Need more traffic? Not getting enough visitors? Feel like your product is exactly what customers want, but you aren’t seeing the pageviews you want? That might be because you are neglecting local search marketing in your community or not following the best practices of local search required to return strong returns on your local SEO currency.
If you’re a local business owner, then you probably know a few things about the importance of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It’s a traditionally used marketing buzz word and critical element of marketing including getting more visitors to your website, who are qualified potential customers. Some might even know about a bit more about the more localized side of SEO, or local search marketing. For those who don’t know, local search marketing, or local SEO, is the practice of making local businesses more visible when customers make local search inquires. Google has made several HUGE revisions to how they display local business in their search rankings, most importantly now, the Big 3 (pictured below). This has caused local search marketing to become much more competitive so understanding how local SEO works is crucial for getting good rankings and in return, more business. In this post, we’ll talk about one of the biggest aspects of local search marketing- citations.
Citations are identified when a local listings website, like an online version of the Yellow Pages, lists your business with the name, address, and phone number, along with a short description and other elements that the source deems relevant about your business. In SEO, there was a time where links dominated the landscape. Google simply ranked businesses based on the number of outside websites linking to that particular website. Citations can be compared to traditional links, but serve a different purpose in that search engines rely on citations to verify the credibility and accuracy of local businesses. Having a lot of citations is a major boost to your business’s rankings on Google search results, because the more citations you have, the more Google trusts your business and can build a consistent understanding of what it does and how to display it to its visitors and users. That’s why it is so important that your name, address, and phone number– collectively called your NAP– be exactly the same across citations. You want it to be easy for Google to find them. This cannot be stressed enough. A inconsistent NAP can immediately disqualify a business from being shown in local search results.
Think of it this way. Imagine your website did not exist. Even if your business doesn’t have its own site, you still want customers to be able to contact you regardless of where they find you and the NAP info to pop up when people in your local area search for the kinds of products or services you provide. Having citations is the key to letting Google know that you exist and that you’re a legit business. Having your NAP on many different local listings means you have many more opportunities for Google to find you. That’s a big plus. You want the search engine to be able to build a clear picture of your business and its core attributes.
High-profile listings sites, like chambers of commerce and local newspapers, grant businesses an aura of legitimacy with citations. We consider these Authoritative Citations. In traditional SEO, there was a time when it was possible for unscrupulous businesses to get fake links and join fraudulent industry groups to attract more attention from the algorithm, but Google has caught on to such behavior and severely punished those who engage in that activity eliminating the value of low quality citation sites. On the other hand, it is very hard for a business to get onto the listings of the chamber of commerce without being a real business. So having citations from trustworthy listings is also a major SEO boost.
In addition to the pure SEO aspects of citations, there are other marketing benefits. They primarily consist of brand awareness opportunities. Every local citation is a new way for customers to find the business. This is another motivation for ensuring a consistent NAP: you don’t want any potential customers to have any problems finding you. It has to be as easy as possible for them to get in touch with your business. Many people use local listings sites when they want to buy something, so if you can appear on as many of them as possible, you stand a better chance of reaching out to the most relevant people- the ones who live near you and are searching for someone to provide your offerings.
Citations don’t need to have links, although it helps when they do. A set of consistent citations crucial for helping Google place your business in the local market. That way, people who look up relevant keywords and add your city will see your business as a suggested result. If you aren’t getting involved in local SEO, then you might be losing ground to your competition.
If you are curious about citations and how you can improve your business’s bottom line by taking advantage of them, request a Free Marketing Audit and we’ll ensure your citations are all lined up.
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