So far in this series, we’ve talked about whether Local Search is important for marketing your own business online, how to determine who your strongest online competitors are, how to tell if your competitors have claimed their listings and how to determine which categories in which to place your business. Now, we’ll talk about citations and Local SEO.
What are Citations and Why Do They Matter?
Citations are cites or mentions of your business on web pages. A citation includes your business name and either your address or phone number or both, but they do not actually have to link to your website or to your Local Business Listing. Think of citations for Local SEO the same way you think about links for general SEO, since they have a similar effect.
Links are like votes or vouches for a web page, while citations are like votes or vouches for the information Google has about your business. Both links and citations impart trust. The more often Google sees the same core business data (Name, Address, Local Phone Number) about your business across the web, the more it trusts that information and trust is a major factor in all the Google ranking algorithms.
What Makes a Good Citation?
All citations are not equal in the same way that all all links are not equal. They have more influence when they come from respected websites that have earned Google’s trust through their age, authority and popularity. And they have less influence when they come from thin directories, scraper sites and other websites that generally lack respect.
Therefore, it’s good discover which citations your top competitors have so that you can try to get citations from those same sites. And learning what citations your top competitors have in common will show you the most likely hubs of influence for your particular business and location.
How Can You Find Good Citations for Your Business?
Fortunately, Google has made it very easy to view any businesses citations right on their Google Places pages. Simply scroll down towards the bottom of the page and looks for the More about this place section. You’ll see snippets from web pages that mention or cite the business, although with a clickable URL that takes you to that page. At the bottom of this section, you are given a link to see more citations. There may be several pages of them.
Look at the pages where your competitors have citations to see if they are likely to be trusted sites and if there is an opportunity to get a citation for your business there, as well. Either make notes about the best sites to revisit for citations or jump right in and get them as you do your research. As you examine the citations of multiple competitors, you’ll begin to see patterns and find websites where most of them tend to be listed.
By creating a spreadsheet of the citations of each of your competitors, you can define which sites provide citations to the greatest number of top competitors. By comparing all of the citations of the top rankers, you can see which domains have the most apparent influence. I say apparent because it believed that Google is not showing us all of a business’ citations, just as they do not show all of a web page’s backlinks, but only a sampling of them. Concentrate on getting citations at the strongest citation hubs first. Then move on to the others.
Use this Tool!
Another methodology, defined by the linkbuilding pros at Ontolo, involves searching for the local phone numbers of your top local competitors in organic web search. This will show you where your competitors are listed along with their phone number. By recording and sorting these URLs for multiple competitors, you can also find the likely hubs of influence for your keyword terms. Whitespark and Ontolo have teamed up to create a free, web-based competitive analysis tool to make easy work of these tasks.
I suggest using both of these methods together in order to identify what the most likely places for good citations are.