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Citation Building 101: What You Need to Know About Local SEO

July 20, 2017
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When it comes to driving traffic to a local business citation building should be a natural part of any business’s marketing strategy. Unfortunately, many small business owners have no idea what citations are. Sure, they may be familiar with the word “citation,” but we’re not referring to a list of references used in an article or a type of ticket given out by a traffic cop.

The citations we’re talking about will help build SEO and drive customers to the business. Let’s dive in, shall we?

First things, first:

What Is A Citation?

A citation is a mention of your business’s information—specifically the Name, Address, and Phone (NAP) number—on other websites, pages, and directories across the internet. These mentions do not need to be links and can just be a simple text-based listing of your business’s info on a directory like Yahoo or Yellow Pages.

Search engines, like Google and Bing, make citations a key part of their ranking algorithms. The thought behind this is that the more legitimate and popular a business, the more citations it will have across the web. Take a company like Dunkin Donuts for example. This company’s information is scattered far and wide across the web so when a person does a local search for iced coffee, Google takes the number of citations into account before listing Dunkin as a top result.

You can also get partial credit for NAPs. So, if only your business’s name and address are listed on another site, but your phone number is missing, you’ll still score some SEO points. But it’s far better to have the full NAPs listed instead.

Related: Local SEO Ranking Factors Every SEO Should Know

So, if you want your business to rank higher in local search results, you need to ensure your business’s information is listed in as many online directories as possible.

Even aside from a ranking standpoint, citations help legitimize your business, especially if you don’t have a website (if this is the case, stop reading this article and get a website up and running!). A potential customer is far more likely to take a business into consideration if they have established online citations listed in several directories. If your citations are solid, it will help your business stand out in competitive local search markets.

Overall, search engines like Google use links, reviews, and citations as major factors when it comes to deciding on how to rank your business in search results. The more a business’s information is mentioned across the web, the higher it deserves to be in the rankings. So, if you want your website to be easily discovered, it’s time to make sure your NAPs are consistent and prevalent across online directories, which brings us to our next point…

SEO services

Citation Building Via Directories

The more directories that feature your business’s information, the better. A few directories you’ll want to focus your citation building efforts on include:

  • Google
  • Bing
  • Yahoo!
  • Yelp
  • Yellow Pages
  • Yellowbook
  • Whitepages
  • Superpages.com
  • Facebook
  • The Better Business Bureau
  • Angie’s List
  • LinkedIn
  • Merchant Circle
  • MapQuest
  • Foursquare
  • TripAdvisor

This is by no means the full list of directories or the best ones to represent your business. Knowing which directories to add your company info to can depend on the type of business you’re running. Real estate companies would want to make sure their NAPs are on sites like Zillow or Trulia, while auto repair shops would want to add NAPs to AutoMD and Edmunds.com.


Identify the types of directories that apply to your business and ensure the correct information is provided. If you aren’t sure where to build citations for your business, check out where your competitors are listing their business information. You can do this by searching the competitor’s business name on Google and wading through the results.

Not only does citation building on directories help improve your local SEO rankings, but it also helps your customers know how to contact you. So, if for example, your business moved recently, citations will help them easily discover the new location or information.

Why NAP Consistency Is Key

If there’s one thing your business and a newborn baby have in common it’s that NAP consistency is essential.  Of course, we’re referring to NAP as in Name, Address, and Phone Number for your business.

Again, let’s say your business recently moved. Your office manager updated the information on Google and Bing, but they haven’t updated the Yelp or Facebook page. This will actually count against you in the rankings. Even partial information is better than conflicting information so you must make sure your NAP is consistent across all directories.

Related: What is Local SEO?

This might take some time and effort on your part to track down all directory information, but it’s worth it.

Focus On Google My Business

Of course, we all know that Google is the king of search engines. So, naturally, you’ll want to focus on providing the Google My Business directory with the most accurate business information. Not only is this a win for your ranking, but it also spreads your business’s information to new areas where customers may be looking.

In fact, the Google My Business is a major asset when it comes to showcasing your business. Overall, this directory:

  • Adds your business info to Google Maps. So, if a customer is searching for restaurants in a certain part of Google Maps, your business might pop up in the area.
  • Allows you to easily update business hours.
  • Enables customers and owners to upload images and photos of the business.
  • Helps business owners choose how they’d like customers to interact with the business. This option is particularly helpful for restaurants who want to add in functionality like online ordering.
  • Provides customers with the option to leave a business review which pulls double duty when it comes to SEO goodness.

Citations on directories outside of Google My Business are not quite as robust. Yelp, for example, isn’t always where a customer might start their search. In fact, many people will stumble upon a Yelp page after doing an initial Google search.

Since Google is the #1 search engine, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to set up a Google My Business account and listing. This should be step one when it comes to improving your company’s SEO rankings.

Structured Versus Unstructured

A structured citation is what you’ll find on directories like Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. These sites have a dedicated place—aka structure—for your company’s contact information. All you have to do is update the directory’s form with your company’s information, and you’re done.

However, you can also earn SEO points for unstructured citations. These are a mention of your company’s info on press releases, articles, guest posts, newspaper sites, image and video descriptions, profile pages, and so on. Basically, any mention of your business information that helps customers find your business will work in your favor in terms of SEO.

Wrapping up

Establishing online credibility for your business is an absolute must.  This is why we highly recommend businesses take an active part in citation building via online directories—and anywhere else that it makes sense to include this information. Citation building will boost your company’s SEO rankings and ensure that your business’s information is delivered to prospects and customers the moment they’re looking.

But this isn’t a once and done process. Search engines are constantly tweaking algorithms, and new, popular directories might pop up over night. Depending on your time and resources, we recommend setting up a schedule to audit your company’s citations and build in new areas. Even if you can only work on citation building twice a year, the process should be incorporated as a integral part of your marketing plan and SEO development.





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