The Role of Citations in Local SEO

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Citations help ensure your business appears in local search. The practice of citation building, as a component of overall local SEO strategy, has been around for several years. 

Citations can be structured or unstructured. Structured citations are usually the same as a traditional business listing or a profile page. Structured citations contain labeled data elements that can be understood by a search engine as referring to a business’s official name, address, phone number, hours, and website URL. Unstructured citations are more loosely organized. Unstructured citations are things like newspaper articles or blog posts that mention a business by name. These types of mentions can help boost a website’s organic search ranking.

In recent years, there has been a shift in focus from “citations” to “channels” in local search. Whereas marketers once placed a lot of emphasis on building structured citations in online directories, we’re now seeing some of the larger streams of consumer activity, such as local search across Google properties and Facebook, playing a bigger role. With the older style of citation building in online directories losing its relevance, businesses are better off thinking of the local network as a system of channels, or independent sources of consumer traffic. 

As Google shifts from an older “local index” model to the Knowledge Graph, the search engine giant no longer needs traditional structured content to keep its business listings up-to-date. That information now comes from individual users and business owners themselves. 

With all that being said, it’s worth noting that business directory listings do still matter for local search. Popular directories, like Yelp and TripAdvisor, continue to generate substantial traffic and listings in these directories rank highly in organic search results.

Businesses that want to manage their citations to optimize local SEO should focus on these independent sites and site categories, as they make up the top local channels today:

  1. Google
  2. Yelp
  3. Facebook
  4. Apple
  5. Bing
  6. Foursquare
  7. Aggregators (Infogroup, Factual, Neustar)
  8. Navigation Services (TomTom, OpenStreetMap, HERE)
  9. Secondary Directories
  10. Local Pages

For multi-location brands, in particular, it’s critical to have a central repository of location information that’s fully cleansed, accurate, and up-to-date.

To learn more about the role that citations play in local SEO, read this article.


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