We’ve discussed the importance of link building as a part of dental SEO, but one topic we haven’t explicitly talked about in the past on this blog is the importance of citation building for dentists. First, I guess we should talk about what a citation is, then we can move on to why they’re important and finally how to get/fix/maintain them.
So, what is a citation?
Citations are your practice’s name, address and phone number (often referred to as NAP or NAP-W if you include your website address in there). Much like how links from outside websites help assure Google that your site contains high-quality content that’s worth citing, citations help Google to gain trust in your business’s physical address and contact information. Why is this important?
Why are citations important?
For many search results pertaining to local dentists, you’re going to see a three-pack of local listings like the ones you see above. If Google’s going to add you to the three-pack you better believe they’re going to have a high level of confidence that the address, phone number and web address they’re putting out there for the world is correct. But how do the search engines figure this out?
As part of Google’s process of crawling and indexing the web, they keep tabs on business information and compare it to what they see in their Google My Business index. If your practice has changed locations three times in the past ten years, there are likely a number of local directories that list your old information. When Google sees that your business name is regularly listed at two different addresses that don’t match your information in Google My Business, it will erode their trust in their data and increase the likelihood that another local dentist’s site will appear above you in map listings if they have more consistent information.
How do I build citations for my dental practice?
If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves you can go ahead and build citations yourself. There are a huge number of resources around the web listing websites and directories that allow you to submit your dental website’s NAP. Here are a few useful links to help get you started:
If you want to go down this path on your own, you’ll also want to make sure you clean up any out of date or erroneous information as part of your local SEO campaign. The best tool for doing this is actually Google itself. If you changed your phone number in the past, you’ll likely come across occasional listings with your old information when you Google your practice by name. Look for any other information that needs to be corrected like old addresses or old website addresses and make a list. Once you’ve put together a comprehensive list, search for the incorrect elements in Google using advanced search operators to help identify pages that need updating.
Let’s say for example your old phone number was 555-555-5678. If you add quotation marks to a Google search, Google will limit its results to only show pages in its index that have the exact version of the text in your quotation marks in its results. In this case, your Google search would look like this:
This search would return all of Google’s results with that phone number. If you find that someone else is also using this number now and there are a lot of results to sift through, just add your name or your practice name, or your address to thin out the results:
“555-555-5678” Dr. Henige Dentistry
This would repeat the previous search but then filter the results by relevance to Dr. Henige Dentistry. You can use this same technique with old street addresses or an out of date web address to find listings with faulty information. As you discover these you can track them in a spreadsheet as you submit corrections or contact the webmasters to get as many fixed as possible.
Perfection is not possible
One thing you need to accept before you get started on citations is that the web is still a huge, oftentimes lawless place still, and Google understands that. No matter how hard you try some of your business’s information is going to be incorrect on parts of the web and sometimes you won’t be able to get it updated. Again, Google is aware of this, and your best bet in appeasing Google is to just try to be more consistent than your competitors.
Have questions about citations? Contact our dental website SEO experts and we can help answer any questions you may have.