Using citations to improve your local SEO results
It’s well known that the more websites link to yours, the better your search engine optimisation (SEO) results are likely to be. However, another important driver of SEO success is citations. A citation is simply the information about your company’s name, address and phone number. This is often called your business’s NAP.
These are the key things you need to know about citations:
- citations help Google know the contact information about your business is reliable, meaning it’s likely to rank highly in local search results
- citations should always be consistent and identical, as far as possible
- the easiest way to get citations is through online directories
- don’t forget other places to get citations
- citations improve your business’s visibility, even without SEO considerations
What citations can do for your SEO strategy
Where citations differ from links to your website, is that a citation doesn’t need to be linked to your company’s website to score you SEO points. This means that any plain text listings of your NAP will help your company’s SEO results.
Citations are one of the many factors that Google uses when working out how to rank web pages in local search results. It’s not just links and reviews. An overriding consideration is confidence in the information about a business that appears on the web. This means that if your NAP is listed on more than 50 websites, then it’s highly likely to be reliable information that Google can confidently show to searchers.
That’s why it’s important that citations are consistent and up to date. If there are several different addresses listed for your business on different websites, this will make your business look bad. It will also cause Google and web users to question whether the search results are reliable, meaning your company is highly unlikely to appear at the top of the search results. So always make sure your citations are correct, consistent and up to date.
Lastly, the more citations you have, the more your business is mentioned on the web. This will tell Google that your business deserves to be shown in the search results before a company with very few citations. This will especially apply if your citations are on websites that are relevant to the location and topic searched for.
How citations should look
It’s vital that any citations exactly match your company’s NAP on your website. The format itself isn’t important, but consistency with how it appears across the web is. This means you need to think about the following:
- Your company name – does it use abbreviations or have “Ltd” in the title?
- The address – will you always include a room or suite number, and floor, or the county? If your business is situated on a road or street, will you abbreviate these words or not?
- Your phone number – make sure you always use +44 or not, and be consistent in where the spacing between numbers is.
Make sure that all this information is always exactly the same, and your citations will support your SEO strategy.
An example of a citation is:
Greaves Design, 10 Furzefield Road, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 4NG
How to get citations
One of the easiest way to get citations is from directories, such as 192.com, the online Yellow Pages (yell.com) or Thomson Local (thomsonlocal.com). These can be local directories, perhaps a website listing businesses in your local area, or industry-specific ones. So, for example, if you’re a Gas Safe registered engineer, there are industry websites where you can have a citation.
Depending on where you are and the kind of company you run, you should find a huge number of directories where you can list your website. There’s a list of some of the most common and popular directories at the end of this article. Most directories will provide a free listing option. This won’t usually include a link to your website, but if citations is all you’re worried about at this point, that’s no problem.
When signing up to a directory, here are a few tips for a smoother and more successful experience:
- give as much detail as you can about your business, including information such as your trading hours, description of the services you offer, alternative contact details, photographs and so on – the information you can include will vary from directory to directory
- when you sign up to a directory, you’ll end up getting lots of marketing or spam emails, so it’s a good idea to use a new email address specifically for signing up to directories
- you may find your business already listed on some directories – be sure to claim ownership or verify these listings on any directory that allows you to do so. There’s normally an obvious link on the listing telling you how to do this.
If you want to take this a step further, you can analyse your competitors’ citations and ensure yours appear in the same places. It’s easy to find another business’s citations: simply Google their name and their postcode. If you don’t know who your competitors are, just Google the keywords that are relevant to your business. For example, if you’re a plumber in Slough, you could try Googling “plumber”, “plumbing”, “fix leaky pipes” and so on. In the results, look at the first results that come up in the Local page, which will give you your competitors’ names and postcodes.
Finding your competitors’ citations will show you any directories or other websites where your competitors are listed but you aren’t. From this, you can choose more places to get citations, and ensure that not only do you increase your number of citations, but potentially get ahead of the competition.
Other places to get citations
Directories aren’t the only places you can get citations. Anywhere your business is mentioned on the web is a potential citation.
Here are some of the other ways you could consider to get citations:
- press releases – always include your NAP at the end of any press release you send out or put on your website
- articles or guest posts – make sure your byline or notes to editors include your NAP
- profile pages – if you’re a member of a forum or discussion board, or you use social media, be sure to include your NAP in your profile page
- signatures – forums and discussion boards will often allow you to have a ‘signature’ that appears on all your postings. Be sure to include your NAP in your signature
- question and answer sites – if you participate in open question and answer websites, make sure you include your NAP in any questions you ask or answers you give.
Another reason to use citations
There’s another reason why citations are important, and it’s nothing to do with SEO. The more citations you have, the more places potential customers have to find you. This can mean a greater number of people will see your details, contact you and potentially do business with you. So, paying attention to citations can help your business in more ways than one.
Directories for citations
These are some of the main directories in the UK where you can list your business.
www.google.com (Google Places)
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