Quick question for you Sharks: have you ever wondered why some of your competitors rank so high for local keywords? Well, here's a hint: they simply leverage the power of local citations.
When it comes to creating a strong online presence for a local business, citations play a very important part in boosting your visibility for local and mobile search results.
Of course, you still have to focus on on-page SEO and you still need to work hard on your link building strategy and other off-page techniques you may be using to improve your rankings. But, if you're looking to significantly improve the visibility of your local business (or do this for your clients), you should definitely start caring about local citations.
What's a local citation?
First things first, what are local citations?
Local citations basically represent the main way that Google and other search engines identify a business. In (very) simple words, a local citation – often referred to as a NAP – is nothing more than an online mention of the Name, Address and Phone number of a company.
While the main components of a citation must include the business' name, physical address and phone number, it's important to know that local citations may come in more than just one form. For instance, you can include a variation of other references that may help Google get a better idea about your business: hours of operation, company description, website, etc.
The main idea here is that you can incorporate all the relevant elements you want, in order to create a complete image of who you are as a business. You can add your logo, images and videos, or even taglines and reviews. Seriously, you can include anything if you think it will help the search engines and your potential clients get a better understanding of who you are and what you offer.
Where does all this information “go”?
Okay, so now you know what a local citation is, but where would you list all this information?
In other words, in order to leverage the power of local citations, all you need to do is create or claim your listing on the websites that are most relevant and most likely to help you rank your business. Once you do that, make sure you list all your information correctly (a.k.a., try not to make any spelling mistakes or change your business description for every listing!). Also, do make an effort to fill out all fields, even if they're not required.
And another thing. Keep in mind that local citations don't necessarily have to link back to your website to “count”. They can, but they don't have to. The simple mention of your business on local websites, review platforms and directories is enough to help your business become an authority, establish trust with the search engines and with your customers and most important, it will significantly improve your ability to rank well in local search results.
Why do citations matter for a local business?
When a set of reliable sources list the same information about your company, the search engines will “know” that your business is legitimate.
Furthermore, the more citations you accrue and the more accurate you present your information, the better you'll influence your rankings.
By the way, a mention of your business on your very own website doesn't count as a local citation. But do keep in mind that the information you share on your web page should still match the data listed on the citation sources.
PS: Certain mentions of your company may appear even without any action being taken by you or by the people representing your business. This is normal, and there's no need to worry. As long as you make an effort to claim your listings and control of the accuracy of your data, you should be fine.
I'm not a big fan of “final words”, so it's suffice to say that citations should be easy. A citation is nothing more than a mention of your business on the internet.
At the end of the day, having a strong local presence is one of the best and easiest ways to optimize for local SEO. So just make sure you create a citation profile for your business and keep it consistent. The more accurate you present your NAP online, the more credible data you'll provide the search engines so they can rank you.