If you’re a local business the local 3-pack rankings are likely a vital component of your online visibility. If you want to play ball in the local ranking game, though, you’ll need to make sure that your citation game is tight. This is critically important if you’re doing SEO for plumbers or other local businesses like accountants, dentists, or contractors.
What’s a citation?
Let’s start with the basics. A citation is a mention of your company’s name, address and phone number (or as we SEO nerds abbreviate these items to: NAP). So, any time Google finds a combination of your business name, address and phone number it puts that in its memory banks for use in figuring out how to rank you locally.
Why are citations important?
With Google, it’s all about trust. When you get links to your site, Google wants them from quality websites that they trust so they feel like they can trust you. It’s the same thing with citation data. Google wants to get your information from trusted sources (Google+, Facebook, Yelp, Localeze, Yellow Pages, etc.) and wants to have consistent information before they show it in search results. Think about it from Google’s perspective, if you’re a local business that has moved 3 times in the past ten years there’s a good chance Google sees a lot of conflicting information in your citations if you didn’t actively go out and update that data. So, when Google goes to return local search results for your business, if only 50% of the data they have is consistent with your current location while several of your competitors have 80% or higher accuracy who do you think Google has more trust in showing a user in a search result?
Google won the search engine game a long time ago by serving up accurate results, so ensuring that Google has as much accurate data about your location will greatly improve your odds of ranking out in local search packs. As an example, our Grand Rapids location has changed suite numbers four times in the past five years. We’ve been fairly vigilant about keeping our citations in order and Google is still quite happy to list us in local SEO related searches in Grand Rapids.
How do I check to see if my citations are in good shape?
There are a few quick things to look into:
- Run a Google search for your name without looking at your own site. So, if you’re Daniel J. Derksen, a local dentist in Lansing, you’d want to run a search like this [Daniel J Derksen -site:derksendentistry.com] – This search will display Google’s results for Dr. Derksen that do not include his own website. Click through these listings and make sure the name, address and phone number EXACTLY match your website and your Google My Business listing
- If you’ve changed your company name, phone number or address in the past you can do an exact match for your name [“Old Company Name, LLC”], phone number [“555-555-5555”] or your address [“123 Main St.” “Detroit, MI”] and see if there are any listings with your outdated info. If so, connect with these sites and have them update this information.
- If you want a quick and easy way to get a feel for your general citation health you can use a free tool like Moz Local to get a sense of how consistent your citations are across some of the major local data aggregators.