One of the newest buzzwords around digital marketing “local citations”. In order to take advantage of the changes Google and other search engines are making to local search, there are some less than honest companies claiming things like “you may lose your Google listing” or “we work with Google to fix your business listings”. What does all of this mean? We put together a simple list of things you should know about local citations.
1. What are local citations?
Citations are defined as mentions of your business name and address on other webpages—even if there is no link to your website. An example of a citation might be an online yellow pages directory where your business is listed, but not linked to. Citations can also be found on local chamber of commerce pages, or on a local business association page that includes your business information, even if they are not linking at all to your website.
2. Why do I need local citations?
Citations are a key component of the ranking algorithms in Google and Bing. Other factors being equal, businesses with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher than businesses with fewer citations.
Citations from well-established and well-indexed portals (i.e., Superpages.com) help increase the degree of certainty the search engines have about your business’s contact information and categorization.
Citations are particularly important in more competitive niches, like plumbing or electrical, where many service providers don’t have websites themselves. Without much other information, the search engines rely heavily on whatever information they can find.
3. Where do citations come from?
In the United States, there are four primary sources of data for all the major search engines: Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual. Other companies like Yellowpages.com, Citysearch, and Superpages.com can also play a role in this cycle, sending “fresh” feeds to the search engines every couple of months.
4. What are duplicate listings?
Let’s start with a quick definition. When a local business has more than one listing for a single physical location in an online directory, these other listings are considered duplicates. A variety of negative outcomes can arise from the presence of duplicate listings, detracting from your local business’s ability to rank well and win customers.
The Google Local Business Information Quality Guidelines speak in very plain language about the number of listings your business can have:
“Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts.”
Duplicate listings are not always your fault! While some local business owners may intentionally create more than one listing for a physical location because they mistakenly believe it will help their rankings, very often, duplicates may arise out of automated activity on the part of search engines or directories.
But, regardless of how duplicate listings are created, it is always a best practice to try to get them removed.
5. Why haven’t my listing been updated?
There a two main reasons that it takes time to get business listings updated. First, there is no way to control when the aggregators update their data. While we have close relationships with the aggregators that allows us to interact directly with their records, the process is not instantaneous. Even when the aggregators update their data, there is no way to control when THEIR clients update those listings. Each site or directory that purchases data from an aggregator updates on their own schedule. Some may update weekly, others quarterly or even yearly.
6. Can I get my listings updated faster?
The only way to make it happen faster is to claim every single listing manually and update it. The issue with that is a) there are thousands of listing sites and b) once they are claimed manually, they cannot be updated by aggregator data. Managing the data at the source is more cost efficient because we only have to change it in one place. If a business owner or service claims a business’ listings, they will need to fix those listings manually forever. Services that do manual admin charge $5 per listing. There are thousands of listing. The cost can get very high if you need to make changes to your listings manually.
7. Where will my listings be corrected?
The aggregators don’t publish comprehensive lists of who their data is going out to simply because anyone can buy it. There are literally tens of thousands of sites each service sends data to. Many of those sites resell the data as well. There is also a lot of cross over. For example, Bing gets data from Infogroup, Localeze, and Factual on top of also collecting it themselves. Yelp gets data from Acxiom and Factual as well as being a large provider of data. With that said, your listings will be added to and corrected to thousands of websites and directories across the internet. The corrected listings will far outnumber any from small sites or services so the search giants will have a very accurate picture of your business citation data.
8. Will I lose my Google listing?
While it is techincally possible for your Google listing to be hijacked, it is pretty unlikely. In order to edit the information in a Google listing, you must go through a verification process that includes either entering a PIN that is mailed to the business address Google has for your business or a phone verification to the phone number Google has for your listing. You should still claim and verify your Google Places listing so you have control over the listing and can keep it up to date.
9. What about these companies working with Google?
They couldn’t say it if it wasn’t true right? Well, no. What companies that claim they are working with Google imply is not what is really happening. EVERYONE works with Google to maintain their data. Any Google user can submit corrections to a Google listing and anyone can claim or submit a business listing! So techinically, everyone is “working directly with Google”. The implication that they have a super secret direct line to Google is simply not true.
Not sure how your citation data ranks? For more information, visit our Contact Page and get a free local citation report today!