Today we’re going to dive into Online Citations.
So far in this series, we’ve covered:
- What SEO is and how to get started
- How to use keywords to create content that ranks with Google
- Using Local Search to attract local customers
- Why Google My Business is so crucial for your business
This week we’re moving on in that same vein to talk about what online citations actually are, how they can impact your business, and how you can get started!
Online Citations Expand Your Reach Online
Think of online citations as “where your business is showing up online.”
They are your business listings or profiles on any site that lists your Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP). These sites are often business or search directories.
Google My Business is a great example of an online citation. But other examples include sites like Yelp!, Facebook, and even Bing Local.
Why Are Citations So Important?
Citations Build Trust with Google
Having a lot of accurate citations increases your trust with Google in two ways:
- Online Citations are yet another method that Google (and other search engines) use to determine whether or not to show your business in searches. Those search engines count the relevant links (i.e. citations) back to your site.
- Having accurate citations also allow Google to create a comprehensive picture of your business. If your NAP is inaccurate across sites, however, you miss out on that benefit (more on that later).
They Provide Back Links
A citations is a type of back-link. There are essentially two types of back-links.
- Content back links are when another website posts some of your content and then provides a link to your website where they found your content, and possibly full or partial NAP information
- Citations, on the other hand, are online business directories that list your NAP and provide a link to your website
Content back links come from creating and sharing great content; which we talked about in this post. But citations are also extremely valuable and can have a huge impact on your overall SEO.
You Take Advantage of the Popularity of the Directories
Another reason why citations are important is because they allow you to take advantage of the popularity of the sites your business is listed on.
For example: wen you perform a local search, a lot of times, the first few organic results are usually from online directory sites (like Yelp!). These results are often in the form of dynamically-created lists. For example a search result might be “Yelp’s 10 Best IT Companies in San Diego”. And when a user clicks there, you benefit if you are on that list.
How You Can Get Started with Building Your Citations in 3 Simple Steps
Step 1: Identify Where You Want to be Listed
You need to identify where you should be listed. There are obvious, high-traffic sites such as Google, Facebook, Yelp!, Bing Local, and so on.
But in conjunction with the big guys, you should also include niche-specific sites. For example, if you provide VOIP services, there’s a site called www.voip-info.com/voip-service-providers. If you’re a VOIP provider, then being listed there would be fantastic for you.
Try to come up with 10-20 sites that you want to be listed on.
Step 2: Create or Submit Your Listing
The process of submitting your listing will vary site-to-site.
For Google you have to verify your physical address. In this post we talked in-depth about this process. But what happens is: Google sends you a postcard with a code on it. You then use that code to verify your address. Once that’s complete, then you will have full control and functionality in your Google My Business Profile.
For Facebook you just need to create a page for your business. This is a relatively simple process to set up. We’ve gone into it in more detail here.
Bing Local is especially easy; you can actually import your business information from Google My Business.
Yelp! is pretty easy as well: just create a profile and go from there.
However, for some providers it can be a complicated process. Sometimes you will have to make a formal submission and then wait through an approval process that can take some time.
Some providers even require payment – sometimes it’s a one-time fee, and sometimes it’s a month-over-month recurring. In those cases, you will have to determine how valuable that source is for you and whether it’s worth the expenditure.
Now, as you’re setting this all up, your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) must remain the same.
I recommend having a master version readily available. Something as small as using a “ste.” for a suite number on one site, and just “#” sign on another site – that sort of thing causes disparity and that can end up hurting you from an SEO standpoint.
Consistency is key.
Step 3: Maintain and Grow Your Citations
Maintaining Your Citations
The obvious maintenance is just remembering to update your citations if your address or phone number changes.
With some sites, however, you will get the most out of it by utilizing all the tools the provide.
For example, posting regularly on Facebook, or regularly adding new content to Google My Business. If a site provides those tools, then using them consistently will keep your profile fresh, and set you apart.
Most people don’t bother with that, and if you are – then that’s something that you have over your competition.
Growing Your Citations
Once you have that strong base of citations (by knocking out the big, obvious sources), the next step is to consistently add a few more each month. This is something you can build into your monthly flow. For example: perhaps on the first Friday of each month you submit 5 or 10 new citations.
As you do that, consistently, it will create momentum, and your citations will grow – and your SEO will improve, faster than you think.
Citations are Your Shortcut to SEO Growth
Using citations allows you to get your business listed on a variety of websites, and greatly increases your online reach. It allows you to take advantage of the popularity of those websites, thereby increasing your organic views and, ultimately, improving your SEO.
What Are Your Next Steps?
Now it’s time to get started! I gave you three simple steps to get started. However, if you’re looking for something even simpler, do this:
- Start with the easy wins first. Get your Google My Business set up, import that information in to Bing Local, create a business Facebook page, and get listed in Yelp!
- Create a list of niche-directories and local directories that you can be listed in. Start with your Chamber of Commerce, and the Better Business Bureau. To find niche-directories, you can perform a Google search such as “<your_industry/product/service> businesses in <your_city>” for example “VOIP businesses in Atlanta”
- Consistently submit a few more citations each month. Build it into your monthly flow; set goals such as “On the first Friday of each month, I’m going to submit at least 5 listings”.
As you do these things, and build your online citations, you will see your search rankings improve. You will get in front of more people, and those people will begin taking action. They’ll visit your website, stop in to your shop, or call you. And these will lead too more revenue-generating activities.
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