Did you know that, according to Fundera.com, there are 30.2 million small businesses in the US?
Additionally, small businesses make up 99.9% of all the businesses in the US, and they employ 47.5% of the US’s employee workforce.
Considering these statistics, if you’re a business owner, then you need to find ways to stand out. Otherwise, how do you get your customers’ attention with so much competition? If you don’t know where to start, this can be stressful.
Fortunately, by using a strong business listings strategy, your local business can get attention from the local customers you want walking through your doors (or ordering from your website).
In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about local business listings and local citation building. Finally, you can get more customers, and your business will be more successful than ever. Read on to learn more, or go ahead and sign up for Direction Local to have it all done for you.
What Are Local Citations?
A local citation is a business listing that appears not on a business’s own website, but instead on a local directory or third-party websites like Apple Maps, Angies List, Doctor.com or Yelp (nobody’s favorite). These business listing citations will include, typically, at minimum, the business’s name, telephone number, and address.
Sometimes (depending on the site), it will also include information such as social media links, videos, images, services and products, business hours and more. Take a look at the screenshot below of a local citation example, Chamber of Commerce.
Most importantly, this is where local search engine optimization, or SEO, can be incredibly powerful through proper use of and continuous building of local citations.
These local citations can appear throughout the web, including in Apps, Google My Business, forum profiles, social media, local media outlets, industry-specific publications, review sites, niche business directories and more.
Building Your Local Citation Foundation
Local citations matter. That is, of course, If you want to improve your local SEO. There are a few must-have local citation sites and directories your business has to appear on. These local citations include Google My Business, Facebook, Microsoft Bing Maps, and Yelp. Once these profiles have been created and fully filled out, they work a lot like backlinks – in a sense.
As a result, you’ll be able to boost your local SEO, which will help your business get discovered via these citations whenever someone completes a local search.
Most of these citations will be under your own control. But, managing hundreds of logins and listings isn’t always feasible – which is why local listing management software exists.
Often, if you’ve submitted your website to a business directory, you’ll be able to control what information is put there and will be able to change that information later if you need to.
However, other citations might not be under your own control. For example, if you end up with a local citation in a local media coverage publication, you won’t have control over it.
Some citations will be free, others will be ones you have to pay for, and others will require you to place a reciprocal link on your website to activate your citation on the other site.
The Two Types of Local Citations
1. Structured Citations
Structured citations are the most common way to see what’s called “NAP,” short for name, address, and phone number when they’re all next to each other on a listing.
This NAP information you find 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.
Structured citations appear most often on industry-specific directories (for example, Tripadvisor), local directories (e.g., the BBB for your area), and general business directories (e.g., Yelp).
2. Unstructured Citations
Unstructured citations are less common than structured citations, but they aren’t less valuable. These are citations within which the business information that’s key isn’t grouped together tightly like 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.
6 Positive Business Impacts of Local Citations
There are several scenarios in which local citations make a huge difference for a local business. One of these is the impact on local search engine rankings (SEO), another is how they impact consumers themselves. Let’s dive into all of them below.
1. The Impact on Local Map Search Engine Rankings
Let’s start with the three core features of local citations that impact local search engine rankings.
You need citations for local search. Because, when a search engine, for example, Google, takes in all this data about your business, one of two things can happen.
If the information online is all accurate, the search engine will trust your data’s validity, which will strengthen the chance of your business ranking well on the results the search engine provides.
On the other hand, if the data encountered by the search engine is inconsistent, there will be an erosion of trust, which will lessen opportunities for ranking higher.
2. You’ll Benefit From Directories Ranking on Search Engines
Whenever someone completes a local search, it’s likely that some of their results will appear as links to major directories such as Foursquare, Yell, and Yelp. So, instead of fighting against the tide and trying to get your result before those belonging to these giants, here’s another idea.
Work with them. By putting your business listing in these directories, you’re only one click away from being discovered.
The consumer will be more likely to click on the result provided by that directory because it’s higher up. Then, when they do, they’ll see you as one of the businesses in the area that can help them.
3. The Impact on Consumers
When local citations are accurate, it makes it possible for people to discover a business that’s local. This can result in foot, phone, and web traffic, which then leads to transactions. When local citations aren’t accurate, on the other hand, customers can end up being misdirected.
As a result of this misdirection, the business’s reputation could suffer and lead to a loss of revenue.
4. You’ll Get Referral Traffic Through Directories
You’ll also get referral traffic through directories. Sometimes, a person who’s searching for a service might not use Google or another popular search engine. Instead, they might begin their search at Foursquare or Tripadvisor.
When this happens, if you don’t have a listing in the directory where they’re searching, they won’t have any idea that your business even exists!
But if your business listing is on the directory website, they’ll be more likely to find you. You’ll also have a competitive advantage over other local businesses in your industry that don’t have a listing on the directory website.
5. You’ll Get More Links That Lead to Your Website
When you have your business listing on directory websites, it will often include a link to your website. This will count as you having a backlink on another page that leads to your website. While most of the time, the links are “nofollow” (which is still helpful), they are sometimes even displayed as links in the “dofollow” category. If you know anything about the power of backlinks, well, this means that search engines can use these links to give your site link equity. As a result, this will boost your SEO outside of just local map rankings.
6. More Opportunities for Reviews
Finally, when your local citations for your business have areas for customers to leave reviews, you’ll have more opportunities for reviews. This will bolster your business’s online reputation, which will help search engines better understand your business while calculating how to rank it, as well as make it more likely that customers will choose to buy your products or services vs. your competitors.
How to Make Local Citations
To build your local citations, there are a variety of different steps you have to take. These include cleaning up the ones that are already out there, optimizing your business listings, and building new citations. There are solutions to doing this all yourself. But, since we know you’re dying to work on this tedious process, below we’ll detail out the steps to take.
1. 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.
2. Optimize Those 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.
3. Build New Citations
The next step is to build new citations. First, you want to ensure that you send your business information to local data aggregators. These include Foursquare, Data Axle, and Neustar Localeze. Next, you should search for:
- Location-specific directories
- Industry-specific directories
It can also help to take a look at which directories your competitors’ local citations appear. Then, once you have a list, it helps to remember that it would take you a long time to get into every single directory. So you should focus on those that are more valuable.
Additionally, remember that when it comes to these new citations, quality is more important than quantity. So focus on the most important websites and on making these citations as powerful as possible.
4. Update Your Citations Regularly 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.
Thankfully, with Direction Local, we’ve solved the problem of having to log into each directory listing one-by-one and adding photos, videos, business updates and more. With our local SEO software, you can schedule out and publish informations to over 100+ directories with the click of a button. Talk about simplicity of local citations services…
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. In this case, we’re always hiring people who love this like we do, so, quit whatever it is you’re doing and apply here.
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.