What are local citations and why are they important

What are local citations?

What is a local citation

If you look up the word citation online or in a dictionary you find a number of different definitions. The one that best fits the meaning for local citations is this:

the act of citing or quoting a reference to an authority or a precedent

local citation definition

So how does that definition translate for local businesses when it comes to local search? A local citation is simply an online mention of your business name, address and phone number, also known as your NAP, that acts as an authority for the search engines. These are typically found in local online directories such as Yell, Freeindex and ThomsonLocal.


Why are local citations important?

Google likes to have lots of information about your business that it can refer to. The more evidence that it can find, the more credibility it gives to all that information. The most important thing is to make sure that all of your business data is consistent right across the internet. For example, if the name of your plumbing business is Fred Turner & Sons then that should be reflected by your local citations. If some say Fred Turner or Fred Turner Plumbers then they could have a negative impact on your local search visibility. It may not seem like much but it can make a big difference. Remember that at the end of the day Google is just a machine, albeit a highly intelligent and hungry one. You need to feed it quality and consistent data if you want to be rewarded in the local search results.


Different kinds of local citations

It’s possible to have both what are called structured and unstructured citations for your business. Structured citations are what you’ll find in your typical local online directories. For example, with sites like Yell.com it’s possible to enter your business name, address, phone number, website and other details if you choose to (which you should).

structured citation

There are lots of local directory and information sites that will allow you to build structured citations. As the example above shows, Yell.com is one. Others include sites like Yelp, Freeindex, Tripadvisor, Foursquare, TouchLocal and many more. You have a little less control over your unstructured citations, which may come from newspaper articles, blog posts and online magazine articles like the one featured below.

unstructured citation

According to David Mihm’s annual local search ranking factors, the quantity of structured citations is the fifth most important factor when it comes to ranking in the local search results. Unstructured citations come in at number 13. Considering there are 90 different factors covered in the survey, you can see how important both types of local search citations can be for a local business.

Build local citations for your business

Building citations for your business can take time. To be done right and ensure that all your data is correct and consistent they need to be done manually. There are more than one or two citation building services that you can use and it’s something that we include in all our our basic local SEO services. It’s crucial that that the job is done right. If you do want to outsource then make sure it’s to a company specifically experienced in local SEO. Your business data is important and if listings get completed incorrectly it can cause all manner of problems down the road. Best to avoid those costs down the road and get things done right first time around.


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Nick Rink

Managing Director at Smart Local
Nick runs Smart Local from its base in Wimbledon and writes about local search, social media, the mobile web and other online marketing issues affecting small businesses.

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