Local search ranking factors, 2017
The more places your business information appears online, the more prominent your business appears to Google. It makes sense. If the search engine algorithms see that your business is mentioned on hundreds of websites, compared to competition that is only listed on a few dozen, this can make you seem like a more popular business, and give you a boost in the rankings.
Not All Citations Are Created Equal
So what makes a citation great for a local business? There is huge variation in the value of different citations. A mention of your business’ name, address, and phone number on whitehouse.gov is worth far more than a mention of your business on some spammy web directory that was created solely for low quality link building.
Since citations vary in their value, we’ve broken down our top recommended citation and data sources into different classifications by rank of importance, they are: Core Search Engines, Primary Sources, Tier 1, Tier 2 , Tier 3, and Tier 4. Below is a description of each category and some examples for businesses in the USA:
Core Search Engines
These search engines are receivers of business listing data, not distributors.
- Apple Maps
Primary Data Sources
These are the data aggregators that aggregate and validate data from a number of sources (government, telcos, utilities, web research, etc), and then distribute this business listing data to hundreds of other sites.
These sites are prominent on Google and are frequently used by people searching for businesses. In addition to generic sites that are used nationally, this tier also includes city/state and industry/niche citations that add significant value to your citation profile.
Hyper-Local & Niche
- City of Chicago.org
These are business listing sites that have some prominence on Google, decent domain authority, but may be lesser known.
- Merchant Circle
Even lesser known and lesser frequented business listing sites.
- My Local Services
- Local Database
Sites with low domain authority that you’ve probably never heard of. Examples:
There are many factors that determine citation quality. For further advice on sorting the gold from the sand, take a look at this post on determining citation quality.
If you’ve read any introductory posts about local SEO, you’ve likely heard about how important citation consistency is. Making sure your listings have the correct name, address, and phone number on the most important sites in the local search ecosystem IS important. You want to make sure that you have one, and only one, accurate and complete listing on each of the most important sites.
With that said, some people worry about citation consistency more than they need to. When it comes to your local rankings and the impact incorrect citations can have, you really need to perfect your citation profile on the Core Search Engines, Primary Data Sources, and Tier 1 sites. This means making sure that you have searched for all NAP variations, all duplicates have been removed, all inconsistent citations have been updated, and you have one and only one, perfectly accurate and complete citation on each of these data sources and websites.
Your next priority would be to audit and clean up your listings on the Tier 2 sites. There is value in getting these listings sorted as well.
If you want to keep going into the Tier 3 and Tier 4, enjoy yourself. It’s not going to hurt, but it’s also not going to make or break your SEO. A few incorrect listings on some of these less important sites are no big deal.
Another important element to remember is that Google and other Search Engines are intelligent enough to normalize business data for variations/abbreviations, so if it’s not identical to the letter or format, you don’t need to stress about it.
Oh, and if you’d rather not do all this work yourself, we would love to help you with citation audit and cleanup.
How to Build Citations for Local Businesses
Building citations is a ttime-consumingprocess – it’s important to invest the time to do it right, or outsource the work to a trust and credible service provider.
Tips for building citations:
- To create listings you will need an email address – we strongly recommend that you use a business email that is associated with your company domain and not a generic Gmail or Yahoo address. Listing submissions will be more trusted and more likely to go live when you use a domain-based email.
- Your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) should be the same on every site. Consistency is important, but, don’t worry about minor formatting differences that you’ll see on different sites. Again, check out our guide to acceptable variations.
- Category Selection – Try to keep your categories consistent on the sites and choose the category that best describes what your business does.
- Add as much detail as possible – Add photos, your logo, a full business description, your operating hours, links to your social accounts, and so on.
- Claim your listings – most sites will require you to verify your listing – this can be via email or for the bigger sites like Google My Business, Bing, Apple Maps and so on, through phone verification. The company will call your business and have you enter a pin number or give you a pin number to enter to claim your listing. This is very important, it’s another trust signal and verified listings have more authority.