What are local citations and why you need your business listed on citation sites

Local citation sites (also known as local business listings) are a necessity when it comes increasing your rankings in local search results. Local online directions pick up where old-timey phone books left off. The vast majority of customers now go online to find local businesses to patronize. Whether they’re looking for a dentist or a grocery store that carries organic local produce, customers look to local business listings to help them sort through their options.

What are local citation sites?

Local citation sites are business listings, giving NAP (name, address, phone number) and usually other information as well, such as reviews from patrons. Structured listings have the information marked up make it easier for search engines to crawl the site. You’ve probably heard of them – sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Merchantcircle, and Google My Business, just to name a few, are increasingly used as resources by customers.

There are also unstructured sites, such as local government listings, chamber of commerce websites, professional and industry associations, Better Business Bureau listings, and so on. These types of listings usually have a lot of authority, but can be more difficult to access than Yelp. Depending on your niche, you should definitely check your listings with any professional associations to which you belong, as these are highly relevant and good for your image.

Why do I need to be listed?

Even if the benefits of such listings aren’t immediately obvious, links from local business listings (at least high-quality ones) are important for your search rankings, giving you credibility with Google and customers alike. You get those all-important back links from the citation sites to your own website (crucial for your SEO), and show potential customers that you aren’t some fly-by-night company that no-one’s ever heard of.

You might be wondering who goes to Merchantcircle to search for local businesses when Google is right there, but local citation sites make an effort to get themselves ranked on the search results. When I searched for “best physical therapy Adelaide”, six of the top ten results came from local citation sites. Depending on your niche and area, all of the top results might be citation sites.

How do I go about getting my listings?

You have two basic choices: go through all the sites manually and claim your listing, or use an aggregator. Doing them manually can be expensive and time-consuming, but you can make sure that everything’s done right, and the listings go up fairly quickly, often immediately or within 24 hours. Aggregators can do mass uploads of information, but have problems with errors and can take up to 4 weeks to show a difference. You also have to pay a fee, so they’re not cheap either.

I recommend doing everything manually. If you don’t have time to do it all yourself, our One-Key Service can take all the work off your shoulders for a flat fee.

What type of information should be listed?

One of the most important concerns when you’re checking your listings is to make sure all the information – especially your NAP – is consistent across all websites. Look at how Google lists it in your Google My Business and use that. For instance, if your address is listed as: “451 North 10th Street”, as much as possible all the listings for your business should follow that exact format. Some websites have their own formats, and may list it as “451 N. 10th St.” (for example), but do the best you can. If it’s listed “451 North Tenth Street” it may come across as a completely different address.

The second most important thing to do is get rid of or merge duplicate listings. These hurt your credibility with Google and customers. People will wonder which listing is the correct one. If it’s a review site, you’ll split your reviews between listings, and you want to have the most and freshest reviews possible.

That said, you should make sure that the following information is included in your listing if at all possible:

  • A link back to your company website
  • Your correct category
    • The wrong category will hurt SEO and confuse customers
  • Opening hours
  • Description
  • List of products or services
  • Photos
    • Your logo is important for brand recognition
    • Photos of your storefront, products, staff members, happy customers
  • Payment details
    • What credit cards you accept
    • Whether you accept reservations or advance bookings

Local business listings are one of the most important keys to improving SEO and reaching out to local customers. It might take a little bit of work, but it’s worth it.

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