If you’re running a local business, a lot of your online marketing revolves around getting the essential information about your business in front of the people that you want to reach.

Often called a “NAP” for Name, Address, and Phone number, local citations normally feature the basic contact information for a business. This is the information you would typically find in a business listing like Yellowpages or on Yelp that could be relevant for someone looking for your type of business in their local area.

That’s where local citations can be so useful.

What are local citations and why are they important?

A local citation, or a business citation, is a reference to your business’s general contact information.

They can appear all around the web, including directory sites, websites, apps, social media platforms, maps, and anywhere else where users could be seeking information about local businesses.

Local citations not only help users find local companies but can also play a vital role in SEO, as they build credibility with search engines via off-page optimization. Search engine crawlers scan online citations to help validate the legitimacy of local businesses so that it can rank their websites for important location-based keywords in their niches.

When Google gives your business more authority that’s how you rank higher in local Google results.

What does a local citation look like?

They can look different depending on the website, but they will always have those three (NAP) basic pieces of information. However, it’s always helpful to include the website URL, a contact email, and business category.

There are three main types of local citations which should be used together to maximize the impact that they have on SEO rankings.

  • Local Business Data Platforms – the first tier of local citations is posting business data on the biggest and most important local business platforms that list local companies and their most relevant information. Some of the sites that should be posted on include Google My Business, Infogroup, and Yelp, but there are plenty others that you could consider.
  • Geographical or Industry Directories – next, you should post your local citations on local sites like your Chamber of Commerce or professional associations.
  • Various Websites – finally, to maximize the potential of citation building, you should post to blogs, websites, social media, maps, and anywhere else you deem relevant.

Citation styles can also differ. Let’s use Dave Burton, CPA, an accountant in NYC. Dave has set up local citations in two key ways: structured citations and unstructured citations.

Structured Citation

Structured citations are business citations listed on websites and directories that are built specifically for this purpose. This could be Yelp, Facebook, Google My Business, LinkedIn, Yellowpages.com, Local.com, and more.

As you can see both local citations have the name, address, and phone number (NAP). Dave’s Facebook listing also has his web address and business category – if these options are given, it’s best to take advantage of them.

Note: You can see that the name of the business is listed differently in the two listings. That’s okay as long as the majority of the information is consistent. Google is smart enough to piece together that Dave Burton, CPA and Burton, Dave, CPA are the same thing when the rest of the NAP is consistent.

Now let’s look at some unstructured citations.

Unstructured Citation

An unstructured citation is simply a mention of a business, with at least the NAP level of information, anywhere on the web that isn’t intended to be a structured business listing. This can be a new article, wikis, or a blog article from an SEO agency ?

Hey look, there’s an unstructured local citation now!

Dave Burton, CPA is one of the best accounting groups in NYC. They specialize in providing business and financial consulting to small and mid-size businesses and of course can help you with your taxes! You can reach them at (954) 961-1040, go visit them at 85 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004. Oh ya, Dave was also nominated for an Emmy, ask about it.

Even without linking to their webpage, this is still a valuable local citation that will help Google see Dave Burton, CPA as a more credible business, thus ranking higher in local searches.

Both structured and unstructured citations are a big help to getting your webpage ranked higher on Google. We’ve been helping Dave with his local citations for a few months now and have already seen him jump up to the top local search result already “NYC CPA”.

How do you build a local citation?

Local citation building is straightforward and something you’ve probably already begun for your business. Take Yelp for example. Most business in their first few weeks will take to listing themselves on Yelp, adding the correct address, phone number, website, and a logo or storefront photo to help customers find them.

But while this information is undoubtedly essential, nowadays it’s necessary to add more details so that users can gain a better understanding of what the business is about and can have more options for reaching it.

Some additional info that should be present includes a website address, a contact email, a short business description, geo-coordinates, working hours, business categories, and user-generated reviews that provide more insight into what the business is all about.

To start building your own citations first prioritize reaching out to those platforms used by customers most often, then move down the list we’ve provided below:

Priority 1:

  1. Google: Set up your Google My Business here (this will list you on Google Maps)
  2. Bing: Set up your Bing Places listing here
  3. Apple Maps: Email them here, share your NAP and ask them to set up your listing

Priority 2:

  1. Yelp
  2. Facebook
  3. Yellowpages.com
  4. Yahoo!
  5. Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Priority 3:

  1. ExpressUpdate / InfoGroup
  2. Acxiom
  3. Factual TDCs
  4. Neustar Localeze
  5. Dun & Bradstreet
  6. SuperPages

Priority 4:

  1. Foursquare
  2. Mapquest
  3. Manta
  4. Local.com

Priority 5:

  1. Look for more localized listings like local newspapers
  2. Find industry-specific business listing sites like martindale.com or psychologytoday.com/us/therapists

The list goes on and on. If you have any questions about setting up your local citations please reach out and we’ll be happy to help you with this further.

What makes an effective local citation?

Consistency in the data

Make sure your NAP is always the same – this helps Google identify and group us your local citations. Google is intelligent and can understand a few differences in a name (Acme Inc. vs Acme Incorporated) and it knows ‘st.’ means street. But if the address or phone numbers are different it will cause a problem, so be sure that information is identical.

Take advantage of all available fields

If the listing allows you to add a contact email address and webpage, absolutely add it. If it allows you to add a logo, picture, or industry absolutely add it. The richer the listing the most authoritative you will appear to Google and users alike.

The number of citations

Google likes to see consistency and recent activity. If you are constantly adding additional SEO citations to different websites Google will see that your business is still active and is more likely to rank you high in search results.

The quality of the listings

Above, we’ve listed out the priorities for building local citations. It is more important for you to claim and clean up your listings on the most authoritative and used sites first, then you can continue on with adding additional business citations.

Local Citations Summary

Local citation building plays a vital role in any comprehensive SEO strategy for local businesses.

But in order to achieve the best results, you must not only understand how to craft citations that are appealing to both prospective customers and the search engines but also know the most important sites to post them and how to effectively monitor their activity and implement changes.

Now that you know the basics of SEO citation building, it’s time to go try it out and measure the results. We at Sandbad know this process can feel like a lot of set up and upkeep, but that’s why we’re here to help you. We are passionate about SEO and growing our partners’ business. We would love to help you build your local footprint and track the growth from this work.