In simple SEO terms a Local Citation is simply where your company is mentioned on other websites and places found on the Internet. Local citations are used heavily in helping you to rank in local search results.
An example of a citation could be a business directory such as Yell, Thompson Local or Brown Book where your company is mentioned explicitly by name. Local citations do not to include a link to your site. It could also be where your company is mentioned, cited, referenced or spoken about on other local websites.
What do they do?
Citations are used to help rank your Google+ Local map listing (this was formerly called Google Places Pages) by providing Google with credible sources of information about your business in order that Google can understand your business exists, is legitimate and that what you say about your business is true and accurate by allowing Google to corroborate what is said about your business from multiple sources.
Here we see local search results, characterised by the balloon icons and the address or location of the business appearing next to the listing.
How do they work?
If Google finds your company information on other local websites and citation directories it can be very confident that your business operates its services in these locations, and ensures Google are more likely to display your business listing when a person performs a search for the types of products or services you provide.
In order for you to take advantage of local citations it is essential that you already have a Google+ Local Business Page setup, claimed and optimised.
In traditional organic SEO, Google largely looks at, counts and credits hyperlinks from one website to another website in order to rank a website in the Google search results. Acquiring more relevant links in theory will improve an already ranking website further.
In regards to localised SEO, company mentions (Local Citations) as well as text hyperlinks help to rank a Google+ Local map listing in the search results, acquiring more of these citations will help you to improve the position of an already established Google+ Local Business or to outrank your competitors in the Google map packs.
What are the different sorts of citations?
- General business directories
- Industry, niche or sector specific directories (Trip Advisor, Connecting Dance)
- Local newspaper and press websites
- Local themed blogs – For example LeftLion would be great for local night life (bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants or venues)
- Prominent local websites (particularly if they’re related to your business niche)
- Social Profiles (Twitter, FourSquare, Facebook, YouTube)
Here’s an example of one of Hallam Internet’s citations from a prominent local Nottingham blog.
How can I find other local citation opportunities?
I would start by noting down the main general ones that come to mind when you think of local business directories, I’ve already mentioned 3 examples, however there are many more… Scoot, Qype, FreeIndex, HotFrog…
Begin by performing a Google search using the name of one of your competitors and look for the places that they’re also listed on.
If this all sounds too much like hard work then there are tools, both paid and free that will assist you in finding new citation opportunities.
The tools we recommend and use our self include:
What makes a great local citation?
A great local citation needs to be seen as credible and trustworthy by both people and Google. This is why established brands such as the Yellow Pages (Yell) or Thompson Local are great places to start as well as their primary purpose being to provide other people with a list of local businesses.
It’s important that when creating or claiming a business directory style citation that you also fill out 3 pieces of crucial information.
- Company name (This should ideally be your branded trading name)
- A local telephone number with a local area code
- The physical address of your business
(These 3 pieces of information must also be consistency present on your website as selectable HTML text and not a graphic)
If a local newspaper is covering a story regarding your business they are unlikely to ever display your company address or telephone number, in these instances it is enough to simply have your company clearly referenced by name in order for your listing to receive the value.
The information above really only applies to correctly creating and filling out both the general and industry specific directories.
So how do I win the citation game?
To win the local citation game you essentially need more citations than your competitor.
Whilst total numbers are important, so is the quality and accuracy of the information you enter. The more completed your general and niche citations are the more value they will create towards ranking your Google+ Local listing and improving your visibility and presence on the web overall.
Whilst business listing citations are relatively easy to obtain, the more difficult ones come from local or niche websites or local newspapers. You’ve obviously got to have something newsworthy for them to talk about and you have to get their attention in the first place.
What’s the catch?
The process of creating local citations can be both time consuming and tedious to do, and you ideally need to have an overall marketing strategy in place in order to get the attention of press journalists and newspapers.
However if you’re a local business that would hugely benefit from a local listing within the Google 7 pack then it’s something you want to get a handle on. Alternatively if you have the budget, you can outsource this work.
Remember Local SEO only helps to improve where your listing appears within the Google Maps Pack. (This is sometimes referred to as the 7 pack as this is the number of results Google will typically display, however there are other variations.)
If your business operates in a particularly niche or obscure area that you cannot suitably describe using a broad or general category then there may not be any point in investing in a Local SEO campaign to get you appearing in the Google Map Pack.
The maps are only triggered by specific keywords, and these keywords heavily favour local businesses or services.
For example: Estate Agents, Car Dealerships, Butchers, Cobblers, Car Garages, Driving Instructors and Schools.
It’s also important to understand that it is only specific phrases that trigger the maps to show in the results. If I perform a search for “Baker” the maps do not appear, however if I search for “Bakery” then the map listings are then displayed.