If you’re not sure what local references are, don’t worry – you’ve probably come across them while looking for a new service provider, brand or company.
For example, a few weeks ago my sister came to town and wanted to take me out to dinner. She wasn’t familiar with the local attractions in the area, so my sister took Yelp to find a restaurant we both loved. After browsing Yelp, she discovered that a black-owned restaurant called 7th + Grove had great reviews.
Yelp showed the address for 7th + Grove, so we knew it was in a busy area of town and might be packed the night we wanted to go. Fortunately, there is a phone number for the restaurant, so my sister called to make an appointment. In this case, the address and phone number listed by the restaurant was their local citation – which made our visit easy and organized.
What are local references?
A local citation is any online mention of a business name, address and telephone number (NAP). These references can be found in business directories, websites, and applications such as Yelp or Yellow Pages. In addition to helping people find local businesses online, citations for local SEO can also boost local search engine rankings.
Citations can help with local SEO because they allow search engines to verify the legitimacy of your business. If the same name, address, and contact information for your brand are easily accessible across the web, search engines can trust your business to exist and to be authentic to the services it provides.
The benefits of local citations
Local online search has proven to be an integral part of business success. According to BrightLocal’s 2022 Consumer Review Survey, last year 99% of consumers used online searches to find local businesses. In the same survey, 78% of consumers said they searched online for local businesses more than once a week.
Local Citation Type
There are a variety of references to local SEO that may apply to your business. Let’s see what they are:
A structured citation is when your business name, address, and phone number are listed on a relevant business directory or third-party website such as Yelp or the Yellow Pages. These third-party websites already have huge databases of reliable information. For these reasons, search engines like Google trust them.
It can be helpful to cite local citations in directories relevant to your industry. For more general directories, such as the Yellow Pages, you need to make sure your business is listed in the appropriate category.
This makes it easier for Google to understand what your business offers and connect you with your target audience. If you’re not sure which directories to target, our list of 50 local directories can help.
Below is an example of a structured citation on Yelp. I searched for the word “cookies” and it showed a local cookie shop with a list of NAPs and a link to their website in one directory.
Unstructured citations also mention key information about your business, but unlike structured citations, this information is not grouped together. Such references often appear on websites or applications that are not specifically designed as directories or business listings.
Common forms of unstructured local citations are online news articles, reviews, or blog posts that mention your business.
For example, the That’s So Tampa article below highlights a new restaurant called Wandee in Tampa, Florida. The restaurant’s name is mentioned in the first paragraph, while the location and a link to its Facebook page (with contact information) are at the bottom.
There is data to support the idea that unstructured citations, such as online reviews, can be beneficial to businesses. According to a Brightlocal survey, 77% of consumers will “always” or “regularly” read online reviews when browsing local businesses in 2021. That’s up from 63 percent in 2020.
How to Build Citations for Local SEO in 4 Steps
If you want to seek local citation building for your business, here are the simple steps you need to take:
1. Use a data aggregator.
There are many online business directories that rely on business owners to submit their NAP directly to the website for inclusion. Business owners and marketers simply don’t have time to submit their business NAPs to thousands of sites. Fortunately, there is an easy way to solve this problem: data aggregators.
Data aggregators are companies that collect information (including business NAPs) and distribute it to hundreds of websites to save you time and effort.
According to CitationsCheck, the four most prominent data aggregators today are Foursquare, Localeze, Factual and Infogroup.
To boost your citations for local SEO, simply search these sites for your business to see if it’s already featured. If you find your business, claim it. Submit your business listing and its correct NAP to the website if it is not already on the website and you have ensured that there are no duplicates.
2. Submit your NAP to the core site.
The next step is to submit your NAP to core sites such as the Yellow Pages, Facebook, Yelp, Apple Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing Places. Before submitting your NAP to these sites, make sure they are relevant to your business and worth your time and effort. This can be done by visiting the website yourself and looking at the types of businesses in the directory.
3. Submit your NAP to industry specific and local websites.
After submitting to the core website, you will need to submit the information to a directory specific to your type of business. If you are a home improvement contractor, you need to provide your information on Angi; if you are a real estate agent, you should be on realtor.com; if you are a hotel, your information should be on TripAdvisor.
You also want to appear in hyperlocal directories such as your local chamber of commerce or other local business association websites.
4. Pursue unstructured local references.
Unstructured citations for local SEO come in the form of blog posts, reviews, and articles about your business. Unstructured local citation building is a bit more difficult than structured local citation building because you need someone who cares enough about your business to write it. But don’t worry, it’s far from impossible.
One way to pursue unstructured citations is to use Google to find supplier pages. Many businesses have supplier pages that link to the companies they supply or the companies that supply them. Just list the suppliers and perform a site search to see if they already mention your business on their website.
Another resource is HARO (Help A Reporter Out). HARO connects journalists with news sources. It’s a free tool that works by sending you daily email reminders from reporters. You’ll answer questions or provide quotes from reporters, who will often cite you and your business in upcoming articles.
Local citations help your business gain online visibility, boost search engine rankings, and improve consumer discovery. Whether you’re pursuing unstructured or structured local citation building, it’s important to make sure your business name, address, and phone number are accurate and the same across all platforms.