Why SEO Citations Are Important For Local Businesses

What do you know about SEO citations? They are important to your search engine rankings if you run a local business. 

Imagine your business at the top of Google, above your competitor. Impossible? Not at all. Learn how SEO citations can help push you higher.

Implementing an effective local SEO strategy for your business is smart marketing. Done right, it could land you in one of the coveted top 3 spots in Google local search results. Let’s get started!

What is a Local Citation?


An SEO citation is the mention of your business by name or location on the web. Citations include any combination of your business name, address, phone number, or website address. Think of them as the equivalent of backlinks for local search.

But, SEO citations do not need to link back to your website for them to be valuable. The mere mention of your business online is a signal to Google. The more you have, the more prominent your business will appear in search results.

Keep in mind that citations will not get you top rankings by themselves. But they are an essential piece of the search engine optimization puzzle. One that you have some control over by doing the work it takes to get them.

Types of SEO Citations

Citations come in two categories, one structured, and the other is not. Structured citations are presented in a consistent, orderly manner using a schema. Unstructured citations include some or all of the same information, just not in an orderly fashion.

Structured Citations

Structured citations are mentions located in a business directory. They often use structured markup that makes it easier for search engines to interpret the data correctly. These are usually websites where you can submit your business for a listing. Examples include:

  • Superpages
  • Yellow Pages
  • Yelp
  • MapQuest
  • Merchant Circle
  • Manta

They are often laid out in this order:

Company NameRating AveragePricing InfoServices or Products ProvidedAddressLink to MapPhone NumberLinked Website Address

Unstructured Citations

Unstructured citations are on blogs, wikis, and newspaper websites. Incorporated into PR pieces, they’re distributed to targeted outlets online.

These types of citations might contain the same information as a structured listing. But, as the name implies, created in an unstructured manner. They lack the schema formatting that structured citations have.

Why Citations Are Important For Local Businesses

Besides establishing trust and reputation, local SEO citations are essential in local ranking algorithms. Not only in Google search, but also in Bing. In fact, business citations are as crucial to local search ranking as on-page SEO.

They tell search engines that your business is trustworthy. At the same time, they give your business more exposure to customers. If a consumer is looking for the service or product that you offer, an excellent place to find you is on a business listing site.

Consider a scenario like this: I’m looking to buy a different car. I go to a website like Cars.com to look around. Searching online is much easier than driving around to all the car lots.

While I’m browsing Cars.com, I find your business and decide to buy a new car from you. If I hadn’t noticed you on that website, I might not have known you existed. Building business citations are not only good for search engine rankings, but they also produce sales and new customers.

Business Citation Ranking Variables

Now you know what local citations are and why you should add them to your to-do list. The next thing to think about is where to build them most effectively.

Online directories are the place to start. However, not all directory listings are equal. Local SEO experts agree that you should find relevant niche directories to add your listing to. Niche directories offer the highest amount of ranking authority for your citations.

Some of the ranking variables that Google looks at during the citation analysis are:

1. The relevance and authority of the site your citations are on.

Directories related to your business will lend more credibility, as will sites that have more domain authority. There are SEO browser extensions that make checking domain authority easy.

Check for local directories too. They are niche related in the sense that they are for the area where your business is. Denver.com is an example of a local directory.

Need a little help finding places to add a listing? Analyze your competitors to find where they’re building citations. Once you discover them, add your business too.

You can start looking by doing a simple search on Google using the following parameters:

Competitors name “competitors address” -site:competitorswebsiteaddress.com

This search will find mentions of your competitor and exclude any pages that are directly on their business website.

There are tools to do this kind of research online too. Search engine marketing companies often provide them for a fee.

2. The consistency of your business information (NAP).

When creating your citations, use the exact same information for each one. Complete citations containing a business name, address, and phone number are known as a NAP. Make sure all of the information matches; your website, your Google business page, and all SEO citations.

The slightest difference can mean not getting full credit for that citation. For example, using “Street” in a citation when you used the abbreviation “St.” on your website is problematic. In some cases, inconsistent citations become a negative ranking factor.

Also, look and see if your domain is in your Google Webmaster account with the www in front of it or not. Use the same URL version for all of your citations.

The central message here is to stay consistent across the board. If you find any inconsistencies, you’ll want to correct and update them as soon as you can.

If you change your business phone number or address, you can look forward to updating all the citations you have built as well. This is a lot of work. Consider hiring a company to do it for you or buy software that can handle the task rather than doing it all by hand.

3. The number of citations you have online.

In most things related to SEO, quality trumps quantity. In the case of citations, more is better. Try to get as many as you can on trustworthy sites.

Don’t get discouraged in the process, creating local SEO citations takes time and it can be tedious. But the return on investment will be worth it.

4. The number of reviews on the website where your citation is.

Some business directory websites offer the option to leave a review for your business. The more reviews you get at these sites, the higher you’ll rank. Some of them aggregate reviews from many places and show the total on their website.

Encourage your customers to leave a review for you by adding a review button to your website. You can link the button to any review location you wish. Another way to get more reviews is to send an email asking for them.

Google My Business (GMB)

Citations and local ranking factors work in conjunction with a Google business page. If you don’t already have one, set up your Google My Business page before working on building citations. Your business information needs to be precisely the same as your website.

Make sure to verify your business page listing and build it out completely. Business profile pages with more reviews get higher rankings than those without. Also, add your hours and several photos for an extra boost in local placement.

The Google Snack Pack

When you search a local keyword and see three results listed on the side of the results page, you are seeing the local “snack pack.” Local pack results include business information such as name, address, phone, hours, website URL, and a map. These prominent listings also have a clickable phone icon for mobile users.

They are prime spots on a search engine result page which generates direct leads. Because of this, they are a goal of many local businesses, for a good reason. Back on August 6, 2015, Google reduced the local map listings from seven to three, making them even more coveted.

Recently, Google started giving more prominence to businesses that are close to where the user is searching for. Nowadays, the distance from the user determines the order of each ranking in the maps section. Closer businesses appear first.

The Bottom Line

Local SEO Citations are just one part of local business ranking activities. Search engine optimization is an ongoing job that is never complete. To keep climbing the search engine results pages, maintain a regular schedule of these tasks:

  • Keep up with your standard on and off-page SEO.
  • Continue to create consistent citations at authority websites.
  • Update any citations that don’t match the information you have on your site.
  • Keep your Google My Business profile page updated with pictures and posts.
  • Work on getting more reviews and monitor them as they come in.
  • Local links are important too, so continue to add them.

If you have any questions about how to do SEO citations or need a helping hand, ​contact us. I’d be happy to help.

Thanks for reading.

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