Business Marketing Seo

Google Map Citations for Local SEO: What, Why and How

Google Citation

When your customers look for a local service on Google, they type the service they need into Google + the location they need it in.

Google then clicks a few numbers and runs code from a server faster than your eyes can blink, delivering a list of businesses that they deem to be most relevant to your search query. If you try it now, you may also notice a map at the top of your search results with a series of pointers for businesses in your area.

It all works brilliantly, but have you ever wondered how Google determines which businesses to show?

While Google keeps the inner workings of their search engine algorithm closely under wraps, people working in the SEO world have noticed one commonality shared by the top ranking sites on Google Local:

They all have citations.

WHAT is a Citation?

A citation is a mention of your business on another website.

A citation does not have to link to your website – but it should always have the following information:

  • Your business name
  • Your phone number (if applicable)
  • Your email address
  • Your physical address

Here are two examples of a citation:

  • A directory like Yell or Foursquare has a listing of your business by name
  • A website in your industry mentions you by name on a useful resources page (for example, a carpenter might mention a timber supplier)

It is incredibly important that any citations you actively pursue have consistent and accurate information about your business. Your business name, phone number, email address and physical address should always be the same. Inconsistencies in data can devalue the quality of your citations and make them less powerful.

Knowledge fact 1: A citation can be anywhere…

You can make a citation on any website you are able to publish content on. However, the quality of your citations is important (more on this below).

Knowledge fact 2: Citations are not listed in Webmaster Tools…

Something to bear in mind with citations is Google won’t conveniently list them in Webmaster tools under ‘Links’. Citations that do not link to your website will not be shown in Webmaster tools, so you’ll want to keep your own list.

WHY Are Citations Important?

Now that you know what a citation is, you’re probably wondering why they are important and why Google values them (even when they do not link to your site).

The reason citations are important (and the reason they can give you an edge over your competitors) is because Google reads them and correlates the data (physical address, email address, phone number, name) with your website and Google My Business listing.

In doing so, Google ‘verifies’ your site to be authentic and trustworthy for its users.

In other words, by publishing correct information about your business in relevant places, Google has plenty of reputable sources to validate your business as genuine.

Citations are an important part of dominating your local market. The more high-quality citations you have, the better your chances are of appearing as the number #1 listing in your local area or appearing as #1 on Google Maps.

HOW to Build Citations for Local SEO

To make a citation, you will need the following information:

  • Your business name
  • Your phone number (if applicable)
  • Your email address
  • Your physical address

You can also include your website URL, but it isn’t necessary.

Once you have this information, you can publish it on a website other than your own, and Google will crawl and discover it in their own time.

Here are some places where you can get citations:

  • Business directories (Yell, Yelp, 192, Scooploop, Localeze)
  • Social media (Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Press releases
  • Blogs covering your niche
  • Review sites (Tripadvisor, Trustpilot)
  • Forums (these should be related to your niche)
  • Geo and industry platforms (Findlaw.com, Checkatrade.com)

To link or not to link?

A citation can include a link to your website or not.

In our opinion, citations should not include a link to your website.

Our reasoning for this is building a link means it becomes a backlink, and citations are not meant to be the same thing as backlinks.

The key difference between them is citations help your Google Local and Google Map listings rank better, whereas backlinks help your website rank better. This is a key distinction you need to remember when approaching Local SEO.

A citation requires Google to crunch data and verify your business information. A backlink points Google to your website.

Quality or quantity?

Quality always triumphs over quantity when it comes to citations, but your approach will depend on what your competitors have done.

If your competitors have only a few high-quality citations, then you will need to beat them at their own game with a few more high-quality citations.

If your competitors have no citations at all, then one or two good citations could be enough to get you right up to number #1 in Google.

If your competitors have low-quality citations, then whether these are a few or a lot, you can probably beat them with 5 or 10 good citations.

If your competitors have hundreds of citations, then you will need to look at their best citations and replicate them. The low-quality stuff can be skipped in favour of optimising your Google Local listing and your website.

Are there any tools I can use to build citations?

If you don’t have time to build citations manually, there are software tools you can plug your business information into.

Here are some of the most reputable options:

All three of these tools do more than build citations. They can also find you citations and discover citations built by other sites in your niche.

Moz is arguably the most powerful SEO tool available today, but Brightlocal really is an astounding Google Local tool. It will monitor all your rankings by position, track your citations and list all your reviews. The Citation Builder is our favorite feature, allowing you to build citations, clean up existing citations, remove duplicate citations and track citations in real-time. You can try it free for 14-days. Prefer to leave citations to the experts? We’ll build them for you. Get in touch to discuss local SEO plans for your business.

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