Small businesses thrive on being noticed in the local scene. While some might use flashy road signs or ads in the paper to accomplish this, modern times require more modern solutions. In this case, that means SEO targeted to local searches. This, however, comes with the challenge of actually showing up in searches from and for your local area, a solution being optimizing local citations. What are local citations, how do you use them, and what are they going to do to benefit your business? Check out these five crucial points for optimizing local citations to find out what you need to do.

1. Understanding Optimizing Local Citations

If you’re unsure of what a citation even is in this context, the simple answer is that it’s a mention of your business that will show up in an internet search. This can range from things like your business name, your address, your phone number, your website URLs, and any other identifying information that leads back to you plus any combinations of these elements. All of these work towards steering traffic towards your site and people into your business, though various combinations can be more helpful than others. For example, your business’ name, address, and phone number appearing together is known as a complete citation, while citations lacking those are dubbed partial citations. However, as the internet has become more central to being found by customers, citations that include website URLs are becoming more and more important, meaning that balancing all of these to get the most attention possible is crucial.

2. Structured Versus Unstructured

Citations can be grouped based on the types of websites they appear on. A structured citation would be a citation appearing on a directory specifically for businesses, an example being a review site like Yelp. Unstructured citations, on the other hand, are mentions of your business on any other website. This can include things like local news websites, personal blogs, and more. Neither type of citation is necessarily better than the other as they both help to drive traffic to your site by helping you rank higher in the search engine simply by featuring mentions of your business. Above all else, getting your information out there is what’s most important, so a variety of mentions on different types of websites is useful for both SEO and generating organic traffic.

3. Consistency in Citation

While the sites your information appears on may differ, you probably don’t want the information itself to be all that different between iterations. Ensuring that the mentions of your business stay up to date and accurate in citations is crucial for many reasons, the most obvious being that it would confuse customers who would like to visit you if the address they show up at is wrong. Additionally, having information that differs from site to site confuses the algorithm. Rather than having the benefit of all of these citations working together to boost your ranking, the differences between the information will be treated like different citations, meaning you’re essentially sabotaging yourself. Frequent citation audits are a must for these reasons and many more, as is ensuring your citations are correct on the most prominent and important search engines and websites. Do note that, for the most part, minor differences in formatting like abbreviations for parts of an address (st instead of street, etc.) are unlikely to be an issue, so you don’t need to worry about fixing those minor differences during audits.

4. Claiming Citations

When a listing is made for your business — whether it’s by you or someone else — it will be important that you claim that citation as your own. Sites like Google Reviews, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and more have options for local businesses to claim a listing, verifying the information that’s shown there and linking it to their own web presence. This does a lot for you, including boosting the authority of these links. Links with more authority will rank higher than those that are seen as more shady, the verification process ensuring that you are who you say you are and that your information can be trusted. Trust is another important factor here, as well, as people who see your link and see that it’s verified will have more confidence in your business.

A verified link on a major website will draw in a lot more traffic than a random result halfway down a search engine’s results page. Not only that, a verified social media account makes for a great place to spread your links, specifically. Not only are social media accounts free advertising, having a reliable and verified account with your citations on it will help you get noticed by the algorithm that much quicker.

5. Aim for Local

The information here is good for optimizing local citations at any level, but specifically local citations are what you’re meant to be aiming for here. To do that, try to connect your business’ citations with keywords and tags that will match with your local area. The mention of your address is already helping you a lot here, but another thing you can do is to get yourself listed on local directories. While they might not rank as high on national search engine results, having an authoritative and verified citation on a directory targeted at your local area will mean people searching that area or who are from that area are more likely to see you in the results. This same advice can apply to creating citations within your specific niche or industry. When you combine these two factors, too, you have a much higher chance of hitting the top result.

Optimizing local citations is a major part of getting noticed by the algorithm. Though the process can be a bit complicated at first, remembering these five points can definitely help you in ranking higher and drawing in more customers. If you’re still feeling shaky about any of this, however, you can reach out to Diving Bell Creative for guidance on SEO and marketing techniques that will enhance your small business in tons of ways.