According to the 2011 Local Search Ranking Factors survey put out by David Mihm, getting local citations was the most recommended off-site activity for small business owners looking to increase their SEO efforts. If you’re not actively trying to increase your number of local citations, you may fall behind a competitor who is.
First off – what’s a citation?
A local citation is any appearance of your business name alongside its address or phone number. These citations serve as clues to the search engines to help them understand who you are (are you the same James Crest Florist they already know exists on 123 Main St. or a new one?), where you’re located, and which queries and neighborhoods you’re relevant for. We’ve long known that the engines were using these all-important indicators for ranking, and David’s survey shows that it’s time to take them even more seriously.
And that means scooping up citations on as many trusted sites as you can. So…where do you look? Here are six places to start.
1. The Big Dogs
If you’re just getting started building citations, your first stop should be to check out the Most Important Citation Sources located in David’s Local Search Ranking Factors report. Hit those 10 first and you’ll be well on your way to building up some important search signals.
2. Local Search Engines
You’ve already taken the steps to perfect your business listing on Google Places and Yahoo Local (right? Please say yes?), but what about the small local search engine and third-party data providers like Localeze of Best of the Web? If you haven’t, I’d recommend that you make it a priority to do so. Not only do they serve as trusted citation sources, but they also feed information to the bigger search engines. As a small business, you want as many sources as possible all giving Google the correct NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) for your business. This is how you begin to build trust.
3. Local Blogs and Business Directories
Keep an eye out for blogs associated with your neighborhood that either featured local companies, have an area directory, or create industry-specific lists. This is another great way to build up relevant citations and to expose your business to new customers at the same time. Because blogs are typically very well crawled, these can be powerful signals for the search engines.
Similar to local blogs, look for local business directories associated with either your state, your city or your specific town. This is another good way to show the engines what neighborhoods your business is relevant to.
4. Article Directories
Are you using article submission sites to pick up some low-level links or build expertise? If you are, then you may as well find a way to work in your business address so that the article will also count as a citation. These directories tend to be very well-indexed by the search engines because of the influx of new content always coming in.
5. Social Place Listings
Thanks to the local wars, you can now create a business listing on FourSquare, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn and virtually every other social media website on the planet. If the site allows an option for you to enter your NAP, take advantage of it. Don’t spam your profile information, but if there’s an option to add it, don’t let it pass by.
6. Where Your Competitors Have Citations
If you’re trying to build up citations, it’s never a bad idea to take a look at what your competitors are doing to see if it makes sense for you as well. You can perform some Google searches to see where the competition is listed or you can use a tool like Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder to let you search by keyword or phone number. If you’re using the free version it will take some time to run it, but once it does you’ll have a prioritized list of places to attack for citations.
Those are six places I’d recommend small business owners look at to increase local citations and, in turn, search rankings. Which sources do you swear by?