I know what you’re thinking: “Citations… what the heck are those?” Well, it’s good to know what citations are because they are an important part of a good Internet marketing strategy—especially for businesses that operate locally. In a nutshell, citations are simple mentions of your business on web pages around the web. They can be on your accountant’s website. They can be on your friend’s cat’s website. They can even be on your own website! That’s right, if you put your business name, address and phone number on your own website it counts as a citation.
The main reason citations are important is that they help your business rank better on search engine results pages—especially in the local results section. When you think about this, it makes sense. Like most businesses, search engines strive to do a good job serving their customers. This means they want to give quality results when people search. Since the search engines want to give quality results, they look for aspects of credibility from the websites they index. When they see consistent information about a business in various places around the web, the business appears more credible. On the other hand, if the search engine indexes a website that seems to have no citations/mentions of it anywhere on the web, the business appears less credible. A business can also appear less credible if the search engine finds inconsistent information about it.
The NAP is most important
As I mentioned above, it is bad if the search engines find inconsistent information about a business around the web. Search engines like to see consistency, especially with key information about a business. The most important information to keep consistent is the name, address, and phone number of a business (thus the acronym NAP). Always be watchful and careful that the NAP of your business appears consistently whenever it appears on the web. If you find there are inconsistencies, take measures immediately to try to correct them. One thing to be wary of in particular is call tracking. Call tracking is a commonly used technique to test the effectiveness of an advertisement. A unique phone number is displayed so that any calls that come to that number can be attributed to the ad it came from. If you are using or might someday use call tracking, be sure to keep the call tracking phone number away from any web pages that could be indexed by the search engines and therefore create an inconsistent citation.
Your most important citations
Citations do not all hold equal weight. Having a citation on your friend’s cat’s website is not as valuable as having a citation on a large directory site like Yellowbook. In fact, establishing citations on large directory sites is something you should do as early as possible. Many large directory sites allow you to list your business for free. Some have a verification process to prove that the information you enter is correct, but many do not. How many citations should you have? There is no magic number, but if I were you I would want to have at least a few more than my closest competitor. Frankly, the more the better.
How to build effective citations
As previously mentioned, having a consistent name, address, and phone number is the most important thing to keep in mind when building citations. Here are a few other tips:
- Fill in as much information as you can on directory sites. Many of them give you the opportunity to put photos, videos, hours of operation, descriptions of your business, a link to your website, links to your social web pages, and more. Not only does a more complete citation look better to a search engine, but it can also help bring traffic to your website directly.
- Make sure you categorize your business correctly and use good keywords to describe what your business does.
- You will need to create usernames and passwords for each directory site, so have a good way of organizing them as you go. Using a spreadsheet is a good method of doing this.
- Use software like LastPass or Roboform to speed up the process of typing the same information into the form fields of the directory sites.
- Remember that any web page that shows a mention of your business is a citation. This can be your Facebook page, your Google+ page, or even your own website.
- Keep an open mind about where on the web you can build citations. Be sure to search the names of your competitors to see where their citations reside on the web.
Some websites where you can build citations for your business
Here are some directory websites where you can register your business and create a citation. Be sure to supply as much information as possible, including photos.
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