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Citations Make the World Go ’Round: Getting Found Locally Online

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Imagine a business, any business, that’s out there in the world. This includes the sole proprietor, the small to medium-sized business (SMB), or one of thousands of locations that make up the body of a major brand. In each situation, the most important thing is getting found locally online by consumers that want to buy their products and services. And this is where local citations come into play.

Citations Have a Life of Their Own

As you probably already know, a citation is any mention of a business online that includes the business name. In some cases, it also includes the business address and phone number (known as NAP data).

Businesses have gone from one or two listings in a telephone directory to many citations across the web. And citations can appear online with no input from the business at all. Despite that, businesses may exercise control over many of these citations and in order to successfully get found, they absolutely must do so!

It may help to look at it this way – citations have a life. They are created, they exist, and they can be affected by actions such as adding or updating information. Citations can even be harmed or damaged when bad data is disseminated from a data aggregator or other source. These damaged citations lead to confused and unhappy consumers.

Citations’ Impact on Consumer Trust

Consumers rely on search engines to deliver results that will fulfill their “I want to” moments. Not just any result will do! In brief, the searcher wants a solution that they can believe in. Consumer trust is a measurable factor in decision making, as illustrated by the following eye-opening statistics:

  • An impressive 91 percent of consumers want experience-based input before choosing a business or brand, as reported in the Local Consumer Review Survey 2016 by Bright Local
  • Think with Google tells us that 69% of smartphone users are more likely to buy from companies providing relevant, easily-accessible answers to their questions

So what happens when a business loses trust? Something as seemingly innocent as an outdated phone number or old street address is a gift that just keeps on giving:

The old adage was “the more citations, the better” and it’s no longer true. Research clearly demonstrates that quality trumps quantity. Accurate, consistent citations equal high quality, and Google for one loves high quality! Low-quality citations exhibit bad data, bad directions, and other varieties of badness that will most definitely lead to mistrust by both search engines and consumers!

Creating Winning Local Citations

Brands and businesses today must manage their online data to win in the local space. The process starts with claiming existing listings and then creating new ones on high quality sources. Follow the steps below to get started.

1. First, Google the Business

With GPS on, do a Google search from a mobile device. Do not enter the business name – search instead for the business category.

Where is the business showing up? Did it make the first page of the SERPs (search engine results pages)? If it is not there, don’t worry, because there are steps to help get it there.

Click on the business listing. The website, Google+ listing, and additional social and review sites should also be listed. Each of these citations must be examined and edited as needed.

2. Claim Those Existing Listings, Then Optimize

Stay with the results delivered in step 1 above. As a representative of your business, ensure that the listings are both claimed and optimized across all the sites. Check the basic NAP data and ensure that business hours are correct (and consistent across all listings). Whenever possible use great photos that clearly show the business, or risk a poor or confusing photo being inserted by a customer or worse, by a competitor!

Industry-specific listings called verticals may also be in play. This includes sites such as Care.com, Realtor.com, FindLaw, etc. Survey the vertical directories for your business category.

Does this process sound complicated? Citations management can be a bit overwhelming for SMBs or even digital marketers. Here’s a free resource to help you find and optimize business listings.

3. Size Up the Competition

Return to the search results for the category you searched for, or search for the competition by name. Do any competitors appear in directories where the business is not found? If so, first confirm that the directory is high quality. Document the source, so you can create a directory listing in the next steps.

4. Create New Listings

Creating citations for a local business seems pretty easy at first. Understanding where to list the business and how to optimize the listing is where it can get complicated.

Low quality directories will show more ads than content and have a large number of outgoing links. Plus, submissions are not moderated, reciprocal links are requested (or required), and the domain is de-indexed in Google.

Many directory sites are free. To get listed, a representative for the business answers some questions and verifies permission to speak for the business. More than likely the rep can also upload a logo with additional descriptive details.

It’s Time to Maintain the Citations

Working with online business listings and managing a business’ local presence is never a simple one-and-done process. Use the above steps to get the business on the right path and monitor the citations continually to keep them there.

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