How Online Citations Impact Your Business
The internet works in many ways that mirror the real, physical world.
As such, the more your business is mentioned or referenced online – Your website will become more visible to searchers… And the more visible and popular your website becomes, it can attract more visitors… And more visitors means even more potential for online mentions and even greater online visibility.
It’s a snowball effect.
This, in a nutshell, is why online local citations are so important to your business’s online success in your local area.
This is the foundation of local search engine optimization.
What is a Local Citation?
In the online world, a citation is when your company’s information is noted somewhere online. It sounds vague at first, until you break it down just a little further:
These business references, or “local citations” are more commonly visible to most people on familiar internet-directories like Yelp.com, YellowPages.com, HotFrog.com, SuperPages.com, Cylex, and others.
Early in our online life, we see these sites as failed attempts to be search engines. However, their importance to search engines cannot be understated…
Google monitors these directory sites to use as a form of verification against their own data. In short, having a presence on these directories and communities can improve your perceived authority and relevance.
Online citations can be also found on local blog sites, news sites, work websites, social media sites, government sites, as well as anyplace else on the internet where your business or its services might be mentioned.
Types of Online Citations
Online citations generally fall into one of three categories:
Industry or Location-Specific Platforms:
Aside from the more general business listing platforms and directories like Yelp, your company should also take advantage of industry and location-specific platforms.
These can include local listings in your city or town’s chamber of commerce website or listing your business’s information on directories specific to your industry.
For example, maybe you are a plumber, and there is a “best local plumbing companies” website that gives potential customers information about plumbers in your area – Even if the website or directory is small, those are exactly the type of citations you should take advantage of.
Find the contact us section of the directory, or look for the ‘add your business’ button. Trust me, these directories WANT you to list. It is to your mutual benefit.
Major Local Data Platforms:
Major local data platforms like Google My Business, as well as Yelp (and even social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn) are essential for modern businesses. They are simply a MUST.
Google My Business is especially important as Google is the single most important way that customers are likely to find you and your company—and, frankly, it’s no other platform is even close!
GMB warrants its own post to describe all the intricacies and importance of what it can do, and how it helps your business. You have probably interacted with GMB listings many times, and just think it is part of the Google experience… The fact is when you’re clicking a map link, or a phone number link, or are looking at photos a business posted – You are interacting with Google My Business.
Company Information Consistency – NAP (Name Address Phone Number)
Make sure you have all of your company’s information listed properly on Google My Business (don’t worry, it’s free). When adding your business information to your social pages, make sure it matches EXACTLY what you’ve entered into GMB (Google My Business).
The key elements to assure accuracy are the NAP, name, address, and phone number. Spell everything the same, and use the same short forms for street/drive, if applicable.
Even the way you enter your website ought to be identical. Double check, does your website come up as HTTPS, or WWW or NON-WWW? Important yet subtle details many people aren’t aware of.
Consistency is key, as they say.
The wider web can include everything from blogs to local newspapers or even articles written by friends or family and posted on social publishing sites like Medium.
You want to encourage people to write about your business, just make sure that when you do, you always ask them to include a link back to its website as well as its basic information.
Try to get them to format it in a way that will reference your business name, address, phone number, and website. It doesn’t have to look like a directory site. That is the subtle difference between a structured citation and a non-structured citation.
Basically, being referenced anywhere online is a good thing… Industry specific is better, location specific is also better, and the best combination would be a LOCAL & INDUSTRY Specific type of citation.
Where Do Online Citations Come From?
Some online citations are entered manually by you, and others are generated automatically.
Several large business directories automatically generate information on your business and list it on their site based on other information that appears online. This is part of the reason why it is so important to stay on top of properly listing your business information—because failing to do so can lead to incorrect information appearing not just on one website, but on many.
Nothing annoys customers more than incorrect information.
The web is certainly a lot better for information consistency now than it used to be. For that, we owe a big thanks to Google for finally figuring out a way for it all to matter MORE. GMB (Google My Business) is probably Google’s third most important asset behind search itself, and Youtube.
Every business will want to use it, will seek its advantages, and will help to organize the information that it uses to give users a great experience. It is rather genius, and best of all – Free to use.
*Don’t be fooled by fake robot calls that warn you about expiring Google Business Listings – They are spam and are just trying to trick unsuspecting business owners. Google will never call you in this regard. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about a strange phone call you fear might be Google.
Why Your Business Needs Online Citations
There are several things to consider when thinking about online citations for your business. The first is that any internet exposure your company gets will bring attention to your products and/or services.
This, of course, is a good thing. Direct exposure opens your doors to potential consumers that could have formerly passed you by. These citations play an essential role in helping you get in touch with these customers.
Additionally, citations are also critical for local SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Google makes use of citations to connect and establish credibility concerning your online appearance. The more quality citations you have, the higher your site will rank and show up in the search results. A greater ranking means more website traffic, which then amounts to much more authority for you, and ultimately more revenue.
What’s Else is Great About Local Citations?
There are many good things about local citations beyond just the fact that they can get your company more business. Here are a few such benefits:
Online Citations Help with SEO
Local search engine optimization is what we call it when Google presents relevant location-based results to searchers looking for a business in their area. This doesn’t just apply to your website, but also your Google My Business listing.
This is very especially helpful if you have a restaurant, auto body shop, medical office, florist, or another type of business with a physical location, and a local service area.
Your Google My Business listing will also give you the chance to rank in Google’s Local 3-Pack (or Map Pack), which is another outstanding reward for your SEO efforts and visibility among your target customers.
Online Citations are Great for Your Business’s Visibility
Appearing on multiple online platforms is great for your business’s visibility. If your potential customers see your business’s name time and again, they are more likely to eventually buy from you.
There is a rule in marketing called the rule of 7, where if someone sees your brand 7 times, they’ll be more likely to trust, and buy from you.
Online Citations from Business Directories are Cost-Effective
Compared to pay-per-click (PPC) ads and other ways to attract attention online outside of your website, using a business directory to achieve this goal is extremely cost-effective.
In fact, many directories allow local businesses to submit listings for free (thought many of them will hound you afterwards to pay them for advertising. That’s another matter altogether).
Other have fees for special features such as:
- Additional business location listings
- Uploading photos or videos related to your business
- Adding maps, website links, or additional categories for your business
Tips for Online Citations
At the very least, your citations must share your business’s formal name, its physical address, and its local contact number (additionally called NAP’s for “Name, Address, Phone Number”) — and anything else that tells an internet search engine or a customer specifically who you are.
Remember that citations are most effective when they are accompanied by as many details about your company and its products or services as possible. Things like hours of operation, photos, video clips, and reviews can all greatly improve your online presence.
The Anatomy of a Local, Online Citation
Let’s get technical, shall we?
The core components of a citation are a company’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) and can also include a reference or link to the company’s website.
In addition to this, a citation may incorporate some or all of the following elements (always fill out as much as possible):
- Accepted forms of Payment
- Business categories
- Business description
- Fax Number
- Primary/Alternate Phone Numbers
- Reviews and Owner Responses
- Social Media Links
- Service area
- Contact persons
Cylex is one of the more complex directories that channels information to other sources. It is a great place to verify your listing, and assure complete and accurate information.
Citations are a means to an end to help people find core information on your business that they may need to buy and interact with you.
Remember, it is worth taking the time to ensure your company is listed on both major and minor platforms (including Google My Business) and that all the information that appears on these sites is correct.
I would summarize by giving you a top 5 list of citations you should seek to claim IMMEDIATELY:
- Google My Business
- Local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau.
Which boxes do you have checked? Get on it – Or better yet, find someone who knows the landscape and ask them to help (hint hint).