Citations have an important role in boosting your overall SEO score. Many webmasters are unable to differentiate between citations and backlinks from directories. Citations are basically mentions of your business NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) on another website, even if it does not have a backlink to your website. It may sound strange to an orthodox search engine marketer that citations are really important for your website’s search engine optimization. Most people think that if you are not getting a backlink, your listing is of no use. This is exactly what we will be discussing throughout this article; the importance of citation and how exactly you can benefit from it.
By definition, citations are mentions of your business on other directories, with or without backlinks. For instance, your business can be listed on directories such as Yelp or Yahoo Business without giving a backlink to your website. Local citations can also be found on various local yellow pages, business directories and the like.
Since the last 3 years, citations have become an important part of Google and Bing’s ranking algorithm. A website with a good number of citations will probably rank better than a website with no citations. Therefore, if you have ever wondered whether you should submit to such directories then the answer is yes.
The question is – if you are not getting a backlink, how will search recognize the business and automatically improve your website’s score? Well, when your business is listed on reputable directories with its NAP, search engines are able to identify that your business is authentic, is listed and legitimate and belongs to a certain niche through the nature of the directory.
Citations become more relevant in either less competitive niches or for local SEO purposes. For instance, a niche such as plumbing or carpenters don’t really have a lot of competition because not a lot of such businesses have websites. Therefore, search engines try to make the most of the information they can find online.
In addition, the mention of your business on reputable directories, blogs and business indexes give search engines the signal that your business is a leader in the niche in a certain location. Obviously, newspapers won’t be writing about an illegitimate business or a business that does not exist.
Importance of Citations for Search Engine Rankings:
There are different ways you can use citations to boost your rankings in search engine. Remember, citations do not necessary have to give you a backlink. Moreover, citations are most important for local seo purposes.
Here are a few ways search engines use citations to rank your website in a certain niche:
Improves Your Local SEO Score:
Local SEO is Google’s way of displaying most relevant location based results, mainly for businesses that have physical business spots such as restaurants, dentists, etc. Google takes into consideration your business’ NAP on different websites and compares it to the NAP listed on your website to see if the business is authentic or not. Since search engine crawlers cannot read and make sense of words and numbers, they rely on matching one piece of information to another. So, the formula is to see if your business information listed on your website is consistent with the information listed on various citation directories. This verification will either add to your SEO score or will have a negative effect. This is how search engines make sure whether your business is real or not.
Location Based Searches:
Search terms with geo tags such as ‘restaurants in NYC’ or ‘dentist in New Jersey’ will show results specific to that location. Back in the day, this was a major concern for businesses, as any international outlet would easily rank in the search results by utilizing different seo techniques. This is one of the major reasons the concept of citations and business location authentication was introduced. Today, users entering geo tags in their search terms will receive search results from that specific location. In addition, Google also takes into consideration the location of your outlet within a region. Google’s formula is based on ‘city center’ approach, where it shows location based results based on how far the outlet is from the city’s center. Of course this is not the only factor constituting towards better local search results but it surely is one of the most important ones.
Verification of Businesses:
So, what is stopping you from adding a fake business address on your website and on different other portals? How will search engines know whether your business is authentic or not?
Well, while there is no way search engines can know if the business actually exist, they certainly have a tough criteria of ranking businesses in local searches. Search engines will compare the NAP of your business with different citations to check if the address and phone number is really owned by you.
Google My Business Page:
Google My Business page is an important tool for anyone looking forward to being listed as a local business for geo tag keywords. Once you have your very own My Business page, Google will manually mail you a verification code to your physical location. Once you verify your location, there will be no question about your business’ existence. Also, your business will appear on Google’s map, making it easier for your customers to find you and your results will show up on map in search results.
Different Tools and Techniques to Verify NAPs and Citations:
A plethora of tools exist that can help you out with verifying your citations and NAPs. One very good tool is Whitespark’s citation finder. It’s a highly user friendly tool that allows you to check consistency of your citations through different sources. Simply add a bit of information about any business and you will get a list of citations of it from different sources. You can now check the consistency of your business’ NAP on these websites. Make sure you are checking very closely, which means you literally looking for minor mistakes such as spelling mistakes to major ones such as incorrect phone numbers and location. Once you have found the mistakes, you can manually reach out to these websites and ask them to change the information. This might seem a little frustrating in the beginning but believe it or not it will really help your business gain better rankings in search engine results.
Maintain Consistent Phone Numbers:
Phone numbers are tricky to maintain. Over the period of time, you might change phone numbers or add new numbers to your list. When you change a phone number on your website, it will be in conflict with all your previous phone number listings. If possible, stick to the phone numbers already indexed by search engines. If you have to change the number, then, as mentioned earlier, manually check for directories where your numbers are listed and ask them to change it.
Note: If you are using call tracking numbers online, make sure to add a ‘no-index’ tag in the HTML for the number. This way, you will be directing search engines to not index the number. If you are using multiple numbers for different locations, you might put your website’s ranking in jeopardy. Therefore, either use a no-index tag or use the call tracking numbers in image form so that search engines are unable to index it.
A lot of search engine optimizers believe that call tracking numbers should be used online. Adding a lot of call tracking numbers is risky and can have grave effects on your website rankings.
In simple words, citations are important for your website’s rankings, especially in local SEO. If you want to boost your website’s rankings, focus on citations and don’t worry about the backlinks. You will have plenty of other places to get backlinks from. Focus on citations from reputable websites with good page rank and domain authority.
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