Got Poor Local Rankings? Citation Consistency

Written by: Jason Bayless | June 11, 2016

Getting a high search ranking, local or otherwise, is no easy task. It involves consistency, maintenance, analysis, and a great deal of both time and effort by SEO professionals. One way that many websites suffer when looking for top-performing local search rankings is in the inconsistency of their citations by third-party websites. When citations from other websites have inconsistent or conflicting information, Google’s algorithm gets confused and discouraged, assuming that these websites are all talking about a different business. As a result, it “spreads the love” around, instead of focusing the impact of citations on a single website and business.

What’s a Citation?

In the world of search engine optimization, a citation is defined as a website that references a business owner’s “NAP” information, or name, address, and phone number. When Google sees such a citation, its algorithm builds a mental link between the business and the third-party website where it was mentioned. The citation lends the business more prominence, and that prominence leads to a higher overall ranking in geo-targeted search results.

When a citation is inaccurate, prominence cannot build. Google might see, for example, that a business is mentioned alongside a different address or phone number. The algorithm assumes that the citation refers to a different business or one that has closed. Any chance at prominence is quickly squandered, and the business is left to linger in the middle of the pack among local competitors.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Novice SEO professionals might view any mentions on third-party websites, even inaccurate ones, as a boon for their business. Psychologically, they’re correct: It feels good to be mentioned! If a business is not mentioned correctly, however, Google feels differently. In fact, Google simply feels indifferent.

The key to aligning the psychological and practical implications of a citation is in the consistency of that citation. Since the most commonly inaccurate citations occur on major sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare, business owners actually have an easy course of action to take when correcting these citations and maximizing their impact:

  • Take ownership of the business listing on a third-party website. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare all allow business owners to claim their entry and make changes to the NAP information as well as other details.
  • Be proactive! All business owners should be regularly searching for their business name and location to see where it has popped up on external websites. Visit those sites often to monitor customer reviews, business information, and important trends. Address and correct information that is not helpful to the business.
  • Make business information widely available. Take a moment to guess why most citations are inaccurate in the first place. Ready for the answer? Business owners often don’t make it easy to find their address or phone number, much less their operating hours and other key details.

    Outside websites are left to guess, fill in the blanks with inaccurate details, or rely on customer-submitted information that may also be wildly inaccurate. Contact information and other details should be present on the business’ page in a prominent area. Take the guesswork out of citations and give concrete information instead.

Citation Consistency Will Transform Local Search Performance

By taking the “noise” out of search results and making sure that the information on outside websites aligns with a business’ actual NAP details, site owners can enjoy far better local search performance. Remember to remain vigilant and proactive, and correct any inaccurate information on other websites as quickly as possible. Within days or weeks, the true impact of citations will become apparent.