If you are a small business owner, you have likely heard that you need to have clean local citations on the web about your business. We have seen some unnecessary actions on behalf of small business owners (which usually includes spending unnecessary money) and we’d like to help set the record straight.
First, a “citation” is a reference to your business information online – specifically, your Name, Address and Phone (NAP). The reason citations are so important is that Google using them heavily to decide what to show people when they are searching for local information. For example, when somebody searches for “pizza”, it’s highly likely they are looking for dinner, so Google will tend to show Pizza shops at the top of organic search results. Similarly, if you typed in “cracked tooth” in Google, you’d likely get a list of local dentists. This gets even more important with mobile search, since Google will then use your physical location to bring up results relevant to that area.
Issues arise when Google can’t figure out where your business really exists.
If you have different information about your NAP across the web, how does Google figure out which location is authoritative? The most common reason this happens is when somebody moves their physical location from one address to another. But there are other reasons as well, some of which are out of the business owners hands. Sadly, some directory sites online don’t require proof of ownership of a business before they change the information. So, you may wind up with bad information through no fault of your own!
Several services have appeared in the past few years to assist small businesses in fixing these citations across the web. These vary from one time services (you pay a few dollars per site to have them update your record) to monthly subscription services (you pay a monthly fee for them to keep you “clean” all the time). In general, keeping your citations clean is an excellent idea, but at the same time don’t throw away money letting people scare you! Here are 5 things you should consider when looking at citation services:
- Have you claimed your business on Google? If not, do this before you do anything else. www.google.com/business. Since the majority of the benefit from citations is Google search, giving them your authoritative data is the easiest and most powerful “fix” you have.
- How many other sites do you want/need to rank for? There are literally hundreds of directory sites in the US alone. How do you know which ones are important? There is a great list hosted by SEO expert Phil Rozek. It’s a very exhaustive list, you likely don’t need to check every one. We strongly suggest that you focus on the Top 10 list, and any other site you are personally familiar with. If you haven’t heard of the directory, you may want to consider whether it’s worth your time and money to update it.
- If you do hire a Citation service, make sure you get a full audit report of the results and verify it. At Bizyhood, we ask the business owner to validate their business and they must tell us that they’ve authorized a third party to act on their behalf. It’s the only way to prove that submissions are authentic. What we lack in volume (today!) we make up for in authenticity and veracity. We also partner with one of the leading directory services in the world who also strive to have the most authentic data possible. I know it’s hard for a small business owner to understand these nuances, but they make a difference.
- Make sure your NAP information is on your own website. I can’t tell you how many companies come to claim their listing on Bizyhood but don’t have their NAP info on their own site. It doesn’t kill all the steps mentioned above, but it’s a major issue. Not only should you have your NAP on your website, it should be in schema.org format. Talk to your web designer about this.
- Don’t stop with just your NAP. Many sites allow you to fill in additional information – hours of operation, business description, social media links and other attributes. These all help with Local SEO and give your potential customers more to learn about you online. It’s surprising how few businesses take advantage of this.
Small business owners are busy people, but it always makes me nervous when they delegate citations to a third party.
Your NAP is a core part of your business – it is the foundation of what makes you uniquely you online. I’d love to see more business owners take personal responsibility for this, since it is so core to their business. This list is by no means exhaustive – if you have other suggestions or questions please leave them in the comments.