What’s a Citation and Why Do You Need One?

Link Building | Local SEO | SEO

Trying to get your business noticed? There’s better ways than dressing up in mascot costume and waving a sign roadside.

You probably already know that quality link building, a well-optimized website, and a few conversion-focused landing pages help you get noticed and grow your business (but if you don’t, see for yourself in our client case study!). Building local citations is another winning strategy.

What is a Citation?

A citation is any reference to your business on another website.

The citation may include a link to your website (though it’s not necessary). It could be a simple mention, or it might include more information, such as your NAP (name, address, phone number).

There are two primary types of citations—structured and unstructured.

A structured citation is any mention of your business that appears on a standardized directory. This includes directories like the Yellow Pages as well as review sites like Yelp. These citations always need to contain accurate NAP information, and may provide other details about your business too (map, store hours, special events, etc).

Unstructured citations are any online mentions outside of a directory. These citations might not be as detailed as a structured citation, but they’re often used to raise local awareness about your business—especially if your name is mentioned in a local blog or newspaper.

While any online mention of your business is considered a citation, as you might expect, some citations are more valuable than others, based on whose mentioning you.

How Do Citations Help My Business?

Citations play an important role in your search engine rankings. Google considers businesses with consistent NAP information across multiple websites more reliable—which means deserving of a better ranking.

Google also checks 3rd party NAP information against the information on your website. All other factors being equal, if your website lists your NAP and ten different citations on other websites confirm the information listed, you’ll rank better than a website with inconsistent citations.

Of course, citations carry another kind of weight too. If your community flocks to one local blog, or if everyone and their grandmother reads one local newspaper, getting your name dropped by those sources is a huge feather in your cap!

How Do I Build Citations?

One of the best ways to grow a local business is to look for local citation opportunities. Google your state and industry and look for directories that you might want to reach out to (e.g. “Utah Dentist Directory,” “Utah Business Listing,” etc…)

It’s also smart to build citations in your niche or business category. More citations means more exposure, which might result in you beating out competitors who don’t have the same web presence you do.

One example of a directory that’s both local AND part of a specific category is Utah’s very own Associated General Contractors directory. Service suppliers, specialty contractors, and general contractors can all apply to this database that almost 500 different construction firms consult before hiring contractors.

And, of course, there are some websites that have clout no matter what business you’re in or where in the world you’re located. Vertical Measures recently published a great list of 10 essential websites that you NEED to try to get a citation from:

  1. Google My Business
  2. Facebook
  3. Yelp
  4. Bing Places
  5. Apple Maps
  6. FourSquare
  7. Yellow Pages
  8. Citysearch
  9. Dexknows
  10. Better Business Bureau

Are Citations Still Relevant?

If you’ve been following changing trends in SEO, you’ve probably noticed that fewer and fewer people are trumpeting the importance of citations than they were three years ago. So what gives? Are local citations irrelevant?

The answer is no; citations still matter.

SEO agencies are wizening up, and we know that sheer quantity of citations doesn’t matter as much as fewer, high quality citations. It’s more important to get your site mentioned on a few high-profile sites than it is to get mentioned by every home blogger on your block. It’s also important to make sure that your listed information is consistent across every website.

BrightLocal recently published their 2016 Expert Citation Survey, which found just that—86% of companies say that quality citations outstrip plentiful citations (vs. 71% in 2015). The study also found that only 5% of experts focus on building new citations first, whereas a whopping 95% prioritize updating their existing citations or doing both simultaneously.

When asked about the best authorities for structured citations, 33% of experts listed niche/industry directories (up from 32% in 2015) and 19% listed local directories (up from 9% in 2015). That’s more than DOUBLE the focus on local directory authority in only one year. Meanwhile, interest in national directories as an authoritative source for structured citations plummeted (from 50% down to 19%).

The most revealing stats of BrightLocal’s studiy is the renewed emphasis in local citation building. Altogether, 90% of local experts consider accurate citations to be of critical or high importance when it comes to local search ranking.

Clearly, the citation building still has an important role to play in how local businesses get discovered.

The Best Strategy is Having More Than One Strategy

When it comes to boosting local exposure, the best thing you can do for your business is explore all of your options. Build citations for your business, consider local link building, invest in advertising, don’t forget about remarketing, and (of course) think about your local SEO.

You won’t know which outreach efforts are the best until you try. Then, if any of your efforts aren’t helping your business, cut them loose and invest in other channels.

I’ll end on some good advice from Creare‘s Sam Austin:

“By building high quality, industry relevant and local citations you get a good mix for your business. It will help to build some links too, using white hat methods. Also ensure your business is listed on relevant pages. For instance there is no point paying for premium listed citations if the site isn’t getting a good amount of views in your specific category. For premium listings think about return on investment (ROI). Research relevant categories and look out for declining/rising directories to ensure you’re getting the best for your business.”

Want some specific advice on citation building for your local business? Feel free to contact us—we’re happy to help!