When it comes to local SEO, citation building and establishing trust go hand-in-hand. A local citation is any instance of your core business information appearing online. At a minimum, this information includes your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number (abbreviated as NAP). Be aware that your website's URL is often considered on par with these three elements as well, which is commonly referred to as NAP(W). Other data that may figure into a citation include hours of operation, business category, geo-coordinates, and more.
Local citations can help you in terms of your prominence, one of Google's major ranking factors. Your prominence is based on how familiar and well-regarded your business is online. As a local business owner, it is absolutely imperative that you ensure your NAP(W) is portrayed consistently across the Web. That's because discrepancies between local citations or mentions on suspicious websites can be a huge detriment to your local search rankings and overall trustworthiness.
Fortunately, NAP consistency is not as difficult to enforce as you might think. It's simply a matter of finding and claiming what's already out there (correcting when necessary) and building new citations where there are good opportunities to do so. Keeping records and tracking your progress as you go along will assure you're on target.
Whether we may like it or not, information can spread on the internet at a lightning-fast speed. And, should they circulate, inaccurate NAP citations can drag down your local SEO rankings. That's why the best way to combat these inaccurate citations is to prevent them altogether, but to do that, you must first have an understanding of where you have to look to find them.
First and foremost, you'll want to claim and verify your Google Business Profile. Think of your GBP as the well in Google's backyard - it's the first place where Google will extract data once a search with local intent is made. Next, run a search of your business name or phone number in quotes to force an exact match of your query. This will give you an indication of the other directories in which you're already listed. What you're looking for is an exact match of your business name, physical address, phone number, and website URL. You'll want to be especially wary if any of these have changed since you've been around.
Beyond your GBP listing, it is a good idea to look at local data aggregators (the big three aggregators are Foursquare, Neustar Localeze, and Data Axle), local directories (such as Yelp, Superpages, and Angie's List), review sites, social media platforms (most often LinkedIn and Facebook), local blogs, business associations, and commerce websites. And here's the good news: if you don't see your NAP(W) information in any of these places, you can mark that as a good opportunity for citation building, being certain you'll be including the correct info.
Local data aggregators, or LDAs, are essentially information distributors. They take your local business data and broker it out to search engines, directories, mapping and GPS services, mobile apps, and more. You want to make sure the information they're giving out is the right information because LDAs hold the keys to many doors! If you have the correct information out there, you can count on them to make it appear in the eyes of online users.
More local citations — granted they are accurate and appear on reputable sources — can also provide a substantial boost to your local SEO efforts. Most in your control are structured citations, which are built from values entered into data fields. In most instances, these can be claimed and edited, if not created from scratch. Complete them to the fullest extent possible (that is, include any and all pertinent information beyond NAP(W) if you can) and be sure they match all existing citations. Aside from the aforementioned data aggregators and major directories like Yelp, building citations within niche or industry directories may have the greatest impact on your local search rankings. This is because of relevance, or matching search queries more accurately.
Although you have less control over unstructured citations, they should not be ignored either. Unstructured citations pop up in less formalized settings such as blogs, social media posts, and newspaper websites but are referenced by many users. Capitalize on opportunities to get your information out there via links and mentions on pertinent related websites. Done correctly, this will build even more trust with Google and other search engines.
As we covered earlier, Google Business Profile is Google's go-to source for information when generating results in Google Search and Google Maps. A robust, engaging, and up-to-date GBP listing can make a world of difference in your local search presence. ASAPmaps takes care of every aspect of this for you; it does all the work while you reap all the benefits.