Citations: What are they and why should you use them?

640x960The Search Engine Optimization definition of a citation, or web reference, is a mention on a site that is relevant. The mention will include your business name, address and phone number (also known by the acronym NAP) on a completely separate yet contextually relevant webpage. An Example of a local search engine optimization citation is a business listing on a local chamber of commerce website.

If the citation doesn’t link to my site, why is it important? Major search engines use citations as a major component in their algorithms. Having citations on well-established sites like Yellowpages.com (PR: 7) add to the credibility of your business’ contact information and classification. Citations on reputable listing sites help search engines confirm business’ identity so they can be more confident about the validity of their results. Citations and links from strong sites will dramatically improve positioning on local search engine results pages.

Citations can be particularly influential in markets with less SEO competition. In these markets, some businesses may not even have a web site, so search engines rely on the information they can find on business listing sites.

Photo from: http://snapguide.com/guides/improve-your-google-local-search-rankings/

Citation Format

Your citation, also known as a mention or NAP, should be formatted the same way with the exact same spelling, and abbreviations whenever possible. Consistency is King!

Where Should You Source Citations?

The first step to building citations is optimizing your business profiles on the web’s largest directories. Even if you haven’t signed up to have your business listed, these sites may already have your information. If this is the case, make sure that your data is accurate. If not, it’s time to sign up. To understand which citations sources are most influential in your city reference Getlisted.org’s tool that lists the top citation sources for by city.
The major directories include:

  • Yelp
  • YellowPages
  • Superpages
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo
  • Cityseach
  • Dexknows
  • Manta

Creating and maintaining an accurate listing on these major directories is a wonderful place to start when building citations.

Photo from: http://paidcontent.org/2012/05/29/rip-yellow-pages-phone-books-re-shape-themselves-for-life-after-listings/

Outside the Box

Using common citation sites is of course important to citation building, but creating citations outside of the norm will have a greater effect on Google SERPs. No-follow sites are still good for your sites authority so don’t be afraid to use sites like Craigslist in your citation building plan. Adding these citation building techniques will help you build more high quality citations.

Realtor Sites

Local Real Estate and Realtor websites often include ultra-local information on a neighborhood level. This neighborhood information often includes places to eat, shop, photos and walk-ability scores. The Real Estate Agents are often looking for positive content to host on these pages which makes it a great place to submit a write up on your local business. If your business is in one of the neighborhoods listed on these sites you could get a listing as a local business.

Hold Regular Events Onsite or Sponsor an Off-Site Event

Hosting a monthly event at your business location will allow you to post your event and NAP to popular local news and Event sites or national event services like Eventbrite. Here in Denver, The Denver Westword Calendar takes submissions for local events.

Sponsoring an off-site event will provide similar benefits to holding your own. Most sponsors are allowed a business listing or write up on the event page. Sponsoring a race, library event or dating event is likely to lead to brand building and citation building.

Job Board Citations

Job sites often allow you to post for free and there are hundreds of job categories you can post in. Remember to leave a NAP citation at the bottom of your job listings on these sites. You can also post internship positions on school websites for similar NAP citation results.

Coupon Citation

Coupons are another great way to get your citation listed. Look for local coupon sites in your area and you’ll find dozens of places you can post your discounts (and citations). You could also reach out to local apartment complexes or senior housing facilities (depending on your clientele) with an online coupon that they could embed on their community’s website.

Using these local citation ideas will not only help build online citations it will also help your brand gain exposure locally. The options are only limited by your imagination.

Have you ever?

local-search-citation-934x244

Above are some of the “out of the box” ideas I’ve come up with or read about.
Tell us, have you used any of my citation building ideas? Will you? What’s your best/ most bizarre citation building method?

Photo from: http://www.vziom.com/local-search-optimization/tips-for-local-citation-building.html

Tools

We’ve gone trough some great methods of citation building for your SEO project but wow this seems like a lot of work. Yes, as with everything SEO, citation building takes both time and effort. There are however dozens if not hundreds of tools you can use for citation building. I’ll list some of the most popular/ useful methods and tools here.

Set up Google Alerts to notify you when your competitors have made a mistake in their online citations. Take the address of your competitor and abbreviate any word that can be abbreviated. Set up a Google Alert with the abbreviated address. Next take their phone number and note all the normal variations into separate Alerts. You can visit this Google Reader monthly and build your citations from this list.

Whitespark has a tool called local citation finder which finds all the citation site listings for the top ranking sites within a certain search phrase and allows you to organize which citations you have already built so you don’t waste time with duplicate entries. There are five plan options that range from Free to $100/month. Steve Wiideman has a great article on how to best use this citation tool.

Photo from: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/new-local-link-building-tool-citation-tool-finder/23332/

Utilizing Scrapebox for Local SEO

Scrapebox is an SEO tool used to build citations. This video by TheSEOPub�quickly explains how to use this tool for your SEO project.

Here are some of my favorite articles on Citation Building

Catching Up with your Local Competitors & Automating Citation Discovery
Here’s how to quickly catch up to your competitors and automate finding their new local citations from here on out.

Discovering Local Citation Opportunities
Rand discusses Local Citation and the best way to utilize the resources out there for local SEO.

Quick and Dirty Citation Finder for Local Business
Stoked SEO gives tips on beating your competitors

Denver’s Best Local SEO Company
Iniquitous gives smaller companies a fair shot in their industry through SEO, Social Media Management and Reputation Management.

Best U.S. Citation Sources by Category
Where to list your business by industry