Advanced Guide: How to Improve Your Local SEO Ranking Through Citation Building

By Bill Acholla January 26, 2018

citation building

I have often wondered, what does it take to be the top name in a Google search result?

How does a web search engine rank business, articles and websites when it generates results for a search query?

I got more interested when I saw a list that included local business names among the more popular national brands.

How did this small local business manage to get on that list?

Then I came across the term search engine optimization or SEO. I figured, that’s what the secret is.

One of the ways for a website to be on top of the search results is citation. Websites with a good pool of citations get better rankings on search engines such as Google.

For a local small business system, citation building can be a challenge. There is just so many businesses out there to compete against.

Lets look at what LDM does.

What is LDM?

Getting the help of LDM or Launch Digital Marketing can greatly help with local citations building. The team knows how important citations are, especially for local brands.

LDM uses Whitespark services in order to save money and get things done quickly.

They know that there is so many details and things to do to build a good citation pool and that takes time.

Lost time means lost profits. LDM and Whitespark understand this. Hence, they have an efficient process to fill out their orders.

To date, they have already placed 247 orders. They have built 14,000 citations, all with lower overhead because of outsourcing.

LDM has managed to maintain a small team because they smartly made use of outsourcing. That did not limit them.

In fact, LDM has been recognized by INC. to be one or the fastest growing private companies. The listed growth rate is an impressive 607% in 3 years.

This reflected their evolution through the years as they developed their offerings.

They now offer services such as social media production, video production, search engine optimization and website design.

So, what does it take to build local citations?

Take a look at these 10 actionable tips:

1. Build a strong brand locally

Your locality serves as a base for your operations. A locally strong brand represents trustworthiness.

The support of the local community signifies that the brand is reliable and of good quality.

The locals are the ones who get to experience the service and the product. If they do not like it, they won’t support it. If they support it, the brand becomes stronger.

Clients from outside the locality are more apt to get the services of local strong brands.

Even if you aim to get clients from outside your own community, it’s important to keep the closest customers happy. They will be proof of the service/product’s good quality.

How do you do that?

Get people to talk about the brand. Google will pick up the chatter and it will boost your rank.

You can start getting locally known by getting written about in local publications, community magazines and news sources.

Getting written about (in a good way) by these local sources is an indication Get links to these articles and put it in your website.

This will boost your citations in a big way. Links are vital to getting noticed, which this blog by David Farkas explains.

According to Mike Blumenthal the co-founder of Getfivestars.com, Anyone can and should use tools like Moz Local or Whitespark to get citations.

That is the price of admission and will at least get you admitted to the ballpark.

Everyone should also strive for name and address consistency and be sure that they have removed incorrect citations from the ecosystem. That will get you a seat in the bleachers.

But if you want to actually play in the game and stand out in Local then it is important to think in terms of “real world’s%!t”*.

A business needs to strive for the types of validation that a great business gets in the offline world and be sure that it is mirrored in the online world. These are the citations that will put you into the starting lineup.

  • Demonstrate trust from other businesses: Join the Chamber, BBB, industry groups and other certifying bodies and be recognized as a member in good standing online
  • Show the community that you care: Sponsor local groups and be sure to be mentioned (and linked to) in their online properties
  • Reflect your real world local prominence: Get brand mentions in the online local newspaper
  • And don’t forget word of mouth: Word of mouth has moved online in the form of 1st and 3rd party reviews. Be sure that your positive real world word of mouth is reflected in the digital online world on both your own website and at the prominent review sites.

Google is all about “brand” these days and the most prominent local brands will be the winners.

Getting real and relevant at locally and industry focused sites will give your “citation” efforts the boost they need to not just stand out from the crowd but to push the winning run across the plate.

2. Manage your location data like a competitive asset

Location management data is crucial to any business. It ensures that all business information is up to date and accurate.

This includes checking and updating information on the site, links and anywhere else that the business and the site are referenced to.

This is one effective way of detecting and removing duplicates.

Active management has a positive impact on reputation and rankings. These translate to better revenues.

Citation profile is more accurate and robust and set on the major platforms. It helps to become aware of any inaccurate data for timely discovery and prompt correction.

This can help hugely in detecting duplicate local business listings.

Active location data management is also a solid strategy that can be used for managing reviews.

It helps in discovering any reviews made about the business and managing these well. This also helps manage incorrect citations.

It is also advisable to perform a local search audit. This will give you a heads up on what is happening to your site. You will also have a better idea of what needs to be improved.

