Local search engine optimization is usually the best way to go about building a brand for yourself if you have a new business.
While the idea of competing on the national stage is appealing, it’s often unrealistic for people who are just starting out to be able to reach that immediately.
So local SEO is instead a better way to go, which has its own rules, including with the importance of citations.
Citations are a particular aspect of local SEO that many people don’t understand or even know about, but it can account for almost 25% of the factors that determine where you will rank on search results for local searches.
Considering that most internet searches for local businesses are for local results, having the right citations can change the way your business works.
What is a Citation?
A citation is any mention of your business on the internet, whether that mention is linked or not. All people have to do is say who you are, and you get a citation that can contribute to your ranking.
This doesn’t have to be just the name of your business, either. It can also include your address, business phone number, a link to your website, etc. Usually the more information is provided, the better the citation, but there are other factors involved.
Now, it is tempting to suggest that the best way to handle citations, then, is to simply start placing your business name and address on all sorts of websites around the internet.
The problem is that there is a weighing system in place that puts less emphasis on blog comments, for example.
A citation from a local service organization is going to be weighed more heavily than a blog three states away, or even a service organization three states away.
One thing that search engines have gotten really good at is placing people online within real world geography, so they can tell generally where a person is searching from, and local sources mean more for local results.
In order to get citations, you not only need to do some major leg work, but you also need to know what to avoid.
There are several sites that you can simply submit your business information to and just be listed, but doing so is unlikely to have a major impact on your ranking since search engines know how those sites work. In the case of some highly disreputable sites, you could actually see a reduction in your ranking because of your association with them. So make sure you do your research.
The first thing you should do is get listed on reputable citation sites. Having your local business listed as a citation is a really good vote in your favor.
Otherwise, it’s important that you make use of the available resources for businesses and try to get people to mention you. This can mean encouraging people to blog about you or talk about your business on social networks.
Websites like Yelp.com that do reviews and recommendations of local businesses are also great places to get citations, so encouraging people to give you positive reviews can help boost your local SEO by significant amounts.
Getting involved with local service organizations is a great way to get citations, since often they will mention sponsors or companies that contribute to whatever it is that they’re working on.
You can also try and see if there is space for you to write a weekly blog or column for your local paper, which will usually have a blurb at the end that can mention your business.