A citation is a reference to your business online. What does this mean? Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) is your citation. Search engines use your NAP to determine the authority of your business online. These citations, however, do not need to be linked to your website to count. They just need to be accurate and consistent wherever they are listed. Not interesting enough to care? What if you lost nearly 75 percent of your potential customers because your business citation listings online were inaccurate, incorrect, or non-existent? A mere 20 percent of those customers raise your profits by quite a bit. Consider your online citation accuracy, and how you can update it.
What Is A Citation?
Look out for partial citations across business listing directories. These are incomplete NAP occurrences, which means only some of your business information is shown, not all of it. What’s most important is the big three: name, address, and phone number. If any one of these are missing from a listing, it’s considered partial. This reduces your business’s authority online with search engines. Although it is partial, it’s better than nothing. However, you’d be better off updating this to include as much accurate information as possible about your business.
As a side note, it doesn’t matter how your information is listed as long as it’s present on the directory. It can be horizontally or vertically positioned; aligned left, right, or center; it can even be separated into a few lines. It does, however, need to be in plain text, so search engine bots can crawl and identify it.
Here’s an example of a full citation:
MDPM Consulting, 1725 E Southlake, Blvd, Suite 100, Southlake, Tx, 76092, (972) 781-8861.
Local SEO Strategy
NAP is a crucial piece of any local SEO strategy. For your citation to make any kind of impact, it needs to be accurate and consistent across as many business listing sites as possible. Although there are hundreds out there, choose the ones that give you the most authority according to search engines. There are tools to help you determine this type of information, which will be shared a little later in the post.
The best place to start to find your citation is your website and your Google + Business Page. The NAP on these two need to be an exact match. If they are not, pick one of the two and make the other match it. We suggest going with the Google + NAP since it is a higher authority than your website (even though you can update either one).
Once you have your citation, you’ll need to identify any listing directories that have incorrect or incomplete information. Avoid simple inconsistencies such as appreciations (Ltd., Llc., suite, #, St., Lane), address (suite number, floor, building), and phone number (parenthesis, spaces, dashes, etc). All of this information needs to be 100 percent accurate across any listing directories your citation is on. This ensures that search engines give your business the highest amount of online authority.
Why Are Citations Important?
In general, search engines rank businesses higher in local results based on the prevalence and accuracy of their NAP. This revolves around the concept that if a business is popular, and technically accurate, it should rank higher than others that are not as popular/accurate–essentially awarding higher results to businesses that offer their customers the best possible experience.
Understand that this isn’t all that matters in local results, but it is one of the main factors. Alongside links and reviews, citation listings are high up on the food chain when it comes to local SEO.
Search engines also verify their own business listings for accuracy, and it’s the search engine’s endeavor to provide users with the most relevant and accurate information. This means that if your information is inconsistent, inaccurate, or incomplete, search engines will be less inclined to show your information, unless it is 100 percent relevant to the user’s query. Search engines aim to provide the most relevant and reliable information/experience to their users. Therefore, your citation listings help search engines and users, too, not just your business.
A secondary way citation listings help your business and the user is that the more places your correct information is listed, the more likely your customers are to find your business.
Consider a general search for teeth whitening. Your business doesn’t show up in the local search results. You may have lost that user due to inaccurate information, which is 100 percent in your control. Why would you not consider keeping tabs on your business listings like you do your brick and mortar location?
The more often a user finds your information, whether they decide to choose your services or not, the more likely they’ll consider you the next time. The goal with online business is to build trust and provide a better experience than your competitors. Your citation listings help you develop a positive reputation.
Are there other places to get citations?
The short answer: Yes. Directories, whether local or industry specific, are not the only place users can find your citation. Consider blogs, social media, forums, etc., these are all places your NAP could potentially be found. So even if you correct 100 percent of your directory listings, you still need to ensure that anywhere you have a social presence, your NAP is the same as your other listings.
How to find your current listings and update them
There are a collection of tools that can help you find your online citation listings. The reason these tools exist is because of the importance these listings have on your local results, which means your local SEO strategy must include citation building as a mandatory focus. Without it, your business can offer brilliant content and inspiring social engagement, but it can’t be contacted via phone, email, or in person, because your information is inaccurate.
Search Engine Watch published an article stating that
Search Engine Watch published the article “73% Lose Trust in Brands Due to Inaccurate Local Business Listings.” What does 73 percent of your customers look like to you in revenue? How much are you losing simply because your name, address, and phone number are partial, incorrect, or non-existent? If you’re a dentist, that’s quite a bit of profit heading to a competitor who has more accurate information.
Are you ready to update your business citation listings online? Bright Local’s Citation Burst tool has been the best MDPM Consulting has used since we started working with our clients to clean up their citation listings.
However, once you work to clean up your citations, the work isn’t over. Some data aggregates and directories take a while to update, or they don’t respond the first time round, which means updating your listings is an ongoing project.
Rather than spend your valuable time updating your NAP over the next few months, why not let the professionals do it?
Whether your citation listings are partial, inaccurate, incorrect, or non-existent, you need to update them. The ultimate goal is to reach 100 percent accuracy across all of your citation listings. However, with this lofty goal, a 75 percent accuracy mark is above average due to directories and aggregates not playing nice with others. You could be losing nearly 75 percent of your potential customers on your NAP alone. Consider the gains in revenue if you could bring in 20, 30, or 40 percent of those customers? What does your quarterly profit report show with a significant customer increase? It’s probably a positive result.