Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become an important priority for businesses in almost every industry. Whether you’re a boutique clothing store or a B2B manufacturing company, ensuring your website shows up when people are searching for businesses like yours is important in today’s digital world. While there are dozens of important factors to consider when looking to improve your local SEO efforts, there’s an incredibly simple tactic many businesses often overlook: citations.
In essence, citations are publications of your core business data on other websites on the Internet. For example, your business listing on YellowPages.com or Yelp is an example of a structured citation. There are often unstructured citations, such as news websites, blog posts, and Wikipedia that link back to your website. All of these citations influence consumer discovery and local search engine rankings.
But, what difference do these citations make for your local SEO efforts? And, if they’re so important, what can you do to maximize their potential? Those are the questions we address in this blog post.
Why Citations Matter for Your Local SEO
While the impact citations make in your overall search ranking has decreased over the years, it is still one of the most valuable local SEO tactics you can deploy. According to a 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, citations ranked as one of the top five factors that impact your local ranking:
According to a separate study conducted by BrightLocal,
- Local businesses that rank in the top 10 positions in Google Local have an average of 81 citations.
- Businesses ranked #1 in the Google Local Finder have an average of 86 citations.
- Businesses ranked #10 have an average of 75.
- 90% of experts believe accurate citations are important to local search ranking.
The bottom line is this: While they might not be the most important factor for your search ranking, citations matter for your local SEO efforts.
How Search Engines Use Citations for Local SEO Results
How do search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use these various citation sources to power their search rankings?
According to the SEO experts over at MOZ, Google cares about very specific things when it comes to citations:
- The number of citations your business has—How many different websites is your business listed on?
- The accuracy/consistency of information listed—Does the information listed on all of these sites match?
- The quality of the domain the citation is listed on—Are these websites reputable?
Google tells us that three things matter for local ranking results, specifically beyond just citations:
- The relevance of your listing to a search term
- The distance between where the person is searching and the location of your business
- The prominence of your website in the listing
All of these are important factors to consider, but each works together differently depending on the situation. For instance, distance might not be as important as relevance in one search; “Google(‘s) algorithms might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results,” according to the team over at Google.
4 Factors That Matter Most in Maximizing Citations for Local SEO
Now that you know why citations are important for local SEO—and how they work—what should your business do to maximize their potential? Here are a few of the most important factors that matter the most for your local SEO citation efforts:
1. Focus on the quality of directories, not just the quantity.
You don’t need hundreds of business listings (citations) to rank your business on the first page. A study by BrightLocal found that 86% of local SEO experts said the quality of a citation was more important than the quantity. In our experience with clients, a local business only needs the top 20 to 40 business listings.
2. Make sure the information is consistent across all directories.
While minor discrepancies won’t destroy your rankings, inconsistent information threatens the algorithm’s ability to serve accurate results. For example, having citations with different business hours create a bad customer experience—the opposite of Google’s mission.
3. Prioritize directories with review features.
The number of people who recognize and vouch for your business is an important factor for Google. According to Moz’s 2018 study, customer reviews account for 6.47% of your likelihood of ranking organically on your local search engine rankings. This is why it’s important to maintain your on citations on websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google My Business (Google Reviews), and anywhere your customers can rate you.
4. Don’t forget about your Google My Business page.
It would make sense that Google has an investment in promoting its own assets. That’s why your Google My Business (GMB) page is one of the most important citation sources. If you haven’t taken the time to set up your Google My Business page and confirmed that all of the content is optimized for search, it’s something you should add to your to-do list immediately.
Eliminate the Guesswork of Local SEO
If you recognize the importance of local SEO, but don’t have the time or bandwidth to do everything that’s required to optimize your website for search, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
We’ve sat with dozens of business leaders who are overwhelmed by the thought of SEO and have loved seeing the relief on their faces when we tell them our team can carry the burden and get them the results they want. To learn more about the services we offer through The SEO Silo, click here.