In the world of marketing and advertising, one of the biggest keys to success is making the name of a company visible and accessible. In this age of technology and social media, it's easier than it has ever been for a business to be visible and easily found. But when a potential customer turns to Google or Bing or Yahoo to find a solution to his problem, how do you get your company to be the first name on the list? The answer: SEO citations.
What is a citation and why is it important?
Simply put, a citation is a mention on a website that lists a business name, address, and phone number. Search engines are constantly trolling the Internet looking for local information that matches the business listing on sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. These results are then ranked and the listings with the most citations win; they typically are ranked highest and appear at the top of the list.
A local citation is any online mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business. Citations can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms. Citations help Internet users to discover local businesses. It is important to remember that when creating citations, you should cover a variety of sites and not just the highest-ranking ones. For the year 2017, Google averaged a net share of 74.54% of all search traffic; even though Google enjoys the highest favorability, other sites such as Yahoo, Bing and Ask Jeeves should not be ignored.
Businesses ranking #1 on Google average around 86 citations, and those that come in 10th on a search list will average 75 citations. Just increasing your citations by 10% can make a difference between 10th place and 1st place on Google.
The most effective citations have three key pieces of information: name, address, and phone number (NAP). If a citation has all three of these, it is referred to as a "full citation." Partial citations are less trusted by the search engines that are ranking them for use. It's crucial to have all three key pieces of information accurate and in the same format across the board. Each citation a company has should be the same regardless of the platform. The goal is to have the correct information available in as many locations as possible. This conformity helps authenticate the citation during ranking. Citations can also include a link to your website. Full SEO citations like this are often found on online directories, like, Google, Yelp and Superpages. These citation sites offer a free and/or paid submission service which is one way of generating a valid local SEO citation listing for your business.
When a local search is performed, typically citation sites/online business directories dominate the first page of search results. Along with generalized citations sites, there are also many niche sites that are also important for companies with more specific fields of interest. For example, photography businesses tend to have fewer citations than a hotel or dining establishment. Consumers searching for a photographer, though, are more likely to find that business in a niche search rather than a generalized search. A search for a hotel would be a broad search for a place to stay, while searching for a photographer, for instance, could lead to a more specific search such as a photographer that specializes in weddings, engagements, birthdays portraits in studio or in the field.
You’ll sometimes also hear talk about a NAPW or a UNAP citation as well. The W refers to Website, and the U refers to URL. The website link you get from a citation offers you additional value, because it provides an extra data point that helps the search engines connect the citation to your business.
Although it is beneficial, a citation does not need to link back to your website to be valuable. The value in a citation is the mention of your business. Search engines like Google identify that a business was mentioned through the presence of NAP info, and credit is given for this mention. The more mentions of the business on the web, the more prominent a business appears to Google or Yelp, and this will help with local rankings. Links are valuable, though not crucial, and citations that include links are even better than citations that do not include links. This may sound like any and all citations have value, and in some respects, they do. But in the long run, the most valuable citations will be complete NAP citations or NAPW citations. The ranking system will take into consideration and value partial citations, but they won't be worth as much as the full citation in the eyes of the search engine’s ranking. You want to get listed on citation sites with high page authority, high domain authority and low spam score. Don’t list your website on low-quality citation sites; it could backfire and hurt your rankings.
Types of citations
Citations can be divided into two categories, structured or unstructured. A full SEO citation is often referred to as ‘structured citations'. The citations found online are almost always well-structured to include all the information (NAP). They’re called structured because of how the information is displayed but also because directories for citations are commonly grouped either by industry type or geographic area. Citation sites that list by city or location are considered ‘local SEO citations’. A ‘partially structured citation’ is often more casually presented and you’re likely to find these on blogs or in forum threads as the author mentions the business or product in passing and fails to list all the NAP information.
Partially structured citations can be less powerful for improving local SEO rankings. But even a partially structured SEO citation can be compelling for a search engine, especially if that citation is on a local website or an industry-specific, well-known site that regularly reviews businesses like Yelp. Getting your business listed on high-quality citation sites and online business directories can boost your credibility.
How does it work?
The consumer finds structured citation with (NAP) information on a business listing directory. When you see lists of citation sites, these are largely comprised of business listing directories where you can submit your business and get a citation. Example sites for structured citations include:
• MapQuest, and others.
Here’s an example of a structured citation for a restaurant on Yelp:
If we were to consider two businesses with matching SEO performance, but one had a higher number or quality of recognized, third-party citations, then this business would ultimately rank higher than the other. In the long run, it is a useful strategy when you’re trying to break into the top Google ranking for local SEO listings to have as many citations as possible.
Search engines like citation sites because they help confirm that a business is genuine. Citations with matching or identical formats for NAP tell the search engine that the address is correct, and its industry or service is valid. Seeing matching citations around the web for your business helps the search engines determine that you are a genuine business and a reliable provider in your area.
While it’s clear that consistent citations are a necessary foundation for local businesses, there’s little direction out there to help businesses know how many citations they need to compete in their industry, or which sites to get listed on.
That’s where OnYourMarketing steps in. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the task and underwhelmed by your ability to adequately accomplish it, you’re in luck. We can guide you through SEO citations and more. The initial consultation is free, so schedule a free consult now.