If you’ve dabbled or read about SEO at any level, you’ve probably heard of citations. If you’ve seen it mentioned before you might wonder what is a local citation? They are a key part of any SEO strategy and have been for many years.
Local SEO has become a major digital marketing strategy almost on its own. Local citations play a big part. If you’re looking to get started with local SEO, you’ll want to know more about what a location is. Thankfully, we wrote this helpful guide to get you on the right track.
What Is a Local Citation?
A local SEO citation is any instance of certain information about your business, mentioned on an online source. Generally speaking, an online citation will include your business name, address and phone number. Those three parts together are often shortened to “NAP”.
In fact, NAP is a term that is sometimes used as another way of referring to ‘local citations’. It is a foundational element to local SEO, as it is a major ranking factor among search engines.
It is especially important for local businesses.
Why Do Local Citations Matter?
Local citations are a foundational element to local SEO and a major ranking factor for search engines. There are many reasons why local businesses should be concerned about the state of their citations. Here are the main reasons that should convince you:
#1 Good citations improve your search rankings
If you have many citations with accurate and consistent information about your business, your website will rank better. All of the main ranking factors for search engines are based around the central idea of trust and authority.
First and foremost, search engines have to trust that the information about your business online is accurate. Having a lot of citations that all have the exact same NAP is a great way to earn trsut from search engines. If they trust you more than your competitors, you will likely be ranked ahead of them.
#2 Bad citations will damage your search rankings
On the other hand, you will rank worse if you have few citations, and/or if they contain inconsistent information. You don’t want to you have three citations with a different NAP each time because it erodes trust among search engines and people.
People who see three different citations may assume that each one refers to three different businesses or locations. They may try and call or visit your business only to find that it’s all wrong. That’s a major reason why search engines want consistency and trust.
Search engines do not want people to lose trust in the results they are shown. They will not rank a business highly if they can’t trust it.
#3 More citations increases your online presence
More local citations means your business will have a greater presence and a wider reach online. That means increasing the chances that someone will find your business who may be a potential customer.
So if you want to get a direct benefit — like more revenue — from local citations, you should try building more of them. It costs little to nothing to do yourself, though it can be time consuming. Once you do make a citation, it will last for a long time. You’ll only have to change them if you move, or change your business name or phone number.
What Are the Components of a Local Citation?
While NAP are the three main components of a local citation, they do not always include all 3 parts of NAP. In fact, there can be other parts of your business mentioned that may appear in a local citation. Here are some other components outside of NAP that can be included:
- Website: the url of your business’ website, like apple.com or mcdonalds.ca.
- Business categories: the industry or type of business you are, such as a car dealership, medical clinic, restaurant, and so on.
- Hours of operation: the days and hours your business is open and closed.
- Driving directions: a written description of how to find your business location.
- Business description: a short or long bit of text describing your business, its location, industry, products and/or services.
- Images: one or more images about your business, including your logo, photos of your store’s interior or exterior, products you sell, your staff, and so on.
- Videos: one or more videos of the same nature as images, including things like interviews or business description in video form.
- Payments accepted: a list of the different payment methods you accept at your location, such as cash, check, credit (or specific credit cards), debit, and so on.
- Reviews: including either your average review rating from sources like Google or Yelp, as well as individual people’s reviews about your business.
- Social media links: links to your business’ social media profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.
- Business email address: your general company email that people can use to contact your business, like firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Business fax numbers: your fax number that people can use to contact your business.
You want your citations for your local business to include as many of these components as possible. As long as you include the same information consistently, the more information a citation has the better.
Local Citations List
If you want to build more citations, there are dozens of potential sources where you can make them yourself. Here is a list of the most popular local SEO citation sources:
- Google My Business
- Apple Maps
- Yellow Pages
These are the major sources that everyone should use. After that, you can find all kinds of niche citation sources that are relevant for your business. There are industry-specific directories, like TripAdvisor for hotels or DealerRater for car dealerships.
There are also location-specific sources, such as chambers of commerce, city directories, and local newspaper websites. Find and build as many as you can to get an edge on your competitors.
What Are the Types of Local Citations?
At this point, it’s worth talking about the two types of local citations that exist.
First is a structured citation, which is the most common type and the one you can make yourself. It is specifically set up to show your NAP on a page. It is also more common to be able to add other components, such as your hours, images, description, and categories.
Structured citations are usually created with specific fields for each component. Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, and directories are all examples of a structured citation source.
Meanwhile, unstructured citations are not as common or easy to get, but are still very valuable. They are more rare because they are almost always examples of someone else writing about your business. Like with backlinks, you want to make them even if it’s very difficult.
When someone writes a blog or review that mention your business NAP in the text, that’s an unstructured citation. It’s more of a natural mention than a deliberately set up business listing. Sometimes, the NAP might be spread out over the page or the block of text.
Local citations have long been one of the foundational elements of SEO and local SEO. It is also one of the most important ranking factors for search engines. It goes hand-in-hand with building links and is a necessity to any SEO optimization strategy.
That’s why it’s important to have many relevant citations that consistently use the same business name, address and phone number. With optimized citations, you’re more likely to rank higher in search results and generate more revenue from the increased visibility.
It may be a lot of work to get started, but it’s well worth the outcome.