At a basic level, a website citation is simply a mention of your business, on web directories and other websites, including social media accounts, that forms a key factor in Google local search rankings of approximately 25%.
Why are website citations important to Google local search?
A consistent pattern of business details across the web will reinforce the trust placed in your website.When a search engine crawls the web, it obtains many different mentions of your business and if this consistent pattern is upheld, it’s a case of “yep, they are who they say they are!”.
If Google can be confident that you are who you say you are – in this case, calculated by the number, quality and consistency of mentions – it’s much more likely to rank your website higher in either the local search map pack, the organic search results and, indeed, both.
What the search engines are looking for is consistent (there’s that word again!) information in three different areas:
- Name: Your business name
- Address: Your business address
- Phone number: Your business phone number
You’ll find references to ‘NAP’ wherever local SEO is mentioned, so now you know what it stands for!
In an exhaustive study of the 6 main ranking factors when determining where a website should be positioned, Moz discovered that these 3 of these ‘6 foundational ranking factors’ are related to:
- Citation quality
- Citation quantity
- Citation consistency
Further more, pay extra attention to the category your business is placed in. A hairdresser is no good in a beauty spa.
At the same time, on a low level, you’re also building backlinks to your website whenever the source asks for a web address – they’re not going to hold the same value as a good guest post on a well respected website, but all the same….
The are two ways to approach building a good citation profile. If you’re truly bootstrapping your business or don’t have the money to spare, the manual method involves entry by hand.
Be warned – this is an exceptionally tedious process, so you might want to limit what you do in one sitting.
Your first stop should be Google My Business. You’ll have often seen this appear in local search results. Whenever you search for a service in a location, the first 3 search results are accompanied by a map. As well as increasing local search exposure, this also forms a very strong citation in its own right. If you’d like to learn more about Google My Business, I wrote a rough guide here. Hop on over, because it’s ultra important.
Handling Duplicate Citations
One of the pitfalls you’ll more than likely come across is the duplicate citation. Wherever possible, these must be avoided; they can muck up your website citation profile. If possible, make a direct request for removal from the business directory in question.
Creating a website citation profile manually
To get us started off, we’re going to start hitting the online directories. The first thing you’ll need is a spreadsheet to log the details of each entry. I can’t emphasise strongly enough the need to do this. If your business ever changes address or name, it’s incredibly easy to forget where you placed your citations in the first place, and often difficult to remember the login details. They may even of been applied for with an email address you no longer have access to.
Create a spreadsheet that consists of, at the very least, the following fields:
- Directory web address
- Login username / email
- Your password
- A fields for notes
The next step is fairly obvious – you’re going to need to start applying for accounts, one at a time as you start to submit your business details. Start with the big hitters – examples would be Yell, Thompson Local, Scoot etc. *NOTE* Be sure to check your listing isn’t already in there; if it is, claim it and edit it to satisfaction.
As you complete each entry, be absolutely sure to complete the spreadsheet.
What should you pay attention to when filling in entries?
Basically, if the directory asks for it, do it. We’re going for maximum completeness. If it allows 10 images, 10 images you shall provide. Fill in the opening hours. Be verbose with your descriptions, but vary them up a little.
Take extra care when choosing the category of your business – some directories will allow you to create a new one, although this is rare. Choose a sensible match for your business. Now, go to the next one, rinse and repeat. If you’re stuck for sources, try this link – it lists the major players where you should be listed.
Moving on from straightforward business directories
As an example, you’re an electrician or some other tradesman. An excellent choice would be to start listing yourself in some of the business niche-centric websites, such as handyman.com. Or, perhaps, you’ll come across a directory that only lists electricians – perfect!
High value local sources
Once you’ve had your fill of the major hitters in the business directory world, it’s time to start on the local business directories. The relevancy of your website citations, when placed in local resources, increases and can form some of your most important efforts. Unfortunately, these can be some of the hardest to gain, so be canny and, if need be, develop enough of a relationship with the source as possible to gain entry.
Some examples would be:
- Local business directories
- Chambers Of Commerce business listings
- Local newspaper websites (don’t do anything illegal to get there!)
- All your business social media accounts – be sure to fill out business information
Using data distribution services to boost your local search website citation profile
Because, quite frankly, we’re all human beings with a social life, a business to run and family you need to associate with on some level, here’s where the easy option kicks off.
In the UK, there are four big aggregators of business data in the UK:
- Central Index
Although other distribution services do exist, I tend to use Moz Local for my client base. What happens is that Moz Local pushes the information from your dashboard (usually extracted from Google My Business) as the source for citations, which is then sent to these aggregators.
In turn, directories such as Yelp and Google subscribe to this business data, which goes on to form a business ecosystem. This is also why as soon as you start a business, you’re inundated by advertisers who want you to sign up. Regardless, much of that insanely tedious manual entry is a thing of the past, controlled via the dashboard.
In Summary: Local Search: What is a website citation?
A website citation builds trust in your website. That trust manifests itself as improved search results for local search enquiries within the ‘map pack’ and, to a certain extent, the organic search queries. While certainly not the only task you have when it comes to marketing your business locally, it’s one of the most important when it comes to local search visibility.