Local marketing Local SEO

Local SEO: How Many Citations Do I Need?

Transcript Below

Today I'm going to answer a common question I get in regards to local SEO from students in my Local SEO course, how many citations do I need? And I get this question a lot because it's not very clear, because when it comes to citations, you can literally get thousands and thousands of citations, but at what point does it not really matter anymore or at what point are you going to get diminishing returns? And that's what we're going to answer today.

Now, for anyone who's new to citations, what are citations?

Well, a citation is merely a mention of your business or brand online, and it's broken down into structured or unstructured citations.

So a structured citation would be a fixed format. So think of the Yellow Pages or think of Yelp.

If you see how your business is listed with the name of the business, address, phone number, website, things like that, that's what's called a structured citation. It's a strict kind of standard format where your business is listed online. And a lot of times it's gonna be directories, review sites, maybe trade websites that you belong to. Things like that where they have some sort of kind of directory type listing. Those are what's called structured citations.

Unstructured citations are mentions of your business or brand online, but not in that traditional structured format.

And usually when you see it unstructured format, it would be in the form of somebody mentioning you in their blog post. It might local media mentioning you on their Website or even social media, things like that. It's people basically talking about your business or your brand online. And these are what's called structured citations.

Now, the difference between a link, where somebody can click on the link (text) and go to a Website and a citation is that a citation is a mention of your business or brand online. But it does or does not have to be a clickable link back to your Web site.  It is merely the mention of your business or brand online.

And the reason that citations are important for local SEO and not so much for traditional SEO are two things. Basically, when it comes to traditional SEO, you're trying to rank your Web site and more specifically, a Web page on your Web site, high in the Google search results.

With local SEO. You're you're not trying to rank your Web site you're trying to rank your business entity and your brand online. And that can be your Web site. That can be your Google my business listing. That can also be third party Web sites such as Yelp or Home Stars or Angie's List anywhere where you have an important presence on there. So you're trying to boost your business and your brand name online rather than specifically a Web page on your Website.

So there's a little more complication with Local SEO. And when it comes to citations, Google decided they want to use citations because they understand that  people are looking for the best businesses in their area. They're not looking for the best marketers. So you may be a pizzeria that has the best pizza in your city, but you may have a terrible Website. You may not be very good at online marketing. And Google doesn't want to reward people strictly for being good marketers.

They want to reward a business for having the best pizza. And that's where they came up with citations because these citations helped to build that kind of sentiment as Google starts to see these people talking about your business online. Citations build confidence that your business is legitimate in the eyes of Google. So as they see more quality citations, structured and unstructured citations, they get more confident that your business actually is a legitimate business. But they also look at the sentiment of those of those mentions of your business and they bring those all into account.

And it kind of acts like link building for Local SEO, because as you have all of that positive sentiment and all these mentions about your business on these various Websites, then Google starts to see that people are actually talking about your business and talking about your pizza, and that'll help them determine that, OK, maybe they are a really good pizzeria and I'll give you a little more prominence in that category. So that is the difference between structured and unstructured citations.

So when it comes to getting citations to answer the initial question, how many citations I need?  You need to get the important ones. You don't need to get a lot of them. So when it comes to the important ones you want to make sure that you're getting on the popular ones that are important for your business.

So you want to make sure if you are a home improvement site you want make sure that you're on Angie's list or Homestars, if you're in Canada and any other kind of trade related review sites and directories, you want to make sure that you're on those.

You want to make sure you're on the big general ones like Yellow Pages or Brown Book or Hot Frog. Those are kind of more universal directory sites. So you want to make sure you get into the bigger well-known directory sites. After that, you want to make sure that you're getting into your local ones in your geographic area. So if there are any directories or places where you can get listed locally, maybe for your specific city, there are certain directories you want to make sure you get listed there.

You also want to make sure you are getting listed on anything relevant to your industry. So if you're in say home improvement, any kind of home improvement type directories that are popular that you can get into. You want to make sure you're listed there.

But once you get the initial list of these popular ones,  the local ones,  the relevant ones, where you want to try to get listed on there. It does take some time to do it, but once you're listed on there, it doesn't really make any sense to keep going because literally there are thousands and thousands of different review sites, different directories. You really just want to make sure you get on the popular ones.

