sources in the US, you can refer to this resource.

Personally, I don’t believe it’s necessary or worthwhile to submit to every site on these lists. Many of them are unfamiliar, and some seem to have minimal traffic or relevance in the current online landscape. It’s more effective to focus on platforms that are widely recognized and frequented by your target audience.

Manually Submitting Data

If you have ample time on your hands and don’t mind engaging in repetitive tasks, manually submitting your business to each relevant site can be an option. Simply search for your business on each site that appears promising. If your business is already listed, double-check the accuracy of the information. In case of inaccuracies, look for the option to claim the listing (most sites offer this feature) and make necessary corrections. If your business is not listed, you can add it.

Additionally, claiming the listing provides an opportunity to enhance your business profile by adding more information. For instance, platforms like Yelp allow you to include photos and other pertinent details after claiming the listing.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that this manual submission process can be tedious and offers room for human error. 

Leveraging Submission and Management Services

Submitting the same business information to multiple sites manually is not an enjoyable endeavor.

That’s why there are local citation solutions that simplify this process. For instance, Direction Local seamlessly integrates with numerous prominent sites, enabling you to submit and manage your citations from a single centralized location without the need for manually citation building.

Step 3: Get Listed on Popular Industry and Local Sites

After securing the essential citations, it’s time to explore industry-specific and location-specific citation opportunities to further enhance your online presence.

For instance, if you own a restaurant, you should aim to be listed on popular food and dining platforms like OpenTable or TripAdvisor.

If you run a law firm, being featured on legal directories such as Avvo or Justia can significantly boost your credibility.

Realtors, on the other hand, should prioritize getting listed on real estate platforms like Zillow or Realtor.com.

In addition to industry-specific opportunities, consider leveraging your physical location to gain more visibility. Getting listed with local business associations, chambers of commerce, or neighborhood directories can greatly benefit businesses operating in specific locations.

To uncover these valuable citation opportunities, you can employ various strategies:

  • Conduct targeted Google searches: Use location-specific or industry-specific keywords to search for relevant directories or listings. For example, search for “best [location] restaurants” or “top [industry] directories in [location]” to find platforms where you can submit your business information.
  • Explore industry-specific citation lists: Many online resources compile comprehensive lists of industry-specific citation opportunities. Look for curated lists that highlight the most authoritative and influential platforms for your particular industry.
  • Employ SEO tools: Utilize SEO tools like SEMrush to identify competitors in your industry. Analyze their backlink profiles to discover potential citation sources that they are linked to but you are not. This can help you uncover platforms that may have been overlooked and present valuable citation opportunities.

When evaluating these opportunities, exercise judgment and prioritize sites that align with your goals and target audience. Consider factors such as domain authority, relevance, and estimated organic traffic to determine the value of each citation source.

Remember, the goal is not to submit to every single site, but rather to focus on high-quality platforms that can drive meaningful visibility and engagement for your business.

Step 4: Go After Unstructured Citations

Unstructured citations are mentions of your business online that do not follow a specific format or template. These can include mentions in news articles, blog posts, social media posts, or online forums. Use search engines and social media platforms to find unstructured citation opportunities related to your business and location.

From there, create a list of prospective sources where you can obtain unstructured citations. This can include local news websites, blogs, community forums, social media groups, or influencer websites. Consider the relevance, authority, and reach of each source when compiling your list.

Lastly, make sure your own website and social media profiles are up to date. Include accurate and consistent information about your business, such as name, address, phone number, and website URL. This will help ensure that any unstructured citations generated from your online presence are aligned with your desired branding and messaging.

How Can I Optimize My Local Citations?

Clean Up Your Citations That Already Exist

First, you need to clean up your citations that are already out there. To find them, go to a search engine and put your business name and phone number in, putting quotation marks around each one. It should look like: “your business’s name” “your phone number”.

Once you’ve discovered citations this way, you need to claim the ones you’re able to claim. After you’ve claimed them, you’ll be able to edit any information that isn’t accurate.

Keep in mind that, if you have multiple phone numbers or your phone number has changed in the past, you should also complete the same search as above with these alternative phone numbers.

This way, you’ll cover all your bases when searching for your citations that are already out there.

When cleaning up these business citations, you should also ensure that your business address is consistent.

Think about “street,” for example. This can be spelled as “Street,” “St,” “St”. Ensure that you keep everything the same throughout, as consistency is important when cleaning up your local citations.

Enhance Your Business Listings

It’s an important step for business owners to claim their business listings that are already on websites like Google My Business and Yelp. However, the work doesn’t stop there. You want to optimize these listings, which means doing more than only including the bare minimum need to be found.

First of all, add enough information that it’s clear to people going to your business listing what your business does.

To do this, add photos of your business (and of your products, if you sell products), and include a description.

Also, remember to address reviews on any business listings websites where reviews appear. It’s especially important that you do this with negative reviews, providing a reply and attempting to fix the problem if possible.

This will have two benefits. First of all, visitors to your business listings with reviews will see that you care enough to reply and attempt to solve the problem.

This will make them more likely to be interested in your business despite the negative review(s).

Second, if you address the problem well enough, the person who left the negative review might remove the negative review—and they might even leave you a positive review afterwards.

Update Your Citations With New Content

If there’s one thing that Google loves, it’s fresh new content. Local SEO is just like any other type of SEO in the sense that you can’t just build a website and expect it to rank. The website has to continually be updated with new business information, new products/services, reviews, FAQ’s, photos, videos, blog posts, and the list goes on. 

Local Citations are Critical for Digital. Start Today.

Now that you’ve learned about local business listings/ local citation building, you likely have decided that either;

A) You want help getting your local presence perfected with our software and/or our SEO services, or,

B) You read about the complexities of building local citations and your inner-nerd went off and you can’t wait to do it all yourself.

Basically, whatever the case may be, we’re here to help. At Direction, we’re experts when it comes to SEO. It’s what we love and it’s all we do. 

The joy of growing local businesses through our SEO services and local SEO software, increasing brand awareness, connecting with your business’s audience, and generating revenue that’s sustainable are all things we wake up excited about.

It’s time you make the right decision that hundreds of other prosperous business have made. Get ready for new heights of revenue growth and contact us now.

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