When devising a local SEO strategy for your business, a good initial step to take is to boost your citations.
We have previously provided a detailed explanation of what citations are, and how they work. Essentially, a citation is a mention of your business by any other site on the internet. Through providing Google with credible sources of information about your business, citations play a huge role in determining how well your site will rank in local search results.
According to a Moz.com report, citations account for 16% of the total local optimisation factors that determine how well your business will rank.
Given that a citation is simply a mention of your business, it can appear in numerous places, such as blogs, forum posts, social media platforms, and government sites. But if you’re just starting out at the link building and local SEO game, a great first step to increasing your number of citations is through working to get your business listed on directories.
Now Wait Just A Minute – I Thought Directories Were Bad
You’re right: directories have got a lot of bad press in recent years, and with good reason.
For a small fee, it used to be possible to instantly secure hundreds – even thousands – of links to your business. Many of these links came from low quality directories that existed for no reason beyond hosting a huge number of links. They were not intended to be used like regular directories, as a point of reference for individuals seeking certain businesses and services. It was all about the links.
As Google strive to ensure that only useful and relevant sites appear in their results, they soon started to penalise links from these useless, spammy directories. So whilst you shouldn’t avoid directories outright when creating citations, you should avoid low quality directories.
It’s hard to define what makes for a low quality directory; but I’ve noticed that seasoned link builders can, at a glance, judge the relative quality of a directory. It becomes instinctive.
It is much easier, then, to define what makes for a good directory. Where can you list your business without worrying about Google penalties?
What Makes For A Good Directory?
You’ve found a directory on which you want to list your business. Before you do so, ask yourself two questions:
1. Is the directory relevant to my business?
2. Is the directory curated? There are plenty of sector or industry specific businesses out there. Here’s one for gardeners. Are you a gardener? Then by all means, list your business there. Do you, on the other hand, manufacture ironing board covers? Then don’t list your business there.
It’s an obvious example, but the point stands. Citations, like inbound links, are more valuable when they come from sites (or directories) that are relevant to your business.
Most directories, though, are not at all industry specific. They’re a lot more all-encompassing, so it’s harder to determine whether they are relevant to your business.
In this case, you need to seek out curated directories. Is it possible to list your business yourself, in the space of five minutes, no questions asked? If so, this directory is probably best avoided. If, on the other hand, it’s a lengthier process to add your business – including the required approval of a moderator or, even better, a telephone call to your business headquarters – then good news! You’ve likely found yourself a good source for a citation.
Should I Pay For Directory Listings?
This is a thorny issue. Some directories might request a cash payment before they list your business. Google penalises paid links, so surely they also penalise paid directory listings? Well, they do. But not all the time. In this video, Google’s head of spam, Matt Cutts, explains how they deal with paid directories:
Once again, it all boils down to whether or not the directory is curated.
If your listing is uploaded as soon as the directory receives a payment, it looks as though Google might penalise you for the link. If, however, the payment is just a small part of the overall approval service, then it seems you have the approval of Matt Cutts himself to proceed.
It makes sense. Yahoo has one of the biggest and most authoritative directories in existence, and they require a payment before they’ll list your business.
Relevant, curated directories provide an invaluable means for boosting your number of citations in the early days of a local SEO campaign.
We can also heartily recommend Bright Local, a fabulous online tool that enables you to keep track of your existing citations whilst highlighting new citation opportunities. It even looks at industry specific directories!