How To Use Citations To Maximize Local SEO
Local SEO is a hot topic as small businesses everywhere are trying to rank alongside national chains in local results. As a painter, being found on these listings will generate substantial new business, as more customers are able to find you. Recently, I published a piece regarding NAP data and it’s importance as a local ranking factor. In case you missed it, NAP data refers to the business name, address and phone number and website (although I believe hours of operation is a crucial element as well). Generating and managing consistent citations (the term ‘citations’ refers to listings that include your NAP data online) with correct NAP data is a large part of achieving desired rankings among local results.
Where Do I start?
The first, and maybe most important, step in starting a local citation campaign is to create a Google ‘My Business’ Page. This page absolutely must be 100% accurate with the information entered exactly as you would want a customer to see it. Make sure to use exact NAP information on this page and fill it out as much as possible. Include a business description laced with keywords you would like to rank for, but make sure it is still reader friendly. The next step will be to ensure that any listing you have created across the Internet provides the same information.
Why Would I have Incorrect Citations?
Many business owners are entirely unaware of the level of accuracy required to use directories and review websites as a boost to their local SEO. Every time that your business is added to a listing website the information should appear identical. There are several reasons that your listings may contain inaccuracies:
- Your business has changed names
- Your business has changed phone numbers, website, address or hours of operation
- You have business name variations
- You have hired an SEO to build links who has been using directories to accomplish this without complete information
- Someone in your company who has been building these listings was not aware of the importance of consistency
- Multiple entries in the same listing website with small variations
An easy way to determine the current state of your local SEO is to use the ‘Check My Listing’ tool provided by a leading Search Engine Marketing Tool company called MOZ.
How Accurate Does It Need To Be?
Best practice for a business who is just entering the Local search sphere is to actually just copy and past everything from the Google My Business page which was the first thing created. Many small inaccuracies can add up to a large issue in relation to Local search. For the purpose of showing rather then telling I will use the NAP data for a painting company located in San Diego:
Correct NAP Data:
WOW 1 Day Painting San Diego
5052 Clairemont Drive #17618 San Diego, CA. 92117
|Incorrect Name||Incorrect Address||Incorrect Phone Number|
|WOW One Day Painting||5052 Clairemont Dr.
San Diego, CA. 92117
The example is not pulled from an incorrect listing; I just made a point to show how each portion of the NAP information could be slightly different. In the incorrect business name I changed the name to include the word ‘one’ written out rather then be stated numerically as would be considered correct while also removing the location signifier. In the incorrect address I removed the unit number and changed the suffix from ‘Drive’ to ‘Dr.’ Lastly, I removed the prefix from the business phone number to illustrate how this portion could be listed wrong. It is important to understand how even these small changes which can very easily be included in citations you have generated add up to create an inconsistency; making it harder for search engines to correctly identify your business and location.
How Can I Manage My Local Citations?
Once you understand the importance of consistent and accurate location citations it is important to understand how they can be managed. In this regard, a small business has a few options available. The first option, which is the most convenient, is to use citation aggregation service. These services, such as Yext, MOZ Local, or Localeze require a per year fee for their service but many business owners feel that it is well worth it. Each of these aggregators has access to different citation websites such as Yelp, BBB, Angie’s List, Apple Maps, Merchant Circle, and Manta among others. The benefit in going this route is that you can update your business information in one platform and it is corrected across all of the websites associated with each service.
If you decide you would prefer to manage this information manually, it can be done and it will save you money while costing you time. The first thing you will want to do is find any listings that have already been created for your business. One way to find these listings is to perform a search in Google with your business name in quotations. Using the quotation marks on both sides of the business name in the search tells Google to only pull results that include exactly that term. This will give you a great list to start with where you can check every website that has your business name included on it for complete accuracy. It is best to start a spreadsheet where you can keep track of everywhere your business is listed online all in one place. This will be especially useful in the event that some of the information needs to be updated (such as with a new physical location or phone number). I would format it something like this (with an example from the same painting company but a different location):
Once you have a comprehensive list of all of your local citations and the NAP data provided on each you can very easily go through and update each page to maximize accuracy and consistency!