The main popular ones. And usually that's anywhere between 20 and 40 different websites that are probably going to make up the main ones for your business. Once you go past that and you start getting into these kind of smaller no name directories and what happens a lot of times anyway is that they steal or aggregate the information from the bigger directories and Web sites. They pull the information out and populate them onto their directory. So a lot of it is redundant information and not worth your time and effort.

So if you're listed on say the Yellow Pages, you're probably also going to be listed on hundreds of other kind of yellow page clone type directory sites by default because they're stealing that information from the Yellow Pages to begin with. And there's definitely a point where if you start spending too much time and resources trying to get more citations, really you're not really getting that much more benefit.

Once you go past the main popular directory sites, like I said, probably about 20 to 40 of the top ones after that, you're probably can use your time better by focusing on other marketing and SEO related activities. So how much time and resources? Like I said, just focus on the big ones.

But here's a good tip if you're kind of just starting out and you want to kind of get an idea of what directories you should be on and maybe you're not aware of what's available in your area. Look at your competitors that are ranking in the top five in the Google organic research results and also the ones that are ranking in the top five for Google my business,the  local search results.  Look at their businesses, take their phone number and Google their phone number. What you'll find is some stuff from their website and some unrelated stuff. But what you'll also find is where their information is listed on a lot of directories, review sites, places like that that you probably didn't even know existed. So now you'll have some places to get citations that the top businesses in your area and category are using.

So they're ranking at the top of Google and they're probably doing something right. They probably got some good citations that you can copy. The reason we use phone numbers is out of your NAP, your name, address, phone number, phone number is the most unique. People can have the same business name, they can share the same office building but rarely will a business share the same phone number. So if you just put their phone number in and Google it, you'll get a whole bunch results.

You might have to weed through a couple of pages of the search results. But if you do it for a few different businesses I guarantee you'll pick out some good citation resources that you can add your business to. One tip I definitely recommend is to organize your citations on a spreadsheet. And as you're looking at what websites you want to get your citations for, put them on a spreadsheet. Once you put them on a spreadsheet, make sure you have your username, the password log in the the URL to your listing and also the date when you added that citation.

Reason being is a lot of times you may not have to ever go back to that directory again, but if you ever move your business, it becomes a major headache trying to change your address on all of these different  directories and review sites and things like that.

So if you can organize it from the beginning on a spreadsheet, it makes it much, much easier. And if you ever need to make changes you can go back or you can hire an intern or you can hire a freelancer to do it and they can go back and they can update your address and information in an orderly fashion, because if you don't keep track of them, it can become almost impossible to update information if you move.

And lastly, I get this question a lot, should I use a third party service like Yext where you can pay them money every month and they will maintain your listing for you. If you don't want to bother with any of this stuff and you  plan on moving in the next year, or maybe you move every couple of years, it may be a good option for you.

A lot of times the citations, it's a lot of work up front, but once you do it up front, there's not that much more you can do.  So if you have the time you can do it yourself now and not really worry about it again.

Maybe a new directory might pop up every couple years or a new review site and you want to add your information to them. But most of the citation building you're going to do upfront when you're first starting your business or you're first starting your citation campaign.

So using a third party service has its pros and cons.

On one hand, it's easy because they update all your information. You only add your information once and then they'll go out and update on all the most popular directories for you. And if you move or make a change. You only have to make that change once. The downside to it is once you stop paying them, your directory listings revert back to their original state. So basically, once you start paying a third party service, you essentially have to pay them forever or else everything's gonna go back to the beginning if you cancel your service.

And if this happens, you were probably better off just doing the work upfront and doing the listings yourself from the start. But like I said, if citations is something you don't really want to bother with and you plan on maybe moving and you don't want to deal with the headaches, then maybe look at a third party service like Yext..

So to answer the question again, to reiterate, how many citations do I need, you need to get some citations.

You need to get the important ones, local ones, relevant ones. Probably about 20 to 40. After that, I wouldn't worry about them. You're gonna get much more better impact focusing your time, energy and money on doing other marketing activities that will have a bigger impact on your Local SEO than just by getting more citations.

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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
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