How to Do a Quick Citation Audit and Clean Up

Local businesses have learned over the years just how important it is to rank well in Google’s local pack results. A recent study by Dr. Pete Meyers at Moz showed that a third of searches on Google return local pack results. So, the data certainly backs up the need for local businesses to do what they can to rank well in local results. We’ve published some extensive content on how local businesses can improve their SEO, including our local SEO guide for dentists. However, some users likely have their basics like their Google Business Profile and on-site SEO in place and really just need to fix up their citations.

What is a citation?

A citation is a reference to a business’s name, address, and phone number – which we SEOs simply shorten to NAP. This information is important to Google because they want to ensure they’re serving up accurate information to users in their local pack and Google map listings. One way to ensure that their data is correct is by comparing it to other references around the internet. The reason Google won the search engine wars was by providing more accurate results than its many competitors many years ago. 

If you put yourself in Google’s shoes, think about his situation. There are two local shoe stores. One has a listing in Google Business profile, but the address is different than the one listed on their website, and the address also varies from the business’s Facebook listing and it’s also inconsistent across sites like Yelp and Bing.

The other business has the same NAP information across all of these properties.

It’s a no-brainer, right? If you’re Google, the second business has given you far more reason to believe that their local information is accurate, and therefore, deserves that top position. It just makes sense.

Do you need a citation cleanup?

Speaking from experience, citations can get awfully messy when businesses change locations and expand. Our original office in Lansing, Michigan has changed locations four times since we opened in 2008. After we opened our office in Grand Rapids, we’ve moved five times. Needless to say, that has led to many listings with a variety of names, addresses, and phone numbers being populated all over the internet. Trying to clean up all of them would be virtually impossible, but it is beneficial to keep as many of them accurate as you can. 

If your business name, address, or phone number has changed over the years, you’ll want to see if you have issues with inaccurate citations floating around. The easiest way to do a quick local citation audit is to use some free tools on the web. One I like to use is Moz Local. You simply plug in your business information and let Moz local crawl its database of sites and see what it finds. Like most third-party tools, it’s not perfect (hey, we’re on Facebook!), but it should give you a decent idea of your current citation health status.

netvantage moz local

How to start the citation audit and cleanup process

If you want to dig a bit deeper, I’d highly recommend you use Google’s database. Let’s walk through the process you’ll need to make this happen. First, you’ll want to make a list of all of your former names, addresses, and phone numbers – and if you can, a rough idea of when each of those items changed. 

Let’s use Netvantage as an example. The previous address before our last move was 435 E. Grand River Avenue Suite 211. 

You can take your out-of-date names, addresses, and phone numbers and start using Google’s advanced search operators to find any incorrect information that Google might be looking at. This is rather simple, you just need to use quotation marks around an identifier and your out-of-date information. So, for our example, we’ll do a Google search for our name and a fragment of our old address – as the “E.” might be listed as “East” on some websites. So, our search will be: “Netvantage Marketing” “Grand River” which will force Google to only return pages that have those exact phrases included on a single page. And low and behold, there are existing citations still using that old address.

netvantage citation audit

You can continue these searches with combinations of old names, addresses, and phone numbers and catalog all of your findings. Make as exhaustive of a list as you can, and then you can go back to each site and go through their process for verifying and/or editing your listing.

mapquest citation update request

You’ll find that some sites are more difficult than others, but you should be able to change at least some of these. If you hit a wall, look into using a paid clean-up service like Moz Local, BrightLocal, or Whitespark to update these for you. I would STRONGLY discourage you from using Yext, as they will continuously try to charge you to maintain and update their listings. If any of the sites in their database are wrong, in my opinion, you’re better off just letting them be.

The bare minimum items to hit in your local citation cleanup

If this all seems like too much to tackle, you should at least make sure all of these citation sources, which you should be able to easily update on your own, are accurate.

So there you have it, a quick and easy way to identify incorrect business listings and start a citation audit and cleanup campaign. If you’re in need of professional help and don’t want to tackle this on your own, you can contact us and we’d be happy to talk you through our holistic local SEO services.

Adam Henige

Adam Henige is Managing Partner of Netvantage Marketing. Adam heads the SEO and link building efforts for Netvantage and has been a contributing blogger for industry publications like Search Engine Journal and Moz.

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