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STEP 5 to SEO: Local SEO

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.

But first––

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.

MOZ outlines four core business data platforms: Google My Business, Acxiom, Neustar/Localeze, and Infogroup.

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:

Photo Credit: Moz.

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––

ESTABLISH TRUST

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.

Choose the right categories in GMB and when selecting industry-specific platforms. See Moz for how to choose local business categories and HubSpot for 57 Online Local Business Directories.

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.

Logging out,

Logical Mix

blue and white MOZ logo

End of an Era with MOZ and the SEO Community

SEO Rockstar Rand Fishkin Steps Out And Moves On

College dropout-turned-SEO-messiah, Rand Fishkin is a legend in the SEO world. Co-founder of Moz, Rand held the seat of CEO for one of the top software analytics companies in the world for years. His SEO empire Moz grew out of the humble web design business he started right around the time Google entered our lives and changed the virtual world. Talk about being in the right place at the right time–and with the business acumen of a pizza pusher at a Blue Jays game (with the right amount of MOZ-arella).

Rand built his success, somewhat reluctantly, upon the general lack of knowledge about SEO and page ranking that existed at the time. While businesses clamoured to gain a first-page spot on any SERP, Rand outsourced research to SEO experts to meet the needs of his clients. With the demand for SEO expert knowledge and their prices increasing, Rand took it upon himself to become an authority. Massive research and self-study led to the birth of his blog SEOmoz and his successful venture to uncover the secrets of SERPs, which eventually became what it is today–Moz software business empire.

Rand’s SEO empire ranked #334 on the Inc. 500 list in 2010, has received multi-million dollar financing from high-profile investors, and receives over three million visitors per month. Its three primary products, Moz Pro, which includes Keyword Explorer and Open Site Explorer, Moz Local, and Moz API service everyone from professional SEOs to the local paint store owner to individuals who want site data and analytics.

After stepping down from his role as CEO of Moz and a subsequent four years fulfilling a variety of roles, Rand’s journey with Moz ended this past February. Rand’s last day at Moz was over a month ago and it was hard to digest.

Logical Mix Has Benefited Immensely From His Teachings

I know he’s doing more ‘whiteboard Friday’s’ (in fact, he lined up about a dozen before he left), but he’s gone to do… Sparktoro.

You can check out what the heck Sparktoro is by clicking here, but first, the million-dollar question lingers: If Moz is so successful, why the heck did Rand leave? The search for a clear answer leaves a pile of earth and stones. But reading between the lines of his personal blog, we can extract a sense that Rand was aggrieved by the operation of Moz over the past several years, which may be why he stepped down from CEO in 2014–this is mere conjecture though so don’t quote me on it. But he did write,

“On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is “fired and escorted out of the building by security” and 10 is “left entirely of his own accord on wonderful terms,” my departure is around a 4. That makes today a hard one, cognitively and emotionally. I have a lot of sadness, a heap of regrets, and a smattering of resentment too.”

Personally, Rand taught me a lot about the SEO game, one of the most significant being that it actually isn’t a game. When it comes to SEO best practices, he clearly demarcates between quick hacks for instant rankings and hard-won experiences as a result of consistent hard work. He reveals that his “secret sauce” for SEO success is not so secret at all and anyone who isn’t transparent about his SEO activities is likely up to some shady business. He insists that there is no one right move that will accelerate the growth of any business. The value is in the whole, not its individual parts. Anything else smacks of black hat biz.

But damn, even with the success of his SEO enterprise and the years of hard work under-riding it, Rand is an uncommonly humble guy. Personally, I suspect that is the cornerstone of his success. Humility supports a continuous desire to improve.

“I’m not sure I’d call Moz a ‘success,’ at least not yet. We’ve raised venture capital, and that means returning money to our investors, hopefully at a very high multiple. It’s a very tall task, but I believe one that’s possible – just an incredibly hard thing to do.” 

A juicy last tip from Rand: Put your customers first. VCs are important for economic growth but you’ve got to listen and respond to what your customers want.

Love him or hate him–that dude is a legend in SEO. White hats off to you Rand!

Check out Rand’s recently released book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World.

Logging Out,

Logical Mix