As a small business owner, you need potential customers to find your products and services online. One of the easiest ways for people to find your site is through online citations listed in online directories.
These listings provide critical information for customers to contact your business; however, do they still play a role in search engine rankings? In this article, you’ll learn why citations are still important and how they can help your business.
What are Citations?
Citations are online mentions that offer contact information about companies. These listings may appear in business directories, websites, social media platforms, and apps. They may include basics like name, address, phone number (NAP). These mentions may also include your business hours and contact information. Partial citations are those that have incomplete NAP.
For instance, online listings displaying NAP information about a business are citations. Experts separate them into two types: structured and unstructured.
- Structured Citations: These mentions are contact information listed informal directories. Businesses can submit a NAP and information about their business hours and company history.
- Unstructured Citations: These listings mention your business name, address, phone number on a site, other than a company, listing directories. They can contain link-based mentions in news sites, blog posts, Wikipedia, and other places.
SEO experts at Moz say that these citations can help local users find your business online. Accurate information can also help your company rank accurately on Google Maps.
Unstructured Citations vs. Backlinks
Unstructured citations and backlinks can both offer links back to your websites. Although they share several similarities, there are slight differences between them.
Backlinks are only links to your company’s domain. They don’t include location-based information, such as your company’s name, address, and phone number. Citations always contain location-based NAP information, which is the primary reason they improve your local SEO.
Your business can monitor new citations and backlinks by signing up for Google Alerts. The site will automatically notify your company whenever someone mentions it on the web.
Are Citations Still Important?
Many businesses use citation management services, but do these mentions affect search engine results rankings? SEO professionals say yes, they have an impact, although these vital mentions don’t have as huge of an impact as they once did.
These mentions won’t give you a competitive advantage over business rivals as it did a decade ago. It doesn’t mean citations are no longer essential. Experts say this process is a foundational component of Local SEO.
Citation building is an essential practice that will sustain your rankings throughout time. Google, Bing, and other search engines use information from citations to rank your business in local results pages. Whenever sites mention your business, these search engines log this activity in their records. Google, for instance, considers the following metrics for citations:
- The number of business citations you have
- Whether your listed information is accurate and consistent
- The quality of domains that list your citations
There are several ways Google selects the top rankings for its local results. These three things include:
- Relevance to users’ searches
- Distance from users
Your business must maintain consistent citations across platforms to ensure that your information aligns with Google’s algorithms. Under some circumstances, search engines can weigh these factors differently depending on a user’s search query.
For instance, the distance of a book retailer may not be a huge consideration when a person searches for stores that carry the latest bestseller. They can order these materials online and have them shipped to their home. They only want results that apply to their search results. In a second example, a person may consider distance as a significant factor when they look for local restaurants serving fresh Ramen bowls in their local area.
Consistency and Quality Matter More than the Quantity of Citations
During a Knowledge Panel, Google discussed how inconsistencies between your Google My Business (GMB) listing and social media pages may affect the chances of your links appearing in local search queries. Consistency is critical for the search engine. When you don’t provide the same NAP across platforms, it confuses users and search engine bots.
Inconsistent NAP information doesn’t allow Google’s algorithm to deliver consistent results. When this occurs, it causes customers to have a terrible experience. For instance, incorrect spellings of your business name can cause difficulties for search engines. This issue also affects rankings.
Other issues that can affect search engine rankings are duplicate listings. These occur when owners decide to open new directory pages because of poor reviews, inaccurate data, or lost login information. The new pages have slightly different data than the first one. Google can’t tell which one is accurate, so
When small businesses have duplicate listings with inaccurate data on the same directory, it can negatively affect their rankings. Google will be less likely to include your data in its search engine results.
How Many Citations Do Businesses Need?
Citations alone won’t boost your rankings, but they can make a difference. They still offer immeasurable value to local businesses and marketing agencies. Researchers have discovered a correlation between top-ranking businesses in search results pages and the number of citations they carry.
Most businesses should have at least 30 to 50 citations to improve their local SEO rankings. A local data aggregator can help you submit to multiple directories.
Bright Local conducted an SEO Citations Study, which examined over 120,000 businesses. Companies that scored in the top ten of search results had an average of 81 citations each. The highest-ranking businesses carried the most citations. For instance, those companies that scored the number-one spot in their local pack had an average of 86 citations, while those that ranked 10th had 75.
Another thing small business owners should consider is how relevant each directory is for their listings. Companies are unique. They serve different purposes and offer a range of products and services to their customers. So, entrepreneurs must remember that directories that work well for another company may not be relevant for your business. For instance, an electrician wouldn’t use the sign up for the same citation directories as a coffee shop owner. A clothing retail wouldn’t use identical directories as a plumbing service. You can use this site to find one that’s right for you.
You don’t need to submit citations to every directory. Only the largest directories and the ones relevant for your business. Your business can work with a professional SEO service, like Dialed In Web, to create a custom citation building plan that fits your business. It will provide your business with a better rate of investment (ROI). These services also help your company appear in listings relevant to your industry.
What Directories Should I Consider?
The largest directories are still essential for search engine rankings, but the ones that matter the most are ones relevant to the industry. These are sites that customers will use when searching for your products and services.
The directories you select will depend on your business sector. For instance, if you’re in real estate developer, consider using Realtor.com or Zillow’s website. If you run a daycare center, you can consider sites like Care.com.
You can search through BrightLocal’s Top Local Citations by Business Category for sites that are relevant for your business or industry.
Will Data Aggregator Services Increase My Citations?
Data aggregators are solutions that save time by supply business information en masse to third-party directories, review sites, and mobile apps. Even though data aggregators are a convenient option that can increase the number of business citations, it isn’t a catch-all solution.
There are several reasons businesses shouldn’t completely rely on data aggregators as their sole submission method. First, these programs don’t always identify erroneous information in directory listings. They cannot reduce the number of inconsistent citations across sites.
For instance, directories have different requirements. Some forbid data aggregators to submit information. Others require manual submissions before they will change the information. Businesses will end up with inconsistent data across different directories if this issue occurs.
Additionally, these programs can’t validate whether you are the verified business owner on certain directories. Having correct citations matters more than the quantity of citations. To correct erroneous citations, use a data aggregator and a skilled SEO expert to correct them manually.
Are you a small business owner who needs to get your citations listed on directory sites to improve rankings? If so, we understand that you are busy handling the day-to-day operations of your company. You can hire Dialed In Web’s professional SEO team to develop a citation plan that’s right for your business. For details, contact us today.