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How To Make Local Citations (Complete Guide)

A local citation is any mention of your company's name, address, or phone number online. Many search engine optimizers consider them to be an important ranking factor for local SEO.

Citations can appear in a variety of places: in corporate directories, on social networks - anywhere someone could look for information about local businesses.

Here is an example of a coffee shop in New York:

This is a NAP citation because the name, address and telephone number of the café are displayed (“NAP” = Name, Address, Phone Number).

In this blog post you will learn:

Why are citations important?

Citations are especially important for two things:

  1. To rank higher for local searches (possibly)
  2. To help people find and explore your business online

Why Citations are useful for Local SEO

Citations is believed to help search engines verify the existence, legality, and trustworthiness of your business. If the same details appear on many relevant and trustworthy websites, then Google is likely to have increased confidence that your company actually exists, does business, and that what you said is true.

According to a survey by Moz, citations are the fifth most important ranking factor for local search queries.

However, there are a few things that need to be pointed out in this survey:

  1. She is already a couple of years old. The survey was conducted in 2018. Given that citations have almost certainly lost their relevance over time, it is very likely that they are rather less relevant today.
  2. Not all search engine optimizers think that citations are still important. Already in 2018, quite a few search engine optimizers stated in Moz's survey that citations are no longer of great importance and do not have too much influence.

The second point in particular is very important. We generally agree with this.

Just getting mentioned in any number of sources is unlikely to have a big impact on your local rankings. Nevertheless, we believe that it makes perfect sense if local citations can be found on relevant, trustworthy sources where visitors also assume that your company can be found there.

At this point we don't want to withhold from you what John Mueller from Google has to say about citations:

Just because a company name is mentioned somewhere doesn't necessarily mean that it is good or bad for the company. I would see these mentions as advertisements - if you think people will see them and are explicitly looking for your business then that's great.

How Citations Help Find Your Business on the Web

People don't always use Google to find local businesses. They also frequently use websites like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and specialist directories like lawyers.com. This is one of the reasons why it makes sense to be registered and listed on these pages.

The other reason is that corporate directories often dominate search results for local searches.

For example, search for “plumber nottingham”:

Very few of the top results are installer websites. They are mostly industry and company directories listing many different installers.

Since Google delivers these kinds of results for local search, you have to be mentioned or cited there so that searchers can find your company.

What types of citations are there?

But before we talk about how to get citations, we need to understand the two different types of citations that can be obtained.

Structured Citations

A structured citation lists the name, address and telephone number (i.e. the NAP data) of a company. Directory entries and social media profiles are good examples of this. The company's information is displayed in one and the same style, and the page is built around this data, as it were.

Unstructured Citations

An unstructured citation is a contextual mention of a company. These citations usually appear in blog or forum posts or as a result of mentions in the press.

How do you get Citations?

Most companies benefit from having some structured and unstructured citations. However, it is not necessary to be mentioned on every website. Rather, the following applies here: quality over quantity.

Follow these four steps to get the Citations you actually need:

  1. Be listed via the ‘Top ‑ 3’ data aggregators
  2. Register on the most important websites
  3. Register on popular industry and local websites
  4. Receive unstructured citations

Step 1. Be listed via the ‘Top ‑ 3’ data aggregators

There are thousands of corporate directories on the web. If everyone relied on business owners to provide their NAP information on their own initiative, there would likely be many gaps in the directory data. Of course, most business owners don't post their details on thousands of websites.

Data aggregators solve this problem. These companies collect information about companies and distribute it to a variety of websites. If these companies have your company information, this information is mentioned or quoted in many places.

There are currently three major data aggregators in the US:

The application, submission and administration of company entries are completely free of charge with InfoGroup (Express Update) and Neustar Localeze. Simply search for your company there and request the listing when it is there. If not, submit a new entry.

Just make sure that you do a thorough research of your business and that you request all of the listings before submitting new ones. You need to make sure that you are requesting all duplicates and that the information is correct.

With Factual you can no longer update or edit the entries directly. You'll need to work with one of their Trusted Data Contributors (TDC), which usually costs a fee. We therefore recommend searching their directory for your company and checking the information there. If they are correct, very good. If it's not correct, you can always work with a TDC like Yext or WhiteSpark to correct the information. In our opinion, however, this is probably not worth it for most companies, so you shouldn't worry too much about factual.

