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Local citations: Why you need them and how to get started

a graphical representation of a local citation

Whether you’re just learning about local SEO or planning your entire strategy, citations on prominent industry publications, directories, and regional sites can be essential to your success.

In this article, we’ll discuss how they help you grow your online visibility while serving potential customers the information they’re looking for.

Specifically, we’ll address:

What is a local citation?

A local citation is an online mention of your business’s information. This includes your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP), as well as other information like hours of operation, website, etc. A citation can be a listing in a business directory like Yelp or can be as simple as a social media profile.

Screenshot of Conroy’s Flowers’ listing on Yelp. It has a 3.5 star rating, 101 reviews, and 202 photos.

While online listings may not seem like they can bring much value, it’s important to approach citations from the mind of a user.

These mentions can help build your business’s online presence and (depending on where the citation is) enable visitors to leave reviews that act as social proof for potential customers. In short, citations can help build awareness for your business and help convince people to give it a try.

Why citations are important for local businesses

Local citations can help you reach potential customers on the directories and search engines they’re already using to find service providers or other local businesses. The business information they find there enables them to decide whether you're what they’re actually looking for. And, creating the right citations for your business is a simple way to start your local SEO strategy.

Directories usually rank higher in the SERPs

If a customer were to search for a nail technician, they would probably like to see reviews, photos, and the pricing list before booking an appointment. Different audiences may prefer different platforms, so you can’t always count on just having a Google Business Profile, for example, to provide new customers with the details they’re looking for. In this case, a customer might instead visit a directory, like Yelp, or a social media platform, like Instagram, to find this information.

Screenshot of Google search results page where “nail salon glendale” is typed into the search bar. There are five results where two of them are from Yelp, one from Three Best Rated, one from Fresh Check, and another from Nail Bar.

By listing your business on these platforms, you make the customer’s next step of finding you that much easier. Additionally, these directories are often at the top of the search results for any type of local service queries. It’s a simple way to benefit based on the directory’s authoritativeness in the search engine results page (SERP), without having to put in all the work to compete against those same directories for the top spot.

Add to your business’s online visibility

Although not officially confirmed by Google, citations are also important because they are considered a local SEO ranking factor, which means they help your business rank higher for relevant queries.

Citations are the fourth most important local ranking factor, according to a survey of 50 SEO experts conducted by BrightLocal. While citations are unlikely to revolutionize your SEO, they are one of the elements that you, the local business owner, have some degree of control over, which you can use to make it easier for users to find you online.

Build your business’s E-A-T profile

E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, and it’s an important concept online as well as in the real world. Although E-A-T is not a ranking factor, the general consensus among SEOs is that making decisions based on Google’s guidelines surrounding E-A-T helps your site do better in search results.

In short, E-A-T refers to demonstrating your business or brand as an expert on whatever it is that you offer, showing that you are a reliable source of information, and can be trusted on matters related to your industry.

Having relevant citations can help build your business’s authoritativeness and trustworthiness. It also gives customers the chance to leave reviews on multiple different sites. The more positive reviews, the more people are likely to see you as a reliable service provider, and the more Google is likely to trust your site as a legitimate business to place in the SERPs. This also helps build your business’s backlink profile, which can also add to your trustworthiness among customers and search engines.

How to choose the right local citations to pursue for your business

Despite everything that was just mentioned about how great citations are for your business, you should not list yours in every directory available. Quality over quantity matters most.

Instead, focus on listing your business only in relevant directories. The best way to approach picking the right citations for your business is by thinking of the directories that you visit for your own needs. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What directories have I looked at in the past?

  • Are my potential customers using this directory to search for businesses like mine?

  • Where do I go to leave reviews after patronizing a business?

  • Are there any local non-profits or organizations my business can partner with?

  • Does my business have any certifications or is it a member of any organizations?

For example, if you are a licensed home renovations contractor in Massachusetts, you would want to list your business on general directories like Yelp, but also on specialized directories like Angi, which is specifically for home services providers. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you appear on the state of Massachusetts’ list of licensed lead-safe renovation contractors, for example. You might even partner with a local non-profit that will mention and link to your business on their site.

Use Google to find citation opportunities

Search for your business’s services on Google to find which directories show up in the results. This will give you more ideas of places your business should be listed.

As an example, let’s complete a search for “electrician near me.” In the search results, we get four different directories ranking near the top: Thumbtack, Three Best Rated, Home Advisor, and Angi.

Screenshot of Google search results page where “electrician near me” is typed into the search bar. There are four results with one from Thumbtack, another from Three Best Rated, the next from Home Advisor, and the last one from Angi.

If you were a plumber in the Fontana area, it would be worthwhile to list your business on these directories.

Here are some other example keywords you can search to find citation opportunities:

  • chamber of commerce city — The search results for this type of query will show you the chamber of commerce website for your city or nearby cities, where you can likely obtain a business directory listing.

  • “Our sponsors” city — The search results for this type of query may show you organizations or events you can sponsor to generate more citations.

  • “Our donors” city — The search results for this type of query may show you local sports teams, schools, community centers, and events that you can donate to, which can lead to a citation on a donors page.

  • “Our members” profession directory — The search results for this type of query may show profession-specific organizations that you can join to obtain more business listings.

General citation recommendations

The following are general recommendations for citations that virtually any local business can (and should) list itself in:

How to manage your local citations

Once you’ve picked out your citations, it’s time to submit your business listing and ensure that all the information is correct. There are two ways to go about submitting your citations:

  • Submit manually

  • Use a citation-building service

Manual listing creation and management

If you are going to submit them manually, you should first search for your business on the relevant directories you identified earlier. If there is already a profile for your business, you’ll want to claim it in order to customize the page.

Screenshot of The Yellow Pages website where “veterinarian” is typed into the search bar along with the location set to Ottawa, OH. Underneath the search function, there is a listing for a veterinarian called The Barking Lot which includes their star rating, business hours, phone number, and address.

Once you’ve claimed your business profile, you can correct any mistakes and add any other information you’d like potential customers to know. If a business profile doesn’t already exist, sign up for an account and create one, but be aware that there may be a verification process, depending on the platform.

If you decide to go this route, you’ll also need to manually monitor your citations. Your business hours, phone number, or address may change if you decide to move or add another location, for example. If that happens, you’ll need to update your business’s information on each and every citation.

You also should monitor your citations on a regular basis to ensure that any changes you’ve made to your business profiles are updated and accurate.

Automated citation services

It can be very time-consuming to create and update citations manually, one by one. Fortunately, there are services available that you can pay a one-time fee to check all your listings and correct errors.

You can also use a citation-building service to create and manage them for you. Companies like Whitespark and BrightLocal, for example, offer citation creation and management packages.

Local citations help business owners and customers alike

Overall, citations can be an important part of your business’s local SEO strategy. They help you bring your business to a new audience on other platforms, can help your business rank higher in the SERPs, and can demonstrate that you are a trusted provider in your industry.

At the end of the day, you are helping people in your city easily obtain the information they need to decide if they want your services. Everything that you can add to your citations, including business hours and services, and even having reviews on those listings help the user.

These small things can be enough to persuade them to choose your business over others and even deter unqualified leads. This leaves you with more time to prioritize the right leads instead of needing to answer basic questions that your local citations can handle for you.


celeste gonzalez

Celeste Gonzalez is an SEO strategist at RicketyRoo. She began her journey with SEO by doing what she loves best: learning. She continues to learn in public and share her experiences—good and bad—with the community through Twitter and the SEOBreakdown. Twitter | Linkedin


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