Spend any amount of time researching local SEO and you will hear about citations and how important they are. What exactly is a citation?
An online citation is simply a listing on a site that gives your company name, address and phone number. Citations are essential for local SEO and help prove that you are indeed local. Google uses these listings as one of the factors in your ranking and authority.
Local citations do not need to include a link back to your website. It is the NAP that is most important here. You should check that all information is correct. If it isn’t, contact the site to get them to correct the information. Even a slightly different address wording, such as “St.” instead of “Street” can make a difference. Everything should look exactly as it does on your website.
The idea here is to have proof that your company really is located in these places. There are people who will use fake addresses on their website in an attempt to get local listings. This “black hat” method is no longer very effective, simply because Google checks for citations and is more likely to rank businesses higher if they have additional proof that they operate locally.
Where to Get Citations
Once you understand what a citation is, you’ll need to work on getting some set up. This can be much easier than you might think, though it does require some work.
Companies will find that sponsorships can be very useful in gaining local mention. Your business will be mentioned on the actual website of the team or group that you sponsor, but you may also gain citations via local newspapers.
What can you sponsor?
Children’s sports teams
Marathons or sporting events
Scholarships to camp or specialty classes
Keep an eye out for events that could use sponsorship. When you do find a good opportunity, go ahead and brag about it. You can send a press release to local publications to let them know about the event and how your business is involved. Local news is almost always interested in interesting local stories.
Hosting an Event
When your company hosts an event, you can expect local bloggers and news outlets to cover it. It’s important to give the press plenty of information with enough time to schedule it for publication. You’ll want to let them know at least a couple of weeks before the event. While the event can be absolutely anything that you can come up with, some options are easier than others. You don’t want to completely disrupt your business, so look for ways to contribute without having to be completely responsible for the entire event.
One option is to serve as a drop off point. Many charities that collect physical goods need a place where people can drop off their items. If you have space, offer to collect the goods for the charity to pick up. This can be a one-time thing, like a food drive, or it may be ongoing, such as collecting toys for homeless children.
Alternatively, you can rent out part of your space for special events, or you can create an event yourself. Setting up a benefit event such as an auction or dinner for a local charity can be an excellent way to become more visible in the community, as well as gain new citations. It’s a win-win situation.
Remember to let the press know if you are hosting something. Whether it is for charity or not, you want to get the word out there.
Internships and Job Listings
Are you interested in hiring someone to work for your company? If you are looking for an employee or intern, you have an excellent opportunity to find the perfect person while developing local citations.
Every time you list a job online, you can add your business’ name, address and phone number. There are hundreds of sites where you can list your local job opening. Craigslist.org is one of the most popular options, but Indeed.com and Kijiji.com are also useful.
Internships can also be listed on a range of sites, as well. You can list these on school websites or job listing sites. Contact schools to let them know that you are looking for interns and they may publish your information on their own site.
Most newspapers have a classified ads section. This will usually appear in the paper, as well as online, though you should check before making a decision. Ads can be another good way to get a citation.
Classified ads can be run for just about anything. You may want to put the word out that you are looking for an intern or employee, or you could create a simple ad for your local business. Be sure to include your company name, address and phone number so Google can check it against the other listings online.
Leveraging Current Relationships for Citations
Most likely, you already have a number of relationships that could be used to gain authority with Google. In most cases, you will just need to check that you aren’t already listed or ensure that your NAP is correctly listed.
Does your company sell products? If so, take a look at the manufacturer’s website to see if your company is included under the “Where to Buy” section. If not, you can email and request that they add you. Just make sure to let them know what products you sell.
This can also go the other way. If you produce something that other businesses sell, you can ask for a spot on their list of suppliers. Not all companies have a page for this, but you might want to suggest it if there isn’t one. Customers often appreciate this type of information and you could earn another citation for your business.
Find Existing Mentions
You might be surprised to find that people have already been talking about your business. Do a Google search for your company name like this “Company” –site:yourdomain.com to avoid turning up only your own links.
When you see that you have been mentioned somewhere, contact the website to see if you can arrange to have your address and phone number added to the mention. Most sites will be happy to do this, since it makes their information that much more useful to their readers.
If you rent or own an office or storefront in a public building, such as an office building or a mall, you should be listed on the building’s website, if there is one. Again, this is a simple request if you aren’t included. Most of the time, this is an easy way to get an additional citation.
You may think about getting testimonials from your customers, but what about giving them? This can be a useful and rather simple way to get an additional listing online. Look at the products and services you use and contact the companies.
Ask if you can give a testimonial or review in exchange for a citation. Many companies will be happy to oblige. There are plenty of great businesses that you can recommend, but be careful about giving reviews to a company that does not meet your standards. If you wouldn’t recommend the company or product to a friend, don’t recommend it publicly. It’s not worth ruining your reputation just for a citation.
Join an Organization
It’s good business practice for local businesses to join the Chamber of Commerce, but you can also join an industry only organization or association. You’ll be listed on the members page, which can be very useful in Google’s eyes. Do a quick search to find out what other organizations are available in your industry or in your area. Most associations will require some form of fees, but these are easily recouped if you end up in the local pack.
There is no shortage of places to get citations, but it does require time and energy. For this reason, many companies never really pursue this very valuable method of local SEO.
Businesses don’t always stay in the same location. If you move, you will certainly want to update your citations to make sure that people aren’t heading to the wrong location. However, this is more complicated than it might seem at first.
Google won’t update your location correctly if there are still citations everywhere with the old address. In this case, if you change your NAP on your Google+ page, you may end up with duplicate listings. Your business will be listed twice, with two different addresses. This can cause quite a bit of confusion when someone is trying to find recent information on your company.
Do a search with Moz Local to find all your citations. Once you know where your business is listed, you can check for accuracy. Do a Google search for your company name, along with the old address to see which sites are most likely affecting Google’s views of your site.
The top ranking results are the ones you need to focus on changing, first. Click on each site and check to see if it is possible to edit the listing directly on the site. If not, you can contact the site to have them change it.
One of the issues with websites listing the wrong information is that they may be collecting that information from a business data provider. Check the bottom of the listing to find out if the data is provided by another site. If so, that site will also need to be changed.
Do a search on Google Maps, as well and report the incorrect address. You will be asked to give more information on the problem. This is a good place to explain why the address is incorrect and give the right one.
It can take several months for the proper information to trickle down through Google, but it is still worth the effort. It’s extremely important to update your old listings whenever possible so you can avoid duplicate listings. If all has been done correctly, you will see a change on the actual Google listing.
Citations are one of the areas that most companies miss out on when they are doing their own local SEO. Since it can be so time consuming to complete the citations and change them if you move, many people simply don’t bother, even if they know about the value.
Take the time to build your citations and you will have a leg up on the competition. If you can’t deal with setting them all up on your own, you might want to hire an SEO team to take care of it for you. Reap the benefits of proper optimization, without spending hours working on it.