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What Are SEO Citations And Why Do They Matter For Local Search?

September 30, 2020

What Are SEO Citations And Why Do They Matter For Local Search?

Our Short Answer: 

Citations are online references for your business which list your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAPS). The more consistent and relevant citations you have across the web, the more visible your business is when someone performs a local search. 

SEO citation graphic for Ability SEO BlogShow Google Who You Are!

A citation is any online reference of the name, address and phone number of a local business. They typically appear on  business directories, social platforms, apps, and websites. 

Citations help people to discover your local business and also impact your local ranking on Google. It’s important to actively manage your online citations to ensure the accuracy of your name, address, phone number and any relevant information pertaining to your business.

Types Of Citations

  1. Structured Citation: this type of citation lists your name, address and phone number (NAP). Examples include online business directories and social media business profiles. It’s called structured because information is displayed in the same way as other businesses' and your page is “built around data.”
  2. Unstructured Citation: This is when your business shows up in a news story, forum post or blog post. It’s considered unstructured because it appears in different ways across different platforms.

What Are The Most Important Places To List A Local Business?

Local Data Business Platforms provide businesses’ tools and resources to verify and manage their online listings to help prospects and customers find them via local search.  

The main Local Data Business Platforms include: Google My Business, Infogroup, Localeze / Neustar, and Axiom. You’ll also want to list your business on core social media platforms such as Facebook and third party review sites like Yelp.

While it’s important to have listings on Local Data Platforms that are for any industry, it’s equally crucial to build listings on websites that are specific to your line of business and location. Examples include professional associations/guilds and chamber of commerce websites.

There are plenty of websites to list a business, but not all of them will be right for yours. That’s why you need to identify the most suitable citation category. 

There many kinds of citations for different industries and businesses like healthcare, attorney, real estate and the list goes on. Although there are some who have higher domain authority; the main thing to look out for is relevancy.That’s where the importance of industry categories comes into play.

Why Are Citations Important For Local Search?

When someone types a query into a search engine, Google or any other search engine is looking for which website is the most relevant, authoritative, closest and offers the best experience for the user. 

Google itself doesn’t need to know you personally because it has all of these sources to go to. These include any business listing, social media business page or anything else mentioning your company name, address and phone number.

This can have a strong impact on your location and authority too. If your Name Address and Phone Number are listed differently in different places online, there’s a possibility it may not show up close to a person who is looking for business similar to yours. Other factors that matter to local search are the size of the listing and the quality of the online business directory. 

In any relationship trust is what holds it together. Your businesses’ relationship with Google is no different. If you are listed differently in a variety of places, it doesn’t foster Google’s trust. 

It’s like having different details on your driver's license, passport and social security card. If you are asked to show them to an authority, how will they know which one is the real you?

You Could Get On The First Page Of Search Results  

An advantage of listing your business on relevant business directories is the increase in likelihood that you’ll appear on the first page of search results. Companies that have listings on Yellow Pages or Yelp tend to appear near the top of the page. 


SERP blog graphic for ability seo

It Could Help Others Discover You

Often if you perform a search for a local business, like an electrician, you’ll get business listings of electricians nearby to where you live. If someone is looking for a business similar to yours in their location, you’ll want your business to be as visible as possible. 

You Could Get More Referral Traffic

People pick favorites. They tend to go to Yelp for restaurants. Some go to Yellow pages for tradespeople. It’s a great idea to get listed in as many relevant directories as you can. This will help you get more referral traffic.

The Best Practices For Citation Management

If and when you move into a new office with a different zip code and street or change your business name, it is best practice to update your info in the relevant places. If you neglect that, you could affect your rankings, your reputation and your revenue.

Here a few of Moz.coms suggestions for risks and benefits of active and passive listings management:

Here are more risks and benefits (https://moz.com/learn/seo/local-citations)

Using a passive approach:

  • Small or weak list of citations.
  • Little control of your presence across the internet.
  • No strategy for finding and handling online reviews.
  • Duplicate listings of your business in several places.

Using an active approach

  • A solid and accurate citation on platforms where people will find you.
  • Easier to find, correct wrong information.
  • Closure of your duplicate listings.
  • Effective way to find and manage customer online reviews.

Things that can help optimize your citations

There is more to managing your citations than finding the right one and putting in your details. Here are some things that will help you optimize your presence online:

  • Consistency: making sure that you have the same name, address and phone number across all your listings is key to increasing the likelihood of ranking higher.
  • Business description: descriptions can increase your rank on search engines by adding relevant and leading keywords. This'll help Google and the rest get a better understanding of your business.
  • Choose a secondary category: on listings like Google My Business, they will ask you to select a secondary category to describe your business. This helps you rank higher for “secondary targeted keywords”.
  • Add your website link to your location page: a lot of businesses just add a link to their home page of their website. John McAlpin writing for Search Engine Journal recommends linking directly to the location page. This helps people find the information that they are searching for and also helps search engines to find you too.

A location page (also known as a local landing page) is a way to target long-tail-location specific- terms”. These are most useful if you have multiple - local brick and mortar stores or service area businesses. 

The purpose is to let people know that you have numerous offices or service areas. These pages help you if you are struggling to rank in “locations other than your main storefront


  • Adding photos of your business getting great reviews helps acquire new customers and imroves your rank too. Google checks sentiment on 3rd party reviewing sites and assesses who provides a high quality experience and who doesn't. 3rd party review sites also impact local SEO ranking depending on your reviews.
  • Adding photos of your business helps improve your conversion rates and your rank on search engine results pages. If the business listing has an option, optimize the image file name and add alt text to describe the content of the image.

Our Bottom-line: 

Citations are online references for your business which lists your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAPS). Consistent and relevant notations add to your businesses’ relevance and authority online making your business more visible when someone performs a local search.