To maximize local search engine results, businesses need to create consistent local citations across all top listing sites with complete and accurate business information. Doing so can give your business listings more credibility and higher placement in local search engine results.
While doing these tasks is not difficult, it takes a commitment and attention to detail to ensure optimal local search. Here are a few of the key steps that reinforce the importance of accurate and consistent local citation for local SEO success.
Local Citations Defined
Local citations are business listings that include the business name, address and phone number, at a minimum. They appear in local business directories, apps, and social media platforms. Popular sites include Acxiom, Google My Business, Infogroup, Localeze/Neustar, social media platforms like Facebook, and review sites like Yelp.
Other platforms include websites that provide local lists based on geography or industry, such as local chambers of commerce or trade associations. Less structured platforms include listings on blogs, government databases, maps and news sites.
Search engines use these business listings to help searchers find local businesses and contact information, location and directions, and other important business information. For local businesses, accurate and consistent citations on top listing sites can determine whether or not a business lands in a search engine’s local search results.
Guidelines for Accuracy
Accuracy is the critical ingredient in NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) guidelines. Each listing should use the same name, address, and phone number across online business listings, and should not be location-specific (e.g. “Harry’s Haircuts” should be listed as such for both listings locations in Smithtown and Jonesville, not “Harry’s Haircuts Smithtown”). There should only be one listing per location and older and outdated information should be removed or corrected.
Citations may also include other information, depending on the platform. This data may include website address, business category, description, directions, email addresses, hours, images, reviews, taglines, and more.
What to Do to Optimize Citations
- Claim Profiles. Many review sites, social media platforms, and local business directories allow local businesses to claim their business listings and sometimes even secure vanity URLs that include the business name. Claiming and verifying these listings gives you more control of the information provided on those pages and boosts your credibility.
- Ensure Accuracy. Monitoring and ensuring consistency across all online listings can improve the ability of search engines to associate your business with relevant local search queries and give searchers accurate information about your local business.
- Optimize the Listing. Your citation begins with your NAP information. Most listings sites also allow you to add additional information to provide viewers with more details about your local business. Here are some of the most effective enhancements:
- Pictures that represent your business, location, staff or services add a compelling visual element.
- Business Hours help customers know evening, holiday and weekend information.
- Business descriptions that include locally-relevant keywords and brand terms can also be optimized with links to your website and social network profiles to make your business stand out.
- Tags and categories help categorize your business and services or products accurately.
- Location provides more detail than in a standard address listing and can include directions and parking information.
- Comments and reviews allow you to engage with satisfied customers and actively answer questions or respond to concerns of potential customers.
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