Adam Dorfman the SVP Product & Technology at Simpartners.com reiterates that; manage your location data like a competitive asset.

Stop thinking of location data as basic NAP information that you publish once and forget about.

Location data encompasses a rich set of information that you can use to set yourself apart.

Identify attributes that will give you a competitive edge such as whether you offer services in multiple languages.

Ensure that your data is accurate. And then rely on data amplifiers such as Apple, Bing Foursquare, Google, and data aggregators to share your location data wherever near-me searches occur.

3. Fix NAP consistency with citations

NAP or Name, Address and Phone is vital in citations building. It also improves local SEO in different search engines, especially for geo-targeted or local search.

Hence, the NAP must be consistent. Inconsistencies usually arise from the small details.

An example is using St. and Street. Use one form in all listings in local directories.

Using St. in one listing and Street in another will create duplicate listings. Each NAP entry must be exactly the same.

*Note the highlighted address. The address at the top does not have the local zip code while the address in the link to the website has one. This can cause come problems with the Google search engine results.

Fixing and improving NAP consistencies in citations with these tips:

  • Include a local phone number instead of 1-800 number
  • Contact information should be easily read both by users and search engines. Input it as text rather than as part of an image. Search engines do not always decipher information that’s part of an image,
  • Include a physical location in the information given on the website
  • Perform consistent checks or citation audits on NAP information, especially in new business listing.

According to Andrew Shotland the founder of Localseoguide.com, their extensive research shows:

Fixing NAP consistency with citations can improve a business’ ability to appear in the Local Pack

Fixing NAP consistency with citations likely has little to no impact on improving your rankings once you are already in the Local Pack.

4. Focus on quality sites and getting customer reviews

Good citations for local SEO are great. To get this, you focus on getting cited in quality sites. Look for reputable sites as your citation sources.

Good options to start are BBB.com (Better Business Bureau), Yelp and Angie’s List.

BBB is a great place to get a citation. Its 100-year presence gives a vote of confidence to the business.

Being in this site reflects having good customer service and ethical business practices. Getting in this site is gaining an overall symbol for business excellence.

Yelp, for instance, is a good place to get both citation and customer reviews. This online review site is very popular. Being a part of this can boost your position in the online community.

Yelp allows for interaction with customers. You can respond to client reviews on this site. You can also offer different specials and deals directly to clients.

Angie’s List is a good place for citations. It is one the main methods to get customer referrals. This can significantly boost the business on different search engines.

Whitesparks citations will also boost your rank in localized marketing. It can help increase the mentions of your business across many sites, links, affiliates and other media.

It is also a good idea to make use of influencer marketing, as explained by Kevin Payne in this blog post.

Here are some actionable tips from Phil Rozek the founder of Localvisibilitysystem.com

a. Quantity counts for little. Build 150 citations if you like, but don’t expect it to help your local rankings.

Focus instead on the 20-40 important sites: the local directories everyone’s heard of, the few most-prominent directories most geared toward your industry, and the data-aggregators (InfoGroup, LocalEze, Acxiom, and Factual).

b. Spend extra time on the categories you choose for your listings. Those strongly influence how visible you are within those directories, which in turn are pretty visible in Google’s local results.

“Search results within search results.”  You don’t need to spend much time filling out the other details.

c. You’re usually better off having the “URL” field point to your homepage, rather than to a city-specific landing page. (Google My Business page should probably point to your homepage, too.)

d. Don’t just let your listings sit there: encourage customers to write reviews on the most-noticeable sites.

5. Recognize what you do in your local community

Start locally, build a strong base and see your citations increase in no time. For this, think of what you can do in your locale.

How can you be part of the different activities, concerns and agenda of the various groups in the local community?

Start with the neighborhood associations and homeowners’ associations? Recognize of what you can do for these.

Once you get them to recognize your useful to them, they can link your site to their newsletters and posts. This is an essential part in link building, both in the Web and locally.

Soon, you will see your citations increase.

And that’s why Eric Enge CEO of Stonetemple.com, stresses that; as a local business, you already know how important it is for you to be recognized for what you do in your local community.

When it comes to improving your rankings in search engines, you need to extend that same general concept to the web.

What can you do to make sure that you are seen in many of the places online where your potential customers go?

Do they go to the local newspaper site? Do they visit sites for other local businesses? Are the discussion groups that they participate in?

Think about what you can do to be seen in these various places. It will get you in front of your prospects on a regular basis and, odds are pretty good that search engines will notice too.

Think about it as raising your visibility online, much the same way you think about raising your visibility in the real world.