Step 2. Register on the most important websites

The Top ‑ 3 ’data aggregators distribute NAP information from companies to many well-known websites, but not to all of them. It is therefore often advisable to enter your data directly on the most important pages in your own country.

In the US, these are websites like:

  • Apple Maps
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Bing Places
  • YellowPages
  • BBB
  • Foursquare

A full list of the most important sources for citations in the USA can be found here and for other countries here. Mind you, this is only a selection of the “most important” sources based on a subjective assessment. There are many such lists, and while there is undoubtedly some overlap, they are hardly identical.

But: We do not believe that it is worth being registered on all of these websites. Most of them were unknown to us up to now. In addition, some seem to be getting barely any traffic.

This is hardly surprising considering what this website looks like. We can't imagine anyone using this site to find a local business (maybe in 1995?).

So our advice is to go through this list and get subscribed to those sites that are worth it.

The question now is: How should you know which ones they are? If you've heard of them before, chances are they are worth listing (provided it's free). Otherwise, it is also advisable to google for “[your industry] in [location]” and check whether you can find them anywhere in the top 100 search results.

For example, if you search for “plumber in new york”, the pages “Das Örtliche” and “MyHammer” will be listed in the search results.

When it comes to listing your business on these websites, there are two options:

Create the entry manually

If you have a lot of free time and don't mind mundane tasks, you can post your entries on these websites one by one. Just search for your business on any website that appears relevant and worthwhile to you. If it's already entered, make sure the information about it is correct. If they are not correct, try requesting the entry (most sites offer this option) and correct the errors. If your company doesn't even exist, add it.

If you'd also like to request the listing so that you can add more information about your business, Yelp is a great place to do it. For example, Yelp lets you add photos and many other details after you claim that listing.

Since this process is quite tedious and time-consuming, we recommend Yext's Business Scan tool. It automatically checks whether entries from your company already exist on the “most important” websites. All you have to do is enter your business information and you'll get a report like this:

If there are “missing” or inaccurate or even incorrect entries, just visit this website, search for your company and add it or correct the related information.

Use a submission and administration service

Nobody takes pleasure in manually submitting the same business information to different pages. That is why some companies have developed solutions to make this process easier. Yext is perhaps the best known of these companies. It integrates right with hundreds of popular websites, which means you can submit and manage your citations from one place.

You'll even find that some websites only allow submissions through Yext.

However, Yext is not the only company that offers submission and administration services. Companies like BrightLocal and Whitespark also offer them.

It is difficult to say whether these filing services are worthwhile. Every search engine optimizer will have a different opinion on this. Personally, given that these services are far from cheap, I would say that your money is probably better off elsewhere. I would only add entries manually to the few websites that appear most important - nothing more.

Step 3. Register on popular industry and local websites

Now that you have taken care of the “basic citations”, the next step is to look for popular industry and geo-specific citations.

For example, if you run a hotel, make sure it's listed on TripAdvisor. If you are a lawyer, make sure you are listed on findlaw.com. If you are a realtor you should be listed on realtor.com. So that's self explanatory. These are industry-specific citations.

The physical location of your company will give way to further citations. For example, you will likely want to be listed with the local Chamber of Commerce and other local business associations.

There are a few methods of finding these opportunities.

a) Use Google

Search google for simple things like:

There is no need to log into all of these websites. Use your judgment to weigh up which sites are worth it.

b) Use lists that show you industry-specific options for citations

There are quite a few of these online, although BrightLocal's list is one of the best. It lists popular citations for over 40 business categories.

c) Use the Link-Intersect tool from Ahrefs

Most citations contain the company name, address, telephone number, and the URL of the company's website. This is known as the NAPW quote (the “W” stands for “website”).

Although these backlinks are usually no-follow links, you can use them to discover citations. Simply search for competing companies on Google, then paste the home page URLs of three or more into Ahrefs' Link Intersect Tool. Add your homepage url in the field below and set all modes to “url”.

If you click on “Show link opportunities”, websites will be displayed that link to one or more of the homepages you entered, but not yours.

However, it is quite difficult to tell from the list alone why these links exist. So you should click the icon to get more context on each link.

The above looks like a directory entry. We can find out by visiting the referring page.

Remember, these are websites that you don't have a link from. That means you probably won't be listed there yet.

