Having a website is a vital part of today’s business world. However, apart from having an online presence, there are numerous factors to be considered. Simply having a website is not enough to attract customers to it. This particularly important for small, local businesses whose desire is to attract more customers, especially those from their community.
One major factor which plays importance in local search results is implementing proper citations. Let’s say you are a small business owner and you want people from your community to be able to find you online. But taking into account the amount of cyberspace competition, your customers are only likely to go so far down the list of localized search engine results before they give up. Of course, implementing some SEO tactics and techniques could go a long way in helping you rank on the first page of search engine results. One of these techniques is to create local citations which can aid in increasing your website’s visibility.
What are Citations?
Increasing website visibility and traffic is great, but what exactly are citations and how do we go about creating them? Let me break down the definition of a “Citation” to better grasp the concept.
“ a Citation is an online reference to your businesses name, address and phone number (NAP) on a webpage, such as an online directory listing “
Straightforward and simple, these details being mentioned on other websites can certainly benefit your business…so let’s hurry up and post your NAP! Well not that quick actually, let’s discuss the benefits of citations and also the implications of this tedious tactic.
Local citations provide a number of useful benefits:
Ranking Algorithms – When it comes to search engines, local citations play an important part in ranking algorithms. A business can rank higher in a search engine if it is listed in more directories, especially those that are authoritative.
Consumer Confidence – Local citations give more credibility to a business that is mentioned in a variety of websites. It can score you big points if your NAP is listed on respected, authoritative websites. For example, Google typically regards respected websites such as the Chamber of Commerce websites, industry or association sites, and government or education websites. This can give consumers more confidence about using or purchasing goods or services.
Easier to Locate – It makes it easier to locate your business contact details as they are more visible across the web, which in turn could benefit the company from more business as more people would be able to find you.
Importance of Local Citation Building:
These days anyone can put up a website claiming to be the local expert on something, however search engines don’t have an ability to drive by the business location and check out what’s actually there, nor can they call the phone number to see if the company is still in business. However, if a news outlet or a business directory refers to the business entity and provides its local contact information, it indicates to the search engine that there really is something out there. These citations are just small pieces of information but they can greatly help search engines to understand who you are and how successful and popular you are based on your online presence. If the businesses is listed in a local directory or is referred to by a site that specializes in a specific industry, the search engines will have a better idea of what search terms should apply to your company.
NAP is Important!
NAP: Name, Address, Phone Number
Search engines definitely want to make sure that the address you are listing for your business online is legitimate so it does have to be the same across a variety of sources. That way the search engines have more confidence in knowing that your existing location is “real”.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!
I must stress the importance of consistent information you post in various directories. For example, if search engines are finding multiple phone numbers for your business location, that’s a red flag! Taking a look at Google, it sends out ‘spiders’ or ‘crawlers’ to find out info on the web and it attempts to make sense of the information it finds. When it stumbles upon businesses with multiple addresses, inconsistencies in the business name and various phone numbers, it can wreak havoc with local search results. Even though you might have several phone numbers, it is best to go with one phone number that is indexed by search engines if possible. It’s also important to consider spaces, caps, punctuation, and acronyms when providing your NAP.
Citation Strategy and Steps
1) NAP Creation
Alright, so now that we know the importance of citation building, what do we do next? Let’s make sure you NAP is correctly formulated in order to post the same info in various directories. Like already mentioned, consistency is crucial and incorrectly formatting your address can cause discrepancies that search engines aren’t too fond of.
It’s important how you list your business name across the web, even a small detail like ‘The’ in front of the business name can make a difference. Use your businesses “operating as” name. If you go by Anna’s Catering but your legal name is Anna’s Catering & Delivery Company then use Anna’s Catering across all the directories where you are planning to post your contact details.
One of the major directories is Yellowpages, so if you are posting your NAP there (which you certainly should), then ensure your address is an exact match across all other directories.
For your telephone number, use the format (416) 222-2222. Avoid using call tracking numbers and do not use a 1-800 number if you can avoid it. Any additional numbers such as fax and toll-free numbers should be placed in the additional fields.
2) Check out your competitors
Now that you have formulated your NAP and know exactly what to submit, before taking the next step it would be smart to check out your competitors’ citations. A competition’s high local search results may be based, at least in part, on where they are listed. This can help you to create a list of all the directories you need to be posted in as well. Searching for their business name and phone number in quotation marks will bring you additional places that you can also list your business information. There are a number of tools you can use to find all that information. You can also search the business name with the address and city name. However this process takes a very long time and you will end up going through many pages to come up with a list of all the results. To make this easier, there are actually many tools which can aid in getting you that list of all the directories where your competitors are listed. Personally, one of my favourite tools which does a great job is Local Citation Finder by WhiteSpark. It does much of the leg work for you but for a price. However they do have a limited free trial. All the information can be downloaded into an excel spreadsheet which makes it easy to manage. You can create an excel spreadsheet list even if you are doing everything manually. It certainly helps to organize loads of information.
3) Get Listed
Knowing where your competitors are listed now, there’s probably a comprehensive list you can use to post your business contact information to. One of the first places you probably should focus on is your Google+ page. It is best to get to it sooner than later since most people will be using Google to find you anyway. However this should be done only if you have a physical and stable location for your business. In order to get listed on Google+, you have to provide your physical address and then request verification from Google. Once that is done, they will send you a post card with a Pin number to your listed address which you can enter on your G+ page.
