In local SEO, a citation is a reference to critical business information—your name, address, and phone number (NAP)—anywhere else on the web.
Local citations may appear on directories, social networking or review sites, apps, and various other sites.
Obviously, these are an important part of the searcher experience; NAP information is how local consumers find their way to your store or to call you.
But do citations help you rank higher in Google search results?
Claim: Local Citations as Ranking Factor
Some citations only allow the name, address, and phone number of the location.
However, you can add website links, business descriptions, photos, and more, depending on the directory or platform.
The idea here is that each of these optimizations will help you rank higher in local search results:
- Make your NAP information appear on more external websites.
- Ensure citations are accurate.
- Each is optimized by adding as many supporting details as the fields on this site allow.
white spark Industry survey Local ranking factors provide a good framework for the various considerations when we talk about local citation signals. The cited assessment is based on:
Citing evidence as a ranking factor
Citations have long been widely accepted by SEO professionals as a key local ranking factor.
“Consistency of References” ranked No. 5 Moz 2020 Industry Survey What SEO pros consider to be a local ranking factor. (They are fifth 2018 Survey, too, for local packs/finders and localized organic search results. )
However, over the years, what the most important citations are has been the subject of debate.
When BrightLocal surveyed the industry in 2016, 90% of respondents said citation accuracy was “very important” to “critical” for local search rankings. Additionally, 86% said the quality of these citations was more important than the quantity.
In this video, Google confirms that local search results are primarily based on relevance, distance, and prominence.
While you can’t control all of these factors, they say:
“First, make sure all your business information is complete. It’s important to have accurate information, including your phone number, address, and business category.”
Google also recommends that in order to ensure the accuracy of your information Listed green minibuses and “to help you stand out”, you should:
- Double check that the hours of operation are accurate.
- Holidays use special time.
- Add a photo of your location, service or product.
- Verify your location to tell Google that you are the correct owner of the business.
in their “Improve your local ranking on Google” Help resource, the advice is clear:
“Local results favor the most relevant results for every search. Businesses with complete and accurate information are more likely to be matched with the right searches.”
Evidence against local citations as a ranking factor
You might argue that references are too hard to maintain and therefore not reliable signals.
Ensuring that all citations in the local search ecosystem are up to date is very difficult.
With so many aggregators, user suggestions, manual errors, and other factors that wreak havoc on citation information, how can Google trust that the information they find about any one business location is accurate?
This is why local listing management is so important, providing Google with a single source of truth through your GMB profile is key.
Monitoring citation errors is essential, so you can correct erroneous information before they are picked up by aggregators and distributed more widely.
There can be a myriad of reasons for inconsistent citations:
- Business moves to new location.
- Brands open and close stores.
- Employees and owners create listings without records and they become outdated as the business grows.
- Consumers create duplicate listings by making typos when trying to leave a review.
- Googlers suggested listing edits with the best intentions but misinformation.
- and more. Much more.
Google recognizes that all of these issues can affect citation accuracy, which is why it relies on such a wide range of sources to determine whether information is trustworthy.
Local Citations as Ranking Factors: Our Verdict
Bottom line: Google has almost officially confirmed that Google uses local citations as a ranking signal in local packs/finders and localized organic search results.
Google’s goal is to provide the best, most trusted answers to every searcher.
Citations are an important signal that key business information is correct, and that location is the best answer to a local searcher’s relevant query.
If you’re just starting out, check out John McAlpin’s Citations and Local SEO: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.
Ready to get more advanced? Make sure your citations are accurate and complete on as many relevant sources as possible. WhiteSpark is free Top local citation sources by country finder enables you to extract lists of top directories, networks, websites, and more in 15 countries.
If you really want to step up your local strategy, you’ll want to download Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improving Local Search Rankings.
Featured image: Paolo Bobita/Search Engine Magazine