Local Citations: What They Are and Why Your Local Business Needs Them
Do you know the lyrics to the 1960s hit song, Leader of the Pack by The Shangri-Las? I met him at the candy store, he turned around and smiled at me…that’s when I fell for the leader of the pack. Now imagine your business is the leader of the Google Local Pack. This means that when your target customer is searching online, your business smiles from the top of the search results page.
Okay, that’s a pretty corny analogy! But you should think about your local digital presence as your first impression on potential customers. Do you want them to feel instantly drawn to your business? Or do you want them to feel unsure of your intentions?
Read on to learn about courting your local customers with solid local citations.
Good to Know
Over 90 percent of all web searches happen on Google. There are over 30 major web search engines, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the market dominator, Google.
It’s hard to talk about local SEO and local citations without understanding the importance of GoogleMyBusiness, also known as GMB. Local businesses with an SEO strategy have a common goal: to appear in Google’s Local Pack – also known as the local three-pack or the local snack-pack.
The local pack, as we’ll refer to it here, lists the three local businesses that Google has selected to present to the searcher.
You’re familiar with it – the box that appears on the first page of search results. It has a map at the top showing the business locations and the business details listed below.
You want your business to be in the local pack. Read on to find out how to get to the head of the pack!
What Is Local SEO?
You already know that search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of boosting the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic (unpaid) search engine results.
Local SEO refers to the tactics you put in place to promote your products or services to local customers at the exact same time they’re searching for them online. The goal of local SEO is to get your business on the first page of results when a search with local intent is performed.
Local intent simply means that the search engine detects the searcher wanting a local business to fulfill a need. For example, a customer may search for bookstores in St. Louis. If you’re a bookstore owner in St. Louis, you want your business to pop up on the first page of results.
If a customer searches for bookstores, the search engine results could include links to bookstores all over the world. If a customer searches for your product in your town, you want your business to appear on the first page.
What Are Local Citations?
Any online mention of your business details is considered a local citation. At a minimum, business details include the name, address, and phone number (NAP) of your business. Local citations help customers searching online to learn about local businesses like yours.
The more often your business is cited on the web, the higher your business will rank in organic search results. Local citations can be on any website but often appear in local business directories and social media platforms.
Types of citations
There are two types of citations. Structured and unstructured. Both types serve to inform your target customers and search engines about your business.
A structured citation is a mention of your business in an online business directory. Think GoogleMyBusiness (GMB), Yelp, Yellowpages, Mapquest, Foursquare, etc. For structured citations, you need to be proactive.
You need to claim your business on the listings site. This means that you are verifying ownership of the citation. Your business may appear on Yelp but if you haven’t claimed it, the information will most likely be inaccurate or limited.
Once you’ve claimed your business listing, make sure all your business details are present and accurate.
Have you ever searched for a local business, only to have the search results return the name of the business but without other important details so that you can easily connect with the business? Super frustrating, right?
Remember that feeling and let it drive you to claim your structured citations! You don’t want your customers to feel the same way.
An unstructured citation is a mention of your business on a blog, on a magazine or newspaper site, wikis, another business website, etc. Think Top 10 or Best Of lists produced by local websites, like STL Today. is a top citation source in St. Louis.
You need to be proactive in earning unstructured citations by getting mentioned on local websites. Search engines want to see your business represented broadly and accurately on the web.
Does Your Business Need Local Citations?
You probably have guessed the answer is a resounding YES! Over 90 percent of searchers will pick a business on the first page of local search results. To get on that first page, your business needs local citations.
Small businesses know how important search engine results are. According to Google’s own research, 78 percent of them believe customers find them through search engines. But only 23 percent of them understand how web presence drives traffic to their business.
Why are local citations so important? To demonstrate to search engines and your potential customers that are searching online that you’re a legitimate and trusted business.
The way customers discover and choose products and services has changed a lot and not at all.
What has changed a lot are the tactics we use to make purchases. Instead of browsing the aisles of a department store, we surf the internet.
What has not changed is how we decided which products to purchase. We buy from businesses we trust. In the past, trust was built in communities by word of mouth. If your business delivered on its promises, members of the community knew.
Today, positive reviews online are yesterdays’ word of mouth. Search engines look for credible sources with consistent information about your business. Think of the power of products that are endorsed by trusted public figures.
Visibility (a.k.a. top ranking on the first page of search engine results)
Think of search engines as a kind of concierge at a hotel. Imagine yourself in a taxi being driven from the airport to your hotel. Along the way, you see lots of advertising for the best restaurant in town. There seems to be a lot of them based on the number of billboards claiming as much!
How do you choose? All the restaurants claim to be the best, but how do you discern which ones are great? Ask a local. For guests at a hotel, the local recommendations come from the concierge. But how does a concierge choose businesses to recommend?
Stating the obvious, they have to know the business exists. They have to feel confident they have the right business details to give hotel guests. They have to trust the business will deliver a good experience because that will reflect well on them and their hotel.
The more credibility your business has, the more the shopping public will trust it. Happy customers who talk about your business online make your business more visible to search engines.
What Do Your Local Citations Look Like?
If you’re like most business owners, you Google your business every now and then. What do you see? Are you in the Google local pack?
In order to appear on the first page of search engine results and, most importantly, in the Google local pack, you have to regularly manage your local citations. And yes, it’s a lot of work.
It’s your responsibility to make sure that local citations – structured and unstructured – are accurate and consistent across the web.
For example, you should list the same phone number in all directories. It’s confusing for search engines if you use different phone numbers and this confusion will lead to a lower rank.
Online reviews can be a sensitive topic for business owners. Online shoppers are pretty good at knowing an authentic positive review from a bogus positive review. Business owners are pretty good at knowing a fair negative review from an unfair negative review. You need to manage online reviews of your business.
Will You Be the Leader of the Pack?
Do you want to be the leader of the pack – the Google Local Pack?
Of course, you do! And you’re not alone if all of this local citation stuff sounds overwhelming and time-consuming.
Fortunately, there are experts who can evaluate and improve your local citations. Most customers who search with local intent visit a store within the next 24 hours of their search. Don’t miss out on this local SEO strategy that will drive traffic to your local business.
If you have questions, we’d love to help. Request a free consultation today so we can empower you with what you need to get ahead and on top of your online reputation. It matters!
Also, consider our free Local SEO Health Audit report as it includes a reputation management assessment amongst other beneficial data to help you optimize your domain to help your business grow!