Note that in the above I referred to the concept of “being seen”. It’s great if you can get links in all these places where you’re seen, but mentions of your business are great too.

Raise your overall visibility as much as you can, and chances are good that you’ll get strong results.

6. Keep track of your URL and log-in credentials

You should keep your contents secure. Someone can always get in and peek at your website traffic. This can be bad for your business and your site visitors.

Poor security can put information about your business and your visitors in jeopardy. Word can get out and people will stay away from your site for fear of information leaks.

People who have the URL can login to your business site. This can allow anyone to make some unauthorized activities within your site.

Keep track of your URL. It is advisable to use https for your URL than a simple http for tighter security.

You may also have to update your site’s password regularly to improve your local site security.

Ben Wynkoop of Benwynkoop.com advises that, the first thing every local entrepreneur needs to for citation building is to meticulously keep track of the URLs and log-in credentials to your business listings and social media profiles.

I rarely encounter a local business owner who SOMEWHAT organizes this information in a single document.

Here is a Google Sheet I created that you can copy (File > Make a copy…) to track all important information related to your social media profiles and business listings.

Copy the business listings questionnaire and business listing tab for each additional location.

While authority, trust, and relevance are a big part of organic SEO, remember that proximity is a fourth major area to focus on for local SEO ranking.

So, build local-specific and niche-specific business listings and track each in the business listings tab of the mentioned Google sheet.

Secondly, after building citations on the major generic, local and niche directories, use Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder to find and build all citations your top-ranking competitors have that you do not.

Third, look to place citations in areas other than directories: bios of social media profiles, descriptions of YouTube videos, press releases, job postings, etc.

7. Make sure your URL are indexed by Google

Google-indexed URLs make it easier for people to find it. Indexing helps Google searches to discover business website and add it or any new content to the Google index faster.

If you don’t get your URL indexed, you will have a lower local search ranking. You will have to wait for Googlebot to crawl and get to your website before it appears on the search results.

Indexing make the process faster. It’s like getting Googlebot to place a bookmark on your page.

When a person asks for something, you are one of the first ones to be referenced. If you do not have this “bookmark”- more appropriately called “indexed”- it will take some time for Googlebot to find your website from among the many other un-indexed websites.

To get indexed, the simplest and fastest is to submit your URL to search engines. This isn’t the most recommended but it gets your site noticed fast.

Sign in to your Google account then click the Submit URL from the Webmaster Tools menu.

 

There are many other ways to get the Googlebit to crawl to your website faster and get you discovered.

Some of these are:

a. Creating a site map (XML document) on your website server. This will list every page on your business website. This is helpful to keep search engines aware if you have updated your content.

You can do these by installing the Google XML Sitemaps plugin or use tools like XML Sitemaps Generator. Submit the sitemap to the Google Webmaster Tools.

Sign in to Google Accounts then for a Webmaster Tools. Click Optimization then Sitemaps. Add the website’s sitemap link to Webmaster Tool.

b. Google Analytics: Installing this gives Google a heads up about a new website. You can also use this tool for tracking purposes for improving your website and your online business.

c. Social Profiles: The power of social media cannot be underestimated in this day and age. Add the website link to your social media accounts or vice versa.

Create a social media profile of your business site such as a Facebook page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn company page or a profile, YouTube channels, Google+ pages or profiles and Pinterest profiles.

Create a status update on these profiles or pages and put a link to your business. This will alert the search engines dedicated to following or tracking social signals. Having rich media citations will get search engines to notice your site.

According to Casey Meraz founder & CEO of Jurisdigital.com, the biggest tip Casey would give around citation building is to make sure they’re actually helping you.

8/10 a business owner will create a citation and then leave thinking their work is done.

In many cases, whether you’re doing the submissions manually or by using a service like Yext, you will find that many end up not being indexed by Google.

You can check this pretty easily by taking the URL of your live citation and typing it into a Google Search.

If the exact URL does not show up, it’s likely not indexed. The easiest way to get these noticed is to tell Google they exist.

One way to do this is to make a list of these URL’s on your website and submit them to be crawled through Google Search Console.

This will ensure you end up getting the benefit of Google seeing them.

8. Create GREAT content that can be cited

One of the most important content marketing tips is to create an awesome, useful article. Contents are also important in building citations.

Create awesome contents means writing quality articles. Avoid spammy content. Avoid linking to spammy sites, too. Google might detect these and classify you as a spammy site, too.

