How to succeed online with a robust citation profile
By Josh Kandle
Sometimes when I talk about search engine optimization, or SEO, with people, I can actually see their eyes glaze over. This is especially true when the topic of citations comes up.
The question I get most is: what exactly is a citation?
Hint: It’s not that slip of paper you got for barreling down Gage Boulevard.
In digital marketing, a citation is simply a listing of your business information somewhere out on the web. A business will naturally accrue citations over time as it builds an online profile. Putting your information on Facebook and Yelp are examples of citations, but there are literally hundreds of additional possible citation sources out on the world wide web.
Citations are important for local SEO because they contain your core business information, which is often referred to as NAP (name, address, phone number). I know — enough with the acronyms already! But this one is really simple. The more consistent your NAP is across the web’s data ecosystem, the stronger trust message you send to Google and other search engines about who you are and where you are located.
I mentioned that businesses naturally accrue citations, but you also can systematically build a more robust citation profile by seeking websites and platforms that will list your business information. Over recent years, this has become a core practice in improving local SEO.
But not all citations are created equal.
The good news is there are a lot of places online where you can list your business and get a citation. The bad news is there are hundreds of places where you can list your business and they all work a little differently. Each platform has its quirks regarding how to sign up, make changes and what information can be present. It can be a little mind-boggling, and you can get into the weeds pretty quickly. Keep in mind that each platform also has a different level of authority, so you want to look for quality citations with more authority and get your business listed there. Additionally, there are also industry specific citation platforms like Houzz for builders or Avvo for lawyers that can play a key role in your citation profile.
Watch for duplicates on each individual citation website. These will dilute your NAP data and send conflicting messages to search engines. It’s best to try and get these duplicate listings removed; however, it can prove challenging to eradicate all duplicates because each platform has its own way of dealing (or not dealing) with them.
You can start to get a picture of your citation profile by doing a branded search for your company. Plug your company name into Google and view the results page. Ideally, your company website will be at the top of the list. If not, you’ve got bigger problems that you’ll want to address before citations.
Are you tired of thinking about citations?
Me too. But building them out across the web and maintain their consistency is part of a balanced search strategy. If you’re a busy business owner and don’t have time to sift through the ins and outs of citations, contact someone who does.
Josh Kandle is the creative director for Cougar Digital Marketing & Design in West Richland.