Online citations sound like something most of us left back in the education world, but they have a very important definition role to play in professional online marketing, and if your brand isn’t using citations then it really should be! The key is understanding what a citation is, and how it benefits your local SEO – the SEO you use to target your local community and people searching for nearby products or services.
Local SEO is very beneficial, especially to small and growing businesses or brands that are targeting a specific area. However, you must know how to implement it correctly, and that means using citations. Here’s everything you need to know.
Online Citations Refers to Your Business Contact Information
Citations typically mean referring back to the source where you pulled specific data from. In local SEO, citations refer to your own brand – you are quite literally citing yourself. But instead of citing specific contact, you are actually citing your business contact information.
What this contact information looks like can vary over time and sometimes between platforms. But today a full citation looks like:
- The full business name
- The physical business address (or post office box, etc.)
- The business phone number
- Your email address for new contacts
- Your website link (not always required, but often helpful)
This is an expanded form of what’s called a NAP, or “name, address, phone number,” a concept that’s been in the business world for a very long time, but has been updated for the digital age. That’s it! No further research is required.
These Online Citations Need to Be Everywhere
We’re serious when we mean everywhere: Where your business has a presence, you should include a citation. Obviously, this counts for your website, where the citation should be very clear and included on the home page. It also counts for any directories that you are on, like Yellow Pages, TripAdvisor, or Google My Business.
But that’s just the start. You see, Local SEO benefits from recognizing your citation and linking as the same business across several platforms. In their own, organic way, your online audience does the same thing. The more places that your citation is included, the more it will tie your brand together online, improve your SEO results, and give people reliable ways of contacting your business no matter how they discover you. This will also help Google include your contact information with a variety of organic searches, no matter what people are looking for.
So, when you create a social profile, include your citation. When you make an email template to send out to your customers, include your citation at the bottom. When you have an important CTA link to a web form you want people to fill out, put your citation on the page. Throw around that information generously, and you will see the results.
Accuracy is Particularly Important for Citations
When creating and publishing your local citation, accuracy is very important – every bit of information needs to be correct, across all your citations. One important reason is to avoid confusion: You don’t want people to get your brand mixed up or try to use the wrong contact information. Another reason credibility – Google’s algorithm uses citations to make sure that your business is real and trustworthy. Having wrong or conflicting citations gets in the way of that. A few important factors to keep in mind:
- Your business name: This needs to be your complete name, and it needs to be very accurate. No using “and” when your name actually has “&” for example. No abbreviations unless they’re on your store sign, too – abbreviation makes it more likely that your business will be confused with another.
- Your address: Include all the details in your address. If your address changes, make sure that your citations are updated in every case. You don’t want a citation out on the internet with the wrong address or location on it – especially when it comes to things like Google Maps.
- Your email: Email addresses tend to change more easily than physical addresses. Your citation should always have the right email address for customers seeking more information. When this changes, make sure all your citations are updated as well.
- Phone number: Phone numbers are one of the least likely things to change for a brand until major growth happens, but they shouldn’t be ignored! Put your phone number in a commonly recognized format, and make sure that format is the same for every citation.
There are tools you can use to make managing information like this across multiple platforms easier, and we are happy to help you navigate on how to do this.
Additional Factors to Think About
You don’t need to stop your business citation with the information we’ve discussed. Many brands like to add some more details to help potential customers, depending on the type of business. Some include a basic business description to help even more with SEO when possible. Other brands try to always include their store hours in a citation, since that’s something customers may be particularly interested in. If a platform allows for pictures, always try to include a picture of your storefront, too! These details will all add up and help your online presence.