Your articles or contents can be cited by other sharing sites. Social media accounts can post your content and provide links to your website.

This is one way to show people that you are a quality site. This is another way to create local citations. You become a go-to for specific information, service or product.

Visakan Veerasamy Social Media Manager at Referralcandy.com, reiterates that; a simple yet overlooked fact that not many people realize is: you don’t need every single piece of content to achieve every single milestone all at once.

You don’t need each post to get tonnes of backlinks AND tonnes of social shares AND convert a lot of traffic.

It’s far easier to have different pieces of content each optimized for a single goal.

Once you’ve got that clear, you’ll realize that you can have content that’s effectively designed with the intent of getting backlinks.

(Of course, you’ll still want this to be generally relevant to your brand and your audience – you don’t want to sabotage everything just for the backlinks.)

The trick there is to work backwards from what people in your market want to link to. In my experience, the thing that people most link to (particularly from top sites) is “evidence” or “proof” type content.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone writing for a top site, and what sort of content they’re working on.

When they’re writing a post, they’ll need to back up their claims with sources.

So make sure that you have content pieces that very clearly, succinctly fulfill this criteria – and you’ll get backlinks when your posts get cited.

Vivek Patel the Local Search Analyst & Content Marketer at E2MSolutions.com prefers citation-building method to build links when it comes to local SEO ranking.

Vivek stand stems from MOZ Local Pack/Finder Ranking Factors, which include 13% Citation Signals as opposed to 8% Citation Signals in Localized Organic Ranking Factors.

A pro tip would be to break down the citation link building into activities spread over the duration of 3 months.

Month 1: In the first month, get citations on your Primary Data Sources inclusive of aggregators in the USA and primary data sources in other countries.

Month 2: In the second month, get citations on the top 50 prominent structured citation sources in the country.

Month 3: In the third month, go for the remaining 50-100 business listing sites.

According to your niche, you also need to get citations from the locally relevant and industry relevant domains.

All the same, do not forget to include unstructured citations from newspaper articles, blog posts, government websites and industry associations.

You also need to ensure that your primary sources have consistent citations. Along with this, you need to pay attention to the NAP consistency on all the major citation websites.

Apart from citation, you can also turn to some other best practices that are still applicable for SEO ranking. These are high-quality local links to your website, reviews, site optimization and GMB listing.

It is the accurate NAP information, which brings your business via directories. In the long run, this helps lay down the foundation of local search.

9. After every 6 months, update your local landing page

Aim for a dynamic site by periodically updating your local landing page. This will give an impression that your business is active.

This also gives off the vibe of being a dynamic page. This tells visitors that you give due attention to all aspects of your business.

According to Michael Borgelt founder of 51blocks.com, use your best local landing page for your URL and revisit/update them every 6 months

10. Have multiple branches in the same state or city

Your site is not just your focus. Aim to have multiple physical sites within the same city or state. That means having more than one office.

This will allow you to conduct physical, face-to-face business with more clients. This will also make you more reachable to many potential clients.

Each location should have its own local landing page. The opening copy of each landing page should contain the office’s own unique NAP. Register or list all these offices in the local business directory.

Nital Shah Founder and CEO of Octos.com.au, recommends that; when you have multiple branches in the same state OR city, it is advisable to have different URLs for each of the branches.

Each branch should be listed as a separate listing on the directories. This will help each branch to have its own business listing impact and more chances to appear in local search results when searched from local areas.

In the below image, the brand “Ribs & Burgers” is listed separately for their different branches in the same state.

Now It’s Your Turn!

Everything may seem too much work but with the help from the right people, you can raise the ranking of your small business. Take these tips with you as a guide to build your citations.

Being a small local business is not an excuse not to make it big. The World Wide Web is full of opportunities, if you know how to utilize the tools available.

Start building your citations now and get your site higher on the SEO rankings.

Now that you’ve seen how to improve your local SEO ranking, I’d love to hear your thoughts, right away.

Comments

  1. Your article proves what I have been reading that off site SEO requires social skills to be to make it work. One can’t get citations they are not willing to build relationships with people. That is not treating people who are offering citations as if their business is worthless or your superior to theirs.

    Getting citations from the community and niche websites are great ways to promote your business thoroughly.

  2. Very rich stuff. I love the references.

    Thanks

  3. Hello Sir,
    your post is very good. you are good writer also I always follow your blog. As a small digital Marketer your post helps me very much. We always want to grow our audience in our website. your article helps to grow this.
    thank you

  4. Good tips about local SEO thanks for sharing with us.

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