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How to Build Online Citations for Your Local Business’ SEO

Published on Feb 1, 2023

Hannah Vicarage is a creative B2B content writer for Her mission is ‘to unjumble the jargon’ to help businesses make SEO work for them.

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 to get organic traffic. 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). You should build online citations for your local business to increase your prominence and optimize your chance of making it into Google’s local pack.

Image Credit: AdJuice

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:

Structured 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.

Unstructured Citations

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.

Image Credit: The Guardian

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.

Image Credit: AboutFeed

  • 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.  

General Directories Are Great For Citations

These sites are where most people start when looking for a service. Thus, they’re where you should start to build online citations. 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:

Local Directories Are Key

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. 

Industry-Specific Directories Are A Great Resource

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.

You Can Use Review Sites To Build Online Citations

Review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google My Business allow businesses to create a listing with their NAP information, which can be cited on other websites.

Having accurate and consistent citations on review sites can help boost a business’s local SEO. Search engines use these citations as a major ranking factor and a signal of a business’s legitimacy. Having a high number of citations from reputable sources can improve a business’s visibility with potential customers. Consumers often use review sites to research businesses, and having positive reviews on these sites can improve a business’s online reputation and trustworthiness.

Here is an example of a business with many positive reviews on Yelp, the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, Fl.

Build online citations on review sites

How to Build Prominence

“One of the three core pillars of ranking well in the Google Local pack is ‘prominence’, and a positive online reputation and positive mentions across the web define this.”

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. 

Image Credit: BusyBeta

Give your customers the opportunity to review your business on sites such as:

  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Yellow Pages
  • Trust Pilot
  • Others

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

Are there any Citation Building Services I Can Use?

If you’re still confused as to how to get started on getting citations, never fear. There are some services you can use to build citations monthly and get your business noticed online.

  • One example is BrightLocal:
    • BrightLocal is a company that provides local SEO tools to help businesses improve their online visibility in local search results. Their tools include a local citation tracker, which helps businesses find and monitor mentions of their NAP on various online directories and websites. They also offer a local SEO checkup tool, which provides a comprehensive report of a business’s local SEO performance, including citation consistency, online reviews, and local search ranking. Additionally, BrightLocal provides a tool for tracking local keyword rankings and a tool for monitoring and managing online reviews.
  • You could also consider Moz Local:
    • Moz Local is a local SEO tool offered by Moz, a company that provides a suite of SEO tools and resources. Moz Local helps businesses improve their online visibility in local search results by ensuring that their business information is consistent and accurate across various online directories and platforms.
    • Moz Local scans over a dozen directories and platforms to check for errors and inconsistencies in a business’s NAP information. It also allows businesses to view and claim their listings and to monitor and respond to customer reviews on various directories. Additionally, Moz Local can help businesses discover new citation opportunities and track their progress over time.

What If I Don’t Have Time To Build Online Citations?

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.

The Lowdown…

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.

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