How To Use Citations to Grow Your Online Business Presence and Search Rankings
What is a citation? A citation is simply a mention of your business on a webpage, usually with your address and other contact information. Citations are often listed in directories but you’ll find them other places as well – the website for your local Chamber of Commerce for example. Some of the best known directories are Yelp! (yelp.com) and Yellow Pages (yp.com). In most cases you’ll need to request each citation individually by submitting your information to the directory or hire an agency to do it for you.
Citations are a key component in search engine algorithms. The more citations your business has from reliable sources, the more confident the search engines are that the information about your business is correct. This helps increase your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). Darren Shaw from Whitespark.ca noted that, “Citation related factors make up 25% of the top twenty factors in David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors.”
Citations also help customers who want to visit your business in person. Customers search online to find:
- contact information
- hours of operation
- driving directions
- ratings and reviews
- coupons and special offers
Correct citations will make all of this information easier to find. An article on Shopify.ca noted just how important citations are, quoting a recent study that found that “78% of local searches on mobile and 61% of local searches on laptops result in offline purchases.”
Getting Started With Citations
The most important thing to remember as you start building your citations is to make sure your business name, address and phone number appear exactly the same way in every listing. Even a tiny change (for example writing Main Street vs Main St.) is enough for Google to see you as two separate businesses which can lower your ranking. An easy way to keep your information consistent is create a document with all of your information in it and copy and paste from it each time you submit a listing.
Create your Google My Business page first. Unless your business is brand new, it’s probably already listed in Google. Go to https://www.google.com/business/ to claim the existing listing rather than creating a brand new listing from scratch. Google currently requires confirmation through a postcard mailed to your physical address so it can take up to two weeks to get your page confirmed. Once your Google listing is confirmed make sure your name, address and phone number appear on every page of your site exactly the same way they are displayed on your Google page.
Each time you create a listing, you’ll be asked to choose which categories the business falls into. Choose your categories carefully. It can be tempting to go as broad as possible to try and capture the largest audience, but you’ll do better being specific. Keyword research is a great way to discover the words people use to search for businesses like yours.
There are literally thousands of places where you can request a citation. Moz.com has a great list of five places to start:
- Data Aggregators
- Local Search Engines
- Local Blogs
- Locally-focussed Directories
- Industry-focussed Directories or Blogs
Another way to find great citations is to look up the competition. Search for other companies in your line of work and see where they are listed.
Be patient. Directories often require a review before a listing goes live and it can take 6-8 weeks to confirm a new citation. A slow and steady approach often works best. If you actively pursue five citations a month, you’ll have 60 in a year. Keep track of your submissions so you don’t waste time resubmitting to a listing you’ve already visited.