How to Build Online Citations for Your Local Business’ SEO
Increasing your local business’s online visibility can seem like a tedious task, and you may be wondering where to even start. But with 86% of consumers relying on the internet to find a local business, it is more important than ever.
When a user searches for a local service, the search engine they use will judge your business’ relevance, proximity, and prominence to the searcher to place you on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Building citations for your local business increases your prominence and also optimizes your chance of making it into Google’s local pack.
The Basics: What are Citations?
Citations are simply mentions of your business on another website. Generally, they include your business NAP (name, address and phone number). Though desirable, they don’t have to include a backlink to your website.
Search engines use citations to rank your business against your local competition. The more citations you have, the higher up the list you’ll be.
There are two types of citations:
These are business mentions on sites that hold large listings of companies and are created for this purpose, e.g. business directories. This is the most direct way of viewing a company’s NAP.
Below is an example of a structured citation taken from the ever-popular business directory, Yelp. The user is able to clearly see the business’s NAP, URL link and map location.
These are business mentions on all other types of web properties, such as blogs, review sites, event listings and mentions in local media. Unstructured citations add to the prominence of your business.
The unstructured citation below features the Phoenix club in Brighton, UK. In a feature covering alternative city venues, the paper has added the club’s name, address, and a link back to their site. Not all unstructured citations contain links, but it’s a definite plus for the business when they do.
First Steps: Use Tools to Ensure Your Citations Are Strong
Before you can start to build citations, it is important to set up foundations by optimizing your details and profiles. Below is a list of essentials to make sure you get your citations right.
- Consistent NAP – Search engines use your NAP to verify your business. If any of the details are inconsistent or incomplete, this will negatively affect your ranking.
- Create a Google My Business Account – Very simple to do, but very necessary to rank in Google’s local business listings. The information you provide in your GMB account appears on Google Maps, Google Search, and Google+ so optimizing this account is crucial.
Here are some basic actions to take (and more detailed instructions available):
- Add a messaging service
- Include a Q&A section
- Add a booking feature button
- Post often and include images
- Accurate Business Description – The keywords you use in your business description are vital. It lets users and search engines know exactly what you do. Keep it succinct and accurate.
- Mobile-Friendly – Data from HubSpot Research revealed that 33% of respondents use their smartphone as their primary device for internet use. A website that is not optimized for mobile can increase the click-off rate for potential customers. Check out these web design programs that emphasize responsiveness on mobile devices.
Where Should I List My Business?
Now you have a strong foundation, it’s time to list your business… but where?
There are a few types of directories: general, local and industry-specific. Though they’re not all made equal, each has a role to play in boosting your local business SEO.
These sites are where most people start when looking for a service. They are typically search engines like Yahoo, Bing and Google My Business. While both B2C and B2B businesses benefit from these directories, there are also specific directories that certain industries find more useful.
The most important sites carry more weight, so prioritize adding your business to their listings. The top ten free listing sites for the USA (According to Woorank) are:
- Google My Business
- Yahoo Local
- Express Update
- Insider Pages
These sites are geo-specific, relating only to your area. The best way to find these sites is to do a general search engine search, as shown below, or to use a tool like GeoRank.
When a user conducts an industry- and location-specific search such as “Builders Birmingham,” business listings are most likely to appear at the top of the organic search list. As you can see below, the first page of SERP is dominated by sites promoting builders in their local area.
How to Build Prominence
“One of the three core pillars of ranking well in the Google Local pack is ‘prominence’, and this is defined by a positive online reputation and positive mentions across the web.”
Aside from NAP citations, a good reputation relies on good reviews. 92% of consumers now read online reviews vs. 88% in 2014. The table below shows just how important those review stars are to customers.
Give your customers the opportunity to review your business on sites such as:
- Yellow Pages
- Trust Pilot
Read here for a more detailed breakdown of how Google reviews affect your SEO.
Of course, there’s more to building prominence than reviews. Local link-building strategies (creating links to your site from other local websites) will also increase your local SEO. Local link-building works in much the same way as regular link-building for generalized (non-local) SEO.
To do it well, you need to:
- Build relationships with local businesses
- Contact websites for guest posting opportunities
- Sponsor local events
- Get featured or mentioned on related blogs
What If I Don’t Have Time?
Of course, time is a precious commodity and creating citations can be a lot of work. Luckily, there are companies like Pacific54 that specialize in creating and managing business citations.
Tools such as Location Site Finder can examine your competitors, list your business online and monitor growth for better local search rankings.
There was a time when local businesses didn’t need to worry too much about SEO, but it is not this time. Now, most local businesses are found via the SERPs and they need to be savvy enough to show up at the top. With a little knowledge and time, your business can do just that.
Have you boosted your local SERPs ranking? Let us know what you did in the comments below.