When it comes to local SEO, citation building and trust building go hand-in-hand. A local citation is any instance of your core business information appearing online. At minimum, this information includes your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number (abbreviated NAP) — note that website URL is often considered on par with those three elements as well. Other data that may figure into a citation include hours of operation, business category, geo-coordinates, and more.
Local citations figure heavily into prominence, one of Google's major ranking factors, which 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.
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 if 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.
For better or worse, information spreads quickly on the Internet. As such, inaccurate NAP citations can drag down your local SEO rankings quickly should they circulate. The best way to combat inaccurate citations, then, is to prevent them altogether. But to do that, you must have an understanding of where they live.
First and foremost, you'll want to claim and verify your Google My Business listing. GMB listings are the equivalent of the well in Google's backyard — they're the first data source it will draw from when a search is made with local intent. 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 GMB listing, it is a good idea to look at local data aggregators (the four big ones are Factual, Foursquare, Neustar Localeze, and Infogroup), 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. If you do not see your NAPW info in any one or more of these places, you can mark that as a potential opportunity for citation building.
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!
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 NAPW 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 My Business is Google's go-to source for information when returning results in Google Search and Google Maps. A robust, engaging, and up-to-date GMB 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.