A question that many businesses ask; is how to rank locally for their chosen search terms. Google has over 250 ranking factors in its sophisticated algorithm, some better known than others. Getting citations for your business online is a part of local search strategy and is identified as being a key ranking factor. However remember that doing citations alone will not cover all of the factors that need to be addressed in your local strategy.
What is a citation?
A citation, in business terms, is a mention or a listing of a business’s name, address and phone number (NAP information). For example, a business may be listed on yell.com, there does not have to be a link back to the business website for the citation to be noticed by the major search engines.
What a citation does for a business is signal to Google that the business is legitimate – ‘they are who they say they are’! The more quality citations a business has, the more ‘votes’ of confidence a business has from a search engine’s perspective. It is important to emphasise the word ‘quality’ here; citations gained from well-established portals which are indexed well, will give a business a ranking edge over a competitor if other ranking factors are equal.
Where do I find the best places to list my business?
There are a number of tools that will find citations for your business by looking at keywords and competitors citations. Whitespark is an example of a good one, however, it does cost a monthly fee so may not be feasible or cost affective for an individual company to use.
So if you are going to look manually, here are some pointers:
- Big directories like Yell, Yelp, 118, 192, Scoot etc will be worth listing your business in but don’t feel you need to pay for an advanced listing, a basic one for free is fine.
- Look for local business directories that have a decent DA (domain authority). Directories like this that are maintained by humans will be more trusted than automated ones and less likely to be spammed.
- Relevant directories to your sector are also worth having. For example if you are a wedding supplier, find wedding directories.
- Look for local blogs by searching ‘[town] blog’.
Consistency is Key
As with any online strategy, it is best to gather your information, plan the approach and then consistently implement the plan. These steps will help you achieve this:
- Create a template of your business information and firstly make sure that it is absolutely consistent on your website and your Google+ pages.
- Identify any other existing citations for your business and create a spreadsheet to list them all. It is very important that you check thoroughly that they are all correct. For example if your business changed address or phone number in previous years, you will need to update any incorrect listings so as not to muddy the waters of consistency. Discrepancies in information will damage your online presence.
- Identify the new websites/portals that you want to list your business on and add them to your master spreadsheet. Keeping all this information in one place means that you have a central point of reference to store the logins and you can update it when listings become live.
- Start to list your business on these new sites, being careful to look out for verification emails that may require action to validate your listing.
- Don’t rush to list yourself in hundreds in just one day, this will look unnatural to search engines.
- If there is the opportunity on some of the sites to provide information about your business, make sure you change it slightly each time, you do not want to have exactly the same text on every single website where your business is described.
- Be very careful if you decide to engage another company to do your citations for you – automated directory listings can very easily go wrong as information is always better entered manually and checked by a human. Aside from that, being submitted to thousands in one day does not look natural!
Check out your Competition
Looking at where your competitors are listing their businesses online will also give you valuable information, particularly if they rank more highly than you. Again, if you use a tool like Whitespark, this can be a very quick and easy task. But if you need to do it manually here is how:
- Put your competitors NAP information into Google.
- Visit every result, check if your business is already there by cross referencing on your spreadsheet, if not then add your business where you can.
- Some of these sites may now be outdated or closed so you can’t add your listing. Equally, some may be paid for listings in which case, carefully assess the sites quality by looking at the content and the DA.
Some citation sources have a review system where customers can review your services, be sure to utilise this and encourage clients to review you. As a rule of thumb, be sure to get at least 10 reviews on your Google business page. Then as many as you can on a local or relevant portal. For example, if you have a restaurant, you need to have many reviews on a food specific review system.
Publicise an Event
If your business is running an event, seminar or conference, be sure to use your NAP across any other website that you advertise the event. For example, Eventbrite can act as a very powerful citation source for your business.
Sponsor a local Charity
Aside from the obvious brand awareness and feel good factor, a local charity can provide a very good, strong, local citation source for your business. If you partner up with them on press releases you will gain even more traction with online mentions if news websites pick it up.
Do you need help with Citations or Local Search Rankings?
If all this seems a little laborious and you would like some help, whether it is advice or implementation, give one of our friendly team a call on 01285 50 55 50 and we can help you devise a plan tailored to market your business effectively in your local area.