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How does Google use citations for Local SEO?

When Google first started out the only thing they looked at to determine how important and relevant your content was was by the number of links you had coming through to your site, things have changed, the way people use the internet has changed too and this is reflected by Google’s use of citations as a ranking factor.

What is a citation?

Any references online to your businesses name, address, domain, and a  phone number are seen as a citation. Google uses citations to work out how authoritative your website is, much in the same way they do with links. Obviously the world of citations is much more Woolley than a straight link as they aren’t linked to a specific URL on your website in order for them to be of benefit to your business.

The key thing here is to make sure your citations incorporate your business’ telephone number, if you don’t get all the telephone number in there it’s only a partial citation – it still counts though, it’s just not as strong as it would be if you managed to get the telephone number in there as well!

As an example, a full citation of Grow Traffic would be: Grow Traffic, Whimbrel, Wrennalls Lane, Heskin, Chorley, Lancs, PR7 5PW – 07557 924229.

If you are using citations to help your local SEO strategy then you need to make sure everything marries up with the details you’re using on your website as well as the details that are featured in your Google+ local page. It’s advisable to use the same format in all the citations you create – there will be the odd time that you don’t use the same format, and that’s ok, however on the whole you need to be clear that the format is the same so it’s not confusing to Google.

Are citations really important?

As a freelance SEO consultant I’ve been creating links back to people’s websites for years, and it’s fair to say everyone that I speak to always wants me to build them links, as such when I speak about citations they often ask me if I really need to create them citations, if these are something that will really benefit their website and their rankings. The answer is they are important and as Google become more sophisticated citations and partial citations are going to become even more important in the future.

From the point of view of Google it makes perfect sense that those businesses that get more mentions around the net are the ones that should rank higher – after all a link is a citation of another sort, it’s therefore important to make sure citations are found on websites that are relevant to the content of your website.

Citations are also used to make sure the contact details of a website and business are correct and up to date which could see your Google+ Local page appearing higher in the listing when it’s triggered. As local listings have become much more important in the way people search for information and in the way Google display the SERPs it’s vital you do everything you can to get Google to list you highly in the localised SERPs.

Where does Google look for website citations?

The obvious place to look for citations is local directories, however this is probably not the first place Google will look, Google has spent a lot of time over the year’s trying to move us away from using directories (at the end of the day Google is a sort of directory of information itself!). Crucially you need to be thinking about other websites, social media channels, blogs and forums.

When thinking about how to get citations think about:

  • Guest blogs (specifically information about the author)
  • Press releases
  • Image descriptions
  • Video descriptions
  • Forum Signatures
  • Social Profiles

Where can I get citations for my website?

Saying that, it probably is best to start your search by thinking about directories and the following list should give you a good place to start with:

  1. Applegate
  2. Pinbud
  3. City Listings
  4. Scoot
  5. Cylex UK
  6. BizBuzz
  7. Qype UK
  8. Local Data Search
  9. Touch Local
  10. Biz Wiki UK
  11. Hotfrog UK
  14. LinkedIn
  15. Yelp
  16. Yell
  17. BrownBook
  18. Opendi
  19. FreeBD
  20. B99
  21. Enter UK
  22. UK Local Search
  23. Look Trade
  24. Business Line Directory
  25. Yalwa UK

Remember, in the old days we only used to look for directories that offered links back to a website, nowadays that isn’t the be all and end all, citations from these websites are important and will count.

I always think that directories is about doing the basics, once you’ve got your website listed in directories it’s important to keep going, make a list of your competitors and work out where they are getting citations for their website, this should be as easy as carrying out a few quick searches in Google using your competitors name, post code and telephone number.

If you do this for 5 – 10 competitors you’ll probably end up with around 100 – 200 places you can get citations from, you’ll find a lot of these will be easy to get a citation from, normally just being a case of signing up and they’ll put your content live, others you’ll have to do a bit more work, ie you may need to ring up or email someone however if you’re consistent about it you’ll get somewhere with it. Just don’t expect to get all of them! Remember to give them a reason to do it, such as a guest post for their site/blog.

Once you’ve finished doing this it’s time to start again, with SEO you’re never really finished, plus you need to make sure you take hold of those new opportunities as they come up, this could be when you work with another business or when you notice a competitor working with another company.

As Google is evolving the way it understands the net it’s important to bear in mind that citations shouldn’t be where we stop, I recently read an article by  on Search Engine Journal which identifies Co-Citation and Co-Occurrence as being the next big thing in SEO – so watch this space!

How does Google use citations for Local SEO?

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