Local Citations: Why they matter, and how to clean them up.
By Emma Levy
May 4th 2018
If you run a local business that serves customers locally, a well-polished local online presence is absolutely crucial. Here’s why.
- 50 per cent of people who do a local search on their phone visit a store within one day
- 87% of smartphone owners use a search engine at least once a day
- 80-90% of shoppers read online reviews about a local business before they make a purchase
You’ve no doubt noticed that when you are searching for a local service or retailer, the top spots in your search results belong either to the Google Local Pack, or online directories. We’ve looked previously at how gaining a top 3 spot in the Google Local Pack is crucially important to local marketing. But what about those directories and other platforms that display your business information?
If you run a Google search on your business name, you will more than likely see it cropping up in a whole host of places. Some of them you’ll probably wonder how they got there. These are known as ‘citations’.
What are ‘Citations’?
Anywhere your business name is mentioned online is known as a citation. A citation generally consists of a Name, Address and Phone Number. This is called ‘NAP’ in the world of search engine optimisation. Other information may include a website and email address, a description of the business and a list of services.
Citations do not just appear in directories. They can appear across an extensive range of online platforms too, such as local blogs, online press rooms and news websites as well as review sites.
The trouble with citations is that the majority of them have not been created by the business itself.
This means inconsistencies can and very much do arise. And inconsistency of such vital, basic information can lead to confusion and distrust for customers.
Even the citations that are created by the business can become neglected over time. Services and other details change; businesses move premises; websites and phone numbers are updated. If your online citations are not true to your current information then you could literally be missing out on business. And that’s not all.
Why are Citations so important for Local SEO?
Search engines are always on the lookout for credible information. A whole host of factors are considered by the search engines when deciding which results to present and in which order.
Citations are a very important aspect of search engine ranking ‘algorithms’. When you are listed on established and well-indexed directory websites such as Yell, Yelp, Facebook, 192.com, Scoot and Thomson Local for example, not only is your online visibility markedly enhanced but the validity of your business is also confirmed. Confidence is boosted, not only in terms of the people viewing the information about your business, but also in terms of the search engines.
Why is Citation consistency vital?
The 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors report by Moz rated consistency of citations as one of the ‘top 50 Local Pack Finder Factors’. And an InsideLocal survey revealed that incorrect NAP and inconsistent citations were considered the most common local ranking issue by respondents.
In a nutshell, if you want to rank well in the local listings, you’ll need to make sure your citations are accurate and consistent.
How does my business information reach so many online sources?
This is a very valid question, and a common one. The answer is basically centred on data sharing.
There are lots of companies that collect, verify and share business data for other organisations. A lot of this data is sold as feed or leads to other websites. This leads to data being spread around online and also offline platforms very quickly. If the information is accurate, all good. If it isn’t, ouch!
So what to do if your business information is in accurate, but it’s spread all over the internet? Won’t it have a detrimental effect on your local rankings?
In essence, yes it will. But thankfully there is something you can do about it.
What to do about inconsistent citations?
The place to start is with your Google My Business listing. If the information about your business is incorrect there, there is a very real chance that it will flow through to other sources in that inaccurate format. In addition, be sure to check that the information on your own website is correct. You’d be surprised how often this is not the case.
Once you’ve checked that is all in order, the hard work begins. And unfortunately, it really can be a challenge to clean up your citations. Precisely why ensuring your business information is kept up to date from the outset is vital. But let’s get back to the job in hand.
You’ll first need to run an audit of what you have in the way of online citations, and record everything you find: accurate, and inaccurate. Don’t be under any false misapprehensions: this is going to take time. But it will be worth it. Set yourself up a spreadsheet, and tackle the job bit by bit, starting with the major directories.
Once you have your targets for required amendments, you’ll have a few options to physically make the changes.
Some directories allow you to ‘claim your listing’. This is by far the easiest way to go about the task. Some processes will be automated and will allow you to undertake the amendments yourself. Others will require you to send a request.
If you need to send an email request to amend information on a listing, be sure to use your official business email for verification and credibility. If you send an email request for updates but it is not actioned, chase it. Keep a record of who you have contacted and when.
Remember, the search engines take a little time to index new information, so exercise some patience whilst waiting for your updates to take effect.
Need help with your Citations and Local SEO?
Cleaning up your online citations can be an arduous, time-consuming task. But it is really important. If you don’t have time to tackle it yourself, why not talk to Figment? Citation clean-up and building is something we’ve become a real dab hand at. We get results, and they make a difference. We can also assist with all aspects of Local SEO. So, if you have a local business that needs a local boost, give us a call!