In this digital day and age, most of us spend more time on the Internet than we could have imagined five or 10 years ago, whether we’re at our computers or on our smartphones. We do many of our business transactions online, too, whether it’s booking a flight and a hotel or ordering a birthday gift for a family member.
Business owners know that today’s competition doesn’t only come from the operation across the street, but from similar businesses in far-flung locations. Smart businesspeople also realize the value of a solid Internet presence, and one key to keeping your business front and centre is the local citation.
Local Citations Explained
A local citation is simply any online mention of your business. It’s usually some combination of the business name, address, phone number and website address.
You may see a local citation referred to as NAP (name, address, phone number), NAPW (name, address, phone number, website address) or UNAP (website URL, name, address, phone number). If a citation contains only one or two of these elements, it may be considered a partial citation.
Why Local Citations Matter
Local citations are important because they allow people to find your business online and help you increase your customer base.
They generally reside on third-party directory pages, called citation pages, created to aggregate businesses by type or by geographic area or both as a service to consumers.
Often, these pages have a review component (e.g., Yelp or Trip Advisor) that allows users to rate your business after they’ve been customers. These ratings provide potential users with the confidence that they’ll be getting good quality products and services – or not.
You may get more foot and online traffic with a positive review and an accurate citation; however, negative reviews and misleading citations can diminish your value in the eyes of potential customers.
Every local citation is valuable, because it helps push your business higher in the search engine rankings.
30% of mobile searches are related to a location. 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase.
Google, 2016 SourceWhen people are randomly searching for Bakeries in Calgary or Shoe Stores in downtown Toronto, you want your business to pop up on that first page of listings, and numerous local citations add to the likelihood that it will be there.
Search engines scan the web to see how many mentions you receive, which affects your positioning in a search result; they also take into account the consistency of the local citations, the ratings you receive and the prestige/importance of the pages that cite your business.
When your local citations appear on many citation pages, it also helps to boost your visibility during online searches; these pages carry weight with search engines.
Types of Citation Pages
If you’re wondering about the types of citation pages you’ll find on the web, there are a few variations on the theme:
Major local business data platforms.
There are numerous important local business directory sites, including Google My Business, Acxiom, Localeze/Neustar, and Infogroup. In addition, there are major Social media sites that often include a review component, such as Yelp or Facebook.
Geo- or industry-specific platforms.
The websites for your local Chambers of Commerce and professional/industry associations are important homes for citation pages, since they draw many visitors.
Wider web platforms.
You’ll also find citations – although they may not be dedicated citation pages – on blogs, newspaper sites, government databases, applications and maps, for example.
Some citation pages derive automatically from data found on other sites; they are programmed to cull data for their own use. For example, Superpages uses the information found on Infogroup.
What’s the difference between structured and unstructured citations?
You’ll come across two different types of citations on citation pages:
- Structured. Structured listings are the type of listings you’ll find in a directory. They generally list the basics of your business: your NAPW.
- Unstructured. Unstructured listings are those you’ll find on sites that aren’t specifically directories, such as newspapers, blogs, etc. They often include opinions about your services or products.
Some citations are more valuable than others, because they are seen by more eyeballs. Undoubtedly, it’s more useful to have your citation appear prominently on a popular search engine than on a hobbyist’s blog that has limited readership. Consider these categories:
These search engines are the kings of citations; they receive data, rather than distribute it. Examples include Google and Bing.
These sites collect and validate data from a variety of reliable sources, such as government directories and utilities; they then distribute their listings to hundreds of other sites. Examples include Infogroup, Localeze, Factual and Acxiom.
These sites have high visibility with search engines and are trusted by people doing searches. They include Yelp, Facebook and the Yellowpages (YP), as well as local sites such as your city’s website or your professional organization’s site.
Lesser known business sites with some prominence on search engines include Merchant Circle and HotFrog.
Business directory sites that are more obscure, such as Local Database and Yellowise.
Sites that are very obscure, including IGotBiz.com
Search engines such as Google and Bing collect data about businesses and the accuracy of the information allows the search engine to trust its validity and contribute to the strength of individual business rankings during searches.
If you want your business to appear near the top of a search, you’ll want your local citations to be accurate and consistent.
Even though you may not have submitted your local citation directly to a directory or website, it’s up to you to make sure it is accurate and consistent with the information presented on other citation pages.
It is worth auditing your listings on top tier, primary, tier 1 and tier 2 sites to be sure that the information is accurate and consistent. Search all NAP variations; eliminate duplicates and correct those with mistakes.
At the end of your audit, you should have only one listing on each site and it should be accurate. Take control over how your business is presented online.
Creating a Great Citation
To create a citation that is informative, accurate and eye-catching, consider including the following information:
- NAPW. This should be obvious, but if not, confirm its existence.
- Business description. Even if you have one already, rewrite it to make it sing.
- High resolution photos. Pictures often do say 1,000 words, so make them good ones.
- Value proposition. Review this and revise it to make it unique.
- Locations. Include a list of the places your business operates.