Have I built and fixed online citations for my business?
We’re reaching into the SEO arsenal and pulling out another tool for digital marketing success: Online business citations.
Don’t worry––no injection required.
The number one reason why online citations are so important––let me repeat––SO IMPORTANT is a secret we’re going to let you in on in this blog.
And the gooey little nugget of truth comes from SEO master Rand Fishkin, so we know it’s going to be good.
Let’s be clear––the tools defined here and in the previous four steps to SEO success do not exist independently of each other. Nor are they take-it-or-leave-it strategies that can be actioned once and then expected to care for themselves.
Think of each of these strategies as two-year-old children–they require constant parental guidance and commitment if they are to grow into human beings other people will want to be around.
These steps form the foundation of SEO success. Miss a step and you’ll trip yourself up. You want a solid stairway to SEO heaven and it requires a certain amount of devotion––and faith––to the practice.
So, let’s start with the basics of Step Five to SEO Success.
What are Citations?
An online citation is a reference to a company’s contact details and other core data found on business directories, websites and apps, and social media platforms. They are either structured or unstructured.
Unstructured citations are mentions of a business in a blog or other online publication.
Structured citations are listings on local business data platforms, such as Google My Business (GMB) and geo/industry-specific platforms, like chamber of commerce or professional association websites.
Structured citations are the ones we’re most concerned with because, as the name suggests, structuring them appropriately will boost our rankings and establish validity and trust with potential customers.
These are the ones you want to use when building citations, which is why we included the links––so you can get down to business right after you finish reading this (and keep reading because we included six crucial ingredients for building your online citations).
Then go hand-pick your industry-specific platforms.
But the big question is––
Why should I build online citations for my business?
Good question. Rand Fishkin breaks it down for us here:
Online citations help potential customers find you or your client’s business online, particularly through the use of third-party directories.
They also achieve links and although most of them are no-follow, they validate the association of your website with your NAP (name-address-phone number) listing.
Experts agree that NAP consistency between the business website and that referenced in citations and GMB (if built correctly), can have a significant impact on local search rankings and influence localized organic rankings.
And there’s more.
Most people think online citations are about helping customers find your site.
While that’s true, you wouldn’t be reading this blog if it were the only reason. Unintended benefits often trump the original purpose of an action plan.
What’s the purpose of customers finding your site if they’re not going to visit it? You need to enhance your online citation image before people even get to your page so that they want to get to your page instead of your competitor’s.
The primary reason online citations are so important is not just that they help validate your business out there in cyberspace, but they also––
Think of it like this––
When you’re reading an online article about the use of steroid injections for sports injuries, you’re not just going to take that information at face value. You’re going to scan the article for references that validate certain information. These citations will show as links to other sites, or at the least, include the bibliographic reference, which we can consult to verify data. This helps to establish trust.
In addition to having an influence on ranking, Rand Fishkin tells us that online citations are also useful for signalling trustworthiness. This is a particular benefit for online-only businesses because Google effectively tells people that yours a legit business and your site is a real site, not spam.
Six Tips for Building Online Citations
Determine which platforms are most useful for your business. In addition to those mentioned earlier (see links), Facebook, Yelp, and IYP (Internet Yellow Pages) are also big league. Then go pick platforms specific to your industry and geography.
Ensure your citations are accurate and consistent. Mistakes or inaccuracy can hurt your reputation and lead to lost revenue. According to marketing expert James Watts, NAP consistency on major citation sites is a critical ranking factor on par with reviews and backlinks. Further, NAP consistency is one of the most critical factors in making it into Google’s coveted 3-pack/local finder (yes, 3-pack is the new 7-pack as of August 2018).
Use an automated solution like Moz Local for getting your business info into various forms to save yourself time. Such tools prevent you from feeling like you’d rather pluck each of your nose hairs out, one by one.
See Google’s guidelines for representing your business online. To get started, first claim and verify your GMB listing.
Use a local area code and address. While GMB allows toll-free numbers, a few directories don’t, and GMB recommends using a local phone number. Allow your address to appear, even if you’re a service-area business operating remotely or out of your home. This makes your listing more complete, and therefore, verifiable. It also helps to establish your business as locally-focused––a main pillar in local search success. The chances of anyone showing up at your home are slim (and––a recent development––specific address and phone number don’t show in the SERPs anymore, only in the actual listing).
That’s Not All, Folks…
You know you should check your sources before making any decision––when there is a monstrous needle involved but most especially concerning which listing to click. After all, we’d hate to give the wrong impressions…
Help your customers to not only make the right decision but avoid making the wrong one. Get visitors to your site and increase your conversions by putting forth the effort required to build and maintain accurate and comprehensive online citations.
The results will be well worth your time, and you’ll avoid stabbing yourself in the ass.
Then, review steps 1-4 to ensure they haven’t fallen by the wayside.
Remember––SEO is a staircase of strategies; each step gets you closer to the top of the SERP.