If you’re trying to bring customers into your store, local SEO is crucial. A great way start to tackling the beast is through citations and directory listings. In fact, citations are one of the most important factors for strong local SEO rankings.
In this blog, we’ll outline all the info you need to understand the basics of citations and give you actionable advice on how to get started.
Local SEO vs. National SEOIf you’re an SMB, you may find that competing at the local level is more practical and affordable than competing against larger brands nationally. Building out a large online “footprint” using directories and citations are a great way to get more exposure for your business at the local level and improve SEO.
I’ve found that for many local industries, even just doing the bare minimum in Local SEO puts you above your competitors – who often aren’t doing anything and likely don’t understand that they should be.
In my experience, working on building out citations/directory and increasing the number of positive online reviews (on sites like Google+ and Yelp) have been the easiest biggest mover in improving local rankings.
What’s the Difference Between a Citation and a Directory Listing?
A citation is any mention of your business online. There are generally two types of citation: full and partial – also called structured and unstructured, respectively.
A full citationincludes your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) and may also include your website.
A partial citationmight just include your business name, or your name and any combination of the other important NAP bits. An example might be an online news story posted about your company.
Here is a good article on what a citation is.A directory listing has one purpose in life: to be a full, or structured, citation for businesses. They’re basically the digital form of those heaping Yellow Pages you used to get on your doorstep. These days, they’re sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Merchant Circle and – you guessed it – YellowPages.com.
So a golden tip to keep in mind is that every directory listing is a citation, but not every citation is a directory listing.
Citation First Steps: Cleaning Up & Making More
There are two basic tenets to dominating this realm of local SEO: clean-up and make more.
Step 1: Clean Up Your Existing CitationsThis is pretty straight-forward. Find all mentions of your business online, and ensure the websites’ mentioning your business have profiles that are completely filled out and accurate.
According to “best practices” for cleaning up existing listings, your citations should contain the exact same info, every single place they show up. This is known as NAP consistency. Check out my post on NAP consistency for some tips on finding existing listings and cleaning them up.
Cleaning up existing citations can be mind-bogglingly tedious if you do it manually. Citations will often pop up without your knowledge, and if your business info ever changes, it can be a nightmare to update every citation. This snowballs for businesses with multiple locations.
You can do it all manually, use an automated listing management tool, or hire a pro to handle the headache for you–and I’ve recommended some services below for creating new citations and directories. For cleanup, however, I recommend checking out Whitespark’s Citation Audit and Cleanup Services.
Step 2: Make More CitationsFind more places to list your business. And just do it.
There are thousands of directory websites – from generic “everyone’s welcome” sites to niche directories catered specifically to your area or industry. As a general rule of thumb, start with the heavy-hitters like Google, Yelp, Yellow Pages, etc. – then move to more specific websites that relevant to your industry.
- I personally use Whitespark’s Citation Finder. I use their free version.
- Here is an awesome list of the top citation directories by city for nearly 100 US cities. If you live in one of these, consider starting here.
Don’t Have Time? Use These Services
I’ll be frank: I don’t recommend taking the manual route, as it can be time-consuming and overwhelming. And you have much better things to do with your scarce time, anyway.Luckily, the 21st century is quite self-aware. There are a myriad of tools, apps, and software to help you mobilize your citation troops. Take a look at a couple of my favorite automated listing management tools, WhiteSpark and Moz Local. I use both in tandem for all of my clients.
MozLocal – (moz.com/local)
Moz Local manages your citation consistency in the five major databases that send citation info to local U.S. search engines: Neustar Localeze, Infogroup, Factual, Axciom, and Foursquare. (Note that Foursquare isn’t traditional, but it does send location data to local search apps like Pinterest.)
It’s fairly simple, making it great for citation n00bs.
- Their easiest option allows you to import your location data in CSV format. It’ll distribute the data to the major five aggregators, then poke you via email with updates over time.
- Moz Local for Enterprise helps manage bulk listings, and offers some pretty nifty reporting tools.
I currently use MozLocal’s $99/year “Essential” plan for all of my clients
WhiteSpark – (whitespark.ca)
Although you can DIY and use Whitespark’s citation finder, they do offer citation building as a service to save you time. Rather than using an automated system, citations are done manually by a real person. Pretty cool. I think this manual submission process is fairly important for finding relevant niche listing sites and for ensuring listing sites with unique formats and requirements are filled out correctly.Unlike services like MozLocal or Yext, Whitespark is a one-time, upfront cost. You pay $4-5/citation. And you don’t risk your listings going away if you don’t maintain a subscription (see Yext).
I typically invest about $200-300 into this citation building service. Then throw a couple more hundred dollars at it until it’s maxed out (typically a business will max out around 125 citations).
Again, for larger, multi-location businesses, they have an enterprise solution to reduce some of the headache.