Why Do I Need Citations for My Local SEO?

Written by: Jason Bayless | April 23, 2015

When it comes to local SEO, a citation can be defined as any mention of your company’s name on local directories or other websites. Citations may or may not have a link to your website. If someone blogs about buying something in your store, that would be considered a citation. Citations are more beneficial for your local SEO visibility if they also include your company’s address, phone number and other specific details. Without those specific details, a search engine may not see a clear link between your company and the mention since there may be other businesses with similar names. Online phone directories are a good source of citations, and search engines like Google may also notice your company name if it is mentioned on social media channels. Below is a look at citations and their importance to local businesses.

The Different Kinds of Citations

There are two kinds of citations: structured and unstructured. Structured citations are the standardized listings found on local directory websites that feature your business’s name, address and phone number. Some of these listings may also include your website’s URL. Unstructured citations are the various versions of your business’s name that are mentioned on different websites. For example, someone may mention your business’s name without the other information or they may list your phone number and nothing else. Unstructured citations can turn up on blogs, job websites or even government websites. They can be very beneficial to your local rankings.

Why Local Citations Are Good for Your Business

They Bring Awareness of Your Brand

One of the big challenges for any business is to gain recognition in the marketplace. For new businesses, getting attention is paramount and can make the difference between success and failure. The more mentions of your company there are online, the more likely it is that potential customers will come across them and visit your site. Keep in mind that most people look online to find local businesses. More website traffic as a result of your citations will usually translate into more customers.

They Prove to Search Engines that Your Business Exists

Citations are a signal to the search engines that your business is active in a specific geographic location; in other words, it is proof that the business is genuine with actual roots in the community. Citations such as a mention on a local chamber of commerce website are difficult to fabricate, as are citations in local newspapers or on high-profile websites.

They Help You to be Competitive Locally

Search engines like Google and Bing are actively trying to link businesses with specific geographic locations. By doing this, it is possible to show where your business is most active. Google and other search engines expect businesses to be listed on certain websites and that their information will be consistent across those websites. Consistent citations along with other elements of a good local SEO strategy can help to place a small company on an equal footing with larger, more established ones. Every new citation helps with local SEO.

They Can Help Businesses with No Web Presence

Citations are essential for small businesses in less competitive niches that do not have websites. Local plumbers and electricians often do not have their own website. Without a website, the search engines will need other sources of information about the company.

Finally, it is important to note that not all citations provide equal value. If your business is mentioned on an authoritative high-traffic website like washingtonpost.com, that citation will be much more beneficial than a mention on a spam directory built specifically for link-building. Volume does appear to matter in that websites that have more local citations do tend to rank higher than websites with fewer.