The Importance of Citation Building for Local Search

  • Published
  • October 15, 2014
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Want your business to be found online by customers in your local community? Forget link building. What you need are local search citations!

Let me tell you all about local search citations and why you need them.

Alright, so you’re a small business owner in Canada and you want customers from your local community to be able to find you online. But achieving that goal is easier said than done, especially when you take into account the large number of competitors that you’re up against out there in cyberspace.

Think about it. Your potential customer would only look so far down the list of localized organic search engine results before they give up and start searching for something else instead. And it’s this desire to seek “top of page 1” search rankings that gave birth to the entire search engine optimization industry.

But don’t start dialing that phone number of your neighbourhood SEO firm just yet! Before you give anyone free rein to do whatever it takes to rank your business at the top of Google local search results for your targeted geographical region and product or service keyword (and the thousands of dollars a month they’ll likely be charging you!), you need to know the facts.

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To get your local business found online, it’s not a matter of building a lot of links.

The fact is, it isn’t always about the links.

Oftentimes, search marketing companies would throw around terms like “link building” as part of the list of services they provide to help you rank higher in search engine results. But do you even know what that means?

Definition of Link Building
Actions carried out by search engine optimizers, aimed at increasing both the quantity and quality of inbound links pointing back to a specific webpage or website.

SEO firms that offer link building services are a dime a dozen (although they’ll likely charge you a lot more than that to get you those inbound links!). The concept is simple. Google assigns each webpage on the Internet a specific “PageRank” score, calculated based on a variety of different link metrics. Pages with high PageRank scores will therefore have more power or “link juice” to pass on to another webpages. And as you can likely guess, this link juice is passed on from webpage to webpage via links.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Get a whole bunch of websites to link to you, and any webpage on the receiving end of all that inbound link juice will get the boost it needs to rocket to the top of search engine results. But it’s not that easy!

As you can imagine, there are many search engine optimization companies out there that have figured out how to manipulate the basic concept of link building in order to get certain webpages to rank well for specific keywords.

For example, getting links from websites based in geographical regions that are nowhere near your targeted service area? Or acquiring links that are folded into content blurbs written about topics that have no relevance to your business whatsoever? Sure, both are considered “link building” based on the technical definition. But would either get you greater local search visibility for keyword queries relevant to your business? In one word, no. Google is smarter than that!

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Find out what your business N.A.P. is, and why online directories are your friends.

For greater local search visibility, what you need are business citations.

Alright, so if link building services can more or less no longer be trusted, then what local search marketing solutions would be considered acceptable today?

Let me introduce to you the world of local search citations!

Definition of a Local Citation
Within the context of local search, the mention of your business name, address and phone number (business N.A.P.) together on the same webpage, such as an online directory listing. A website link is not required.

The timing of this Local Search Tips blog post is a bit uncanny, because it was only just yesterday that I came across this year’s Local Search Ranking Factors report… fresh off the press! This annual summary of the top ranking factors influencing Google’s local search algorithm is always on-point in identifying the SEO solutions that work, those that are not worth your time, and those that may end up hurting you in the long run.

Although the ranking factors do vary year by year, what never ceases to change is the importance of building local citations. And this year was no different.

That’s why for an SEO firm to be 100% dedicated to helping small businesses succeed in local search, they should be offering citation building services in place of (or in addition to) link building.

And similar to link building, both quantity and quality matter.

Yes, you want your company name, address and phone number to be listed on as many local directory websites as possible. But you don’t want to list your business in just any ol’ directory. What you want to go after are legitimate citation sources, including trusted online directories offering free business listing submission services.

Not sure which Canadian business directories are trustworthy or not? I recommend running a brief background check before listing your company. See what companies they’re affiliated and/or partnered with. Do they offer citation sources nationwide? Are the services provided available in both English and French? And if in doubt, search on Google to see if the directory itself comes up in local search results!

Oh, and one last thing regarding citations. It’s also about consistency.

Getting your business name, address and phone number out there is great. But keep in mind Google’s local search algorithms are tuned to pick up consistent mentions of your business N.A.P.

If your business name varies from one citation source to the next, or if you have different phone numbers (including varying toll-free numbers) listed across multiple directory listings? Then you’re basically sending mixed signals to Google, which is never a good thing.

So to keep everything simple, make sure your business N.A.P. is consistent across the World Wide Web. And once again, when it comes to getting found online in local search results? It’s not always about the links.

Ready to start building local citations for your business?

Before you go and find that dependable local SEO company that offers legitimate citation building services, you can start by creating a free business citation on the FS Local Canadian business directory!

Karina Shum

Search Marketing Expert at FS Local

Here at FS Local, Karina is the go-to person on all topics pertaining to search marketing, and is the resident WordPress expert. She supports buying handmade and enjoys befriending fellow local artisans at the Toronto Bead Fair, Creativ Festival, and One of a Kind Show. Her current love? The colourful jellybean houses of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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