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Local Citations & Your Business

Table of Contents

    WHY LOCAL CITATIONS ARE IMPORTANT FOR YOUR BUSINESS

    Local citations are mentions of your business name, address or phone number (also referred to as NAP) online. They play a significant role in increasing your online visibility as Google and other search engines use them when evaluating the authority and trustworthiness of your business. Citations can be structured, meaning that they appear in dedicated business listing directories or unstructured, which are citations found in locations such as external newspaper or magazine websites, blogs, social media and others.

    Based on the condition of your business information across the web, search engines decide whether your business is relevant and accurate enough to be shown to users who search online for local businesses like yours. Furthermore, SERPs (search engine results pages) dedicate a large portion of their space to citations listed in business directory listings, meaning that users searching online are more likely to find your business through such listings. Having a stable and consistent citation profile across sources will ultimately award your business with higher local rankings and more customers.

    MOST IMPORTANT CITATION SOURCES (U.S. ONLY)

    There is an extensive list of available business citation sources where local citations can appear. However, there are a few main source groups in which your business data can be stored.

    DATA AGGREGATORS

    There are four major data aggregators in the USA (Acxiom, Factual, Neustar/Localeze, and Express Update/Infogroup) which are regarded as the primary data companies.

    These data providers gather business information from a broad number of sources including government sources, phone companies, utility firms and others. The data collected is verified and mutually exchanged between data sources, forming a data ecosystem.

    SOCIAL AND SEARCH ENGINE PLATFORMS

    Major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! have created their own business listing centers. Claiming your business listings and managing your business information within these centers directly influences your local rankings as it ensures search engines that your business is active and relevant to users’ local searches.

    Google My Business, Bing Places and Yahoo Local allow local businesses to provide contact details, working hours, media and reviews within their listings, increasing chances of connecting with locals.

    Apple Maps, Apple’s mobile mapping information, is another source which, if used correctly, can further boost your online visibility.

    Other places where your business information can appear and should be updated are social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Social media business profiles are a perfect asset for improving your Local SEO presence and visibility in front of prospective clients as they are another opportunity to list your business name, address, phone number and additional relevant information.

    TOP BUSINESS DIRECTORIES

    Online business directories are websites that collect and list business information within categories such as industry, size, location or business activity.

    We have curated a list of the most important business listing directories in the U.S. based on our experience. Existing business directories are not limited to the ones included and may vary depending on business specifications including industry, size, location or other factors describing a business.

    Generic Business Directories 

    These are directories that combine multiple niche listings on an international or national level.

    Local Directories
    Directories created for business listings specific to your geographic location. These directories can be characterized by state level, city level, even community level (Business Directory New YorkBeaumont Enterprise).

    Niche Directories 
    Directories created specifically for a given industry niche (automotive, dentists). Examples of niche directories  include Autotrader or Dr.Oogle.

    Your business information is regularly exchanged between these sources which contribute to the interconnected Data Ecosystem. If the information is inconsistent, your business may be evaluated as inactive or irrelevant for customers.

    CITATION INCONSISTENCY HARMS

    Your citations are inconsistent when your business information – name, address or phone number (NAP) appears in diverse ways across the web. Even the slightest discrepancies can negatively impact your business and could lead to the following:

    Poor Online Visibility

    Citation inconsistency can damage your rankings as competitors with accurate and consistent data might outrank you, leaving your online visibility in the shadows.

    Confusion Among Search Engines

    Finding variations of your NAP may mislead search engines into indexing your business as separate business entities. They could even create duplicate local pages of your business that may end up competing with each other.

    Confusion Among Customers

    Customers looking for your business may end up finding outdated or irrelevant contact information, leading to negative impacts on your business.

    Citation inconsistency is often created unintentionally and can occur because of a number of reasons:

    • You have changed your business name
    • You have changed your physical location
    • You have changed your local phone number
    • You have used a tracking phone number for listings
    • You have used a toll-free number instead of a local number
    • Your business name and trade name were different
    • The data aggregators have collected incorrect or outdated information about your business
    • Your citation campaign has not been executed with knowledge of the need to maintain NAP consistency

    Inconsistency, along with other factors, can often result in duplicate citations.
    Duplicates occur when more than one listing for a single physical location is present in an online directory. These harmful citations bring their own distinct set of consequences for businesses:

    • Reviews may be split up between different listings, which could harm your online reputation. Customers may come across the listing with fewer reviews and be discouraged from engaging with your business.
    • Search engines may not find your business trustworthy as they will not know which listing to rely on.
    • One duplicate listing with inaccurate data can be replicated across platforms as all sources exchange information between each other
    • Managing your listings will be twice as difficult with duplicates. You could be updating the wrong listing while the one that search engines consider the most reliable remains inaccurate.
    • Multiple listings for the same business location can be perceived as spam and might result in Google penalties.

    HOW TO FIX CITATION INCONSISTENCY

    It is easier to avoid citation inconsistency if your business is new and has just started building citations from scratch. However, if your business information has been around for a while, correcting the mistakes could be complicated and time-consuming.

    Before building new citations, a thorough audit of all of your citations across the web is advisable to gain a clear picture of your current citation health. Once the areas of concern have been spotted, citations that are inconsistent or duplicate can be cleaned up, leaving your business information in improved condition across the data sources.

    LISTING ENHANCEMENTS

    Establishing NAP consistency is not the final step to healthy citations. Various citation sources offer different listing enhancement options which further contribute to increasing your online visibility. These enhancements can come in the form of business categories, social media links, business description, hours of operation, keywords, pictures or videos. Enhanced business listings with complete and accurate information could help your business differentiate itself from the rest by providing additional information, relevant to user’s searches and ultimately, provide additional exposure for your business.

    REVIEWS

    In addition to consistent citations and enhanced business listings, customer reviews are another major factor influencing local businesses.

    Reviews are essential as they can impact both local search engine rankings and consumer decision making. They play a role in helping increase click-through and conversion rates as customers find  comfort in working with a company that has been positively rated by other clients.

    Imagine you were the owner of a small local business. People searching online for local services or products like yours are likely to be influenced by the reviews displayed in the organic search results in Google as they will be among the first indicators that your business is real, active and trustworthy. Having a range of positive reviews not only contributes to more visibility but reassures customers of your business reliability.

    Although Google reviews deserve prime consideration, your review gathering strategy should not end there. Collecting customer reviews across all possible local directories drastically improves your online reputation and exposure.

    There are a variety of ways to implement a review acquisition strategy that will help boost your local business. You can learn more about the tactics to building a review acquisition strategy in our E-book on How To Get Online Reviews: Implementing a Review Acquisition Strategy

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