By clicking on a website, you can also view its SEO metrics, including estimated organic traffic. This will help you determine how popular the website is and whether an entry in the list might be important to you.

<h3 id=“unstrukturierte-citations-erhalten”/>Schritt #4. Unstrukturierte Citations erhalten</h3>

If you've already made it this step, then you've probably already trumped most of your competitors when it comes to structured citations. What we haven't really talked about yet are unstructured citations.

Unstructured citations are a whole different matter. They mostly come from press mentions, reviews, and blog posts about your company. This means that they are more difficult to obtain than structured quotations. In fact, someone has to care enough about your business to write about it.

For example, Milk Beach, a London café, is quoted in this GQ article:

You've probably noticed that there is also a backlink to the café's website here - this link is actually also a follow link. This is common with unstructured citations - and that's partly why they're so important to search engine optimization.

There are a few ways to find unstructured citations:

Use google

A major source of unstructured citations are supplier pages. Many companies have them. The companies that are supplied by the company or that supply the company are listed and linked here.

Here is an example:

These can be easily found using Google. Just make a list of your suppliers, find their websites, and then look for something like:

You can also just look through their websites. It is usually not that difficult to find their supplier pages when they have them.

Use HARO

HARO (Help A Reporter Out) enables journalists to connect with sources such as experts. It is free to use and works as follows:

  1. You register yourself.
  2. You will receive daily email notifications with questions from journalists.
  3. You answer a question or provide a quote.
  4. You will be quoted when they use your statements in their next article.

While it takes some time and effort, it is a great way to get high quality citations and links.

Use Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Since most unstructured citations contain a link to the company's website, you can find citations opportunities by checking your competitors' backlinks.

Let's say you run a coffee shop in London. Just enter a competing company's domain into Ahrefs' Site Explorer, set the url mode, go to the report Backlinks and then filter for “dofollow” links.

From here on, it's all about looking for trends that could turn into opportunities. For example, if we look at the Milk Beach report, there are numerous links and citations in sources listing the best “brunch” in London.

Is that useful information? It depends. If your cafe doesn't offer brunch, it probably doesn't. But if you do, and if your customers rave about it regularly, it might be worth getting in touch with some of these bloggers and journalists.

For example, this blogger lists her five favorite places for brunch in this article:

If she doesn't mention our café, it's either because she has never been there or because she didn't like it. So it might be worthwhile to send her a friendly email and maybe even invite her to dinner. If she accepts our offer, she could add our café to her blog post or even write a review of her own.

Here is another quote that was in that Backlinks-Report stands out:

This one is from a blogger who writes about gluten-free foods. Well it probably wouldn't make any sense to get in touch with her as she no longer lives in the UK. But assuming we had a tasty offer for people with celiac disease, we could find and reach out to other bloggers in London who write about gluten-free foods.

For example, here's a page I found doing a quick Google search for gluten-free bloggers in London. A large number of companies are cited here:

You can see that while this process takes a bit of common sense and creativity, it can also reveal some fantastic possibilities.

Does it work for every business? Of course not. If you're a one-person band in a small town, your competitors probably haven't been quoted by journalists and bloggers either. If so, it indicates little competition, so you can probably outrank your competitors by simply betting on your structured citations.

Why it is important that your citations are consistent and accurate

With both structured and unstructured citations, you have to be careful to keep them precise and consistent. This means that the same data should always be given in your citations - for example not two different phone numbers.

Not only is this bad for local SEO, but it also weakens customer trust. In fact, one study found that a whopping 80% of customers lose trust in local businesses when they find incorrect or inconsistent contact details or company names online.

It's easy to see why that is. If companies are not in control of their online presence, then the likely assumption is that they no longer exist or that they are simply unreliable.

However, there is no reason to be too concerned about uniformity now. If you are listed as “Beanies Coffee Shop” in one directory and “Beanies” in another directory, it probably isn't a big problem. As long as everything else matches (address, phone number, website, etc.), Google will almost certainly be able to put two and two together.

Final thoughts

Citations are very important for local SEO, but they are far from the be-all and end-all. You also need to optimize your Google My Business profile, do adequate keyword research, master your on-page SEO and much more.

Our comprehensive guide to local SEO is very useful for this.

Do you still have questions about Citations? Write to me on Twitter.