Local Search Citation Case Study
Now that we have discussed all these great benefits of citation building, let’s take a look at actual, real life industries to understand what the numbers look like. We now know that it’s crucial to be visible and prominent on the web and according to Google statistics 98% of searchers choose a business that is on page 1 of the results they get. So with this in mind, our goal is definitely to show up on that first page of search results. Let’s take a look at some common local search queries many of us might search for. I picked out 10 different keywords in no particular order and plugged them into Local Citation Finder tool on WhiteSpark. They also ask for a location, which in this case is Toronto, Canada. For example, if I needed some dental work done and was looking for a Dentist based in Toronto area, I would search for “Dentist in Toronto”, immediately Google would spit out thousands of results based on my search query. So now let’s take a look at Top 5 ranking businesses for that specific keyword. Here we can see Adelaide Dental ranking number one in organic search results for the keyword ‘Dentist’, followed by four other top ranking businesses. Taking a look at the Citation Sources column, we can see here the number of citation sources these businesses each have. These analysis could be a great indicator of information if you are examining your top competitors. So if your competitors have more than 100 citations, why should you have less? The strategy should be to replicate and perhaps even submit to a few more directories where your competitors haven’t thought of yet.
|Top Ranking Businesses||Citation Sources|
|Studio B Dental||102|
|Bloor West Village Dental Care||129|
|Danforth Children’s Dentistry||45|
|North York Dental – Toronto Dentist – Dr. Eli Shem-Tov||38|
Here are some more examples of general industries people search for online when they are looking for a local service. Check out the number of citation sources in these different industries and targeted keyword used in this specific example.
|“Accountant”||Top Ranking Businesses||Citation Sources|
|1.Sam Seidman, CA||95|
|2. Gary Booth Chartered Accountants||95|
|4. Rita Zelikman, Chartered Accountant, Professional Corporation||21|
|5. M M CPA Professional Corporation | Chartered Professional Accountant||18|
|“Realtor”||Top Ranking Businesses||Citation Sources|
|2. Toronto Real Estate Board||191|
|3. Freeman Real Estate Ltd||97|
|4. Harvey Kalles Real Estate LTD., Brokerage||165|
|5. Sage Real Estate||113|
|“Car Insurance”||Top Ranking Businesses||Citation Sources|
|1. DMW Insurance Ltd||45|
|2. Car Insurance Toronto||315|
|4. State Farm Insurance Co||162|
|“Lawyer”||Top Ranking Businesses||Citation Sources|
|1. Whitten and Lublin LLP Employment Lawyer||109|
|2. Daniel Brown – Criminal Lawyer Toronto||101|
|3. Thomson, Rogers||176|
|4. Bomza Law Group||141|
|5. Devry Smith Frank LLP||138|
|“Mortgage Broker”||Top Ranking Businesses||Citation Sources|
|1. Sherwood Mortgage Group||38|
|2. True North Mortgage | 145 King Street | Toronto Mortgage Broker||43|
|3. Mortgages.ca Inc.||61|
|4. Northwood Mortgage||11|
|5. Aquity Mortgage Inc.||27|
|“Computer Repair”||Top Ranking Businesses||Citation Sources|
|1. Toronto Computer Repair Services||21|
|2. A2Z PC Service||93|
|3. PCNix Toronto||215|
|4. Laptop Repair||15|
|5. PC Mechanix Inc. Toronto Computer Repair||35|
|“House Cleaning Services”||Top Ranking Businesses||Citation Sources|
|1. Anna’s Housekeeping Services||80|
|2. Clean My Space Inc||41|
|3. LUX Cleaning Services Toronto||27|
|4. Marets Quality Home Cleaning Services||47|
|5. Just Clean It Quality Home Solutions||36|
|“Dance School”||Top Ranking Businesses||Citation Sources|
|1. The School of Toronto Dance Theatre||154|
|2. Joy of Dance Centre & Teachers College||71|
|3. Toronto Dance Industry Inc.||56|
|4. Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre – Ballet Classes||100|
|5. Groove School Of Dance||65|
Now let’s take a look at the industries listed above but in broader terms. Also using the Local Citation Finder tool, we can even check out the total number of citation sources the tool can come up with for a specific term.
|Keyphrase||# of Citation Sources|
|Real Estate Toronto||1050|
|Car Insurance Toronto||704|
|Car Repair Toronto||342|
|Computer Repair Toronto||378|
|Mortgage Broker Toronto||218|
|House Cleaning Services Toronto||202|
|Dance School Toronto||422|
We can see that the tool can come up with even more number of citation sources for each keyword. When we were targeting the keyword ‘Dentist’, it gave us a list of top ranking businesses for that keyword and taking Adelaide Dental as an example since they are the highest ranked, they only have 137 citations. Now that is great, however the tool is able to come up with 423 sources in total for the keyword “Dentist” as well. Doing a little bit of math here 423-137=286…that’s 286 missed opportunities! Of course some of those citation sources might not be the best and provide little value in terms of ranking, however that’s still a substantial number of opportunities we can pick from.Now let’s take a look at the industries listed above but in broader terms. Also using the Local Citation Finder tool, we can even check out the total number of citation sources the tool can come up with for a specific term.
Top 50 Canadian Business Listing Citation Sources:
Though your competitors might be listed in a variety of directories, it does not necessarily mean they didn’t miss a couple of important directories as we have seen in the case study above. WhiteSpark citation finder tool can certainly provide a comprehensive number of citation sources. They have a huge database and are able to pick out the top quality sources that appear the most frequently and have the highest domain authority. Though it is paid and if your free trial is expired, to save you time, here’s a list of top Canadian business listing citations that you should submit to.