What are citations?
Before we jump into why citation management is so important let’s start by explaining what it means!
When we use the word ‘citation,’ we’re referring to the data itself regarding your business – specifically your business’ name, address and phone number (your NAP data) – anywhere online on. This could be a third-party website or local free listing directory such as Facebook and Yelp. This data, your business’ name, address and telephone number (NAP) are critical data. You may also be invited to share other details sometimes including opening hours, products and services, images, videos, and social media links.
Why are citations important?
Well, these mentions of your business name and key data occur all over the web including on business directories, free listings, review sites, industry-specific publications, local media outlets, social media pages, Google My Business, and even, apps. Google and other search engines use citations to verify data and customers use them to find and compare information on local businesses.
Once a citation has been indexed, it acts much like a link and can help to boost your local search rankings. Most citations will remain under your control. If, for instance, you submit your site to a business directory or other free listing that you control, the information is provided, and you can usually go back and edit that information as needed. Other citations, such as those acquired as a result of local media coverage are outside of your control. Some citations are free, others are paid for, and some may require a reciprocal link to be placed on your own site to activate it.
Simply put, the more credible mentions of your business’ name there are online, the easier it is for Google and other search engines to verify and trust your business which should, in turn, help your local SEO rankings. In fact, Learn Hub published a report at the back end of 2020 in which they reported that “Businesses that claim their free listings on at least four review sites earn an average of 46% more revenue”. How interesting!
What is citation management?
Now, if you’re going to be claiming your free listings on four or more review sites then you really do need to have a plan in place to manage them and that’s what we mean by citation management.
The key to citation management is ensuring NAP listing consistency. The mention of NAP consistency can cause panic because it sounds complicated. It really isn’t. NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency is crucial as it’s one of the core components of attaining high-profile local search visibility and is, therefore, worth getting right! So, our advice to you is to focus on ensuring your NAP data is all correct across any listing sites you use, but, more than that, proactively look up your own business name and wherever you find it ensure your NAP data is right. We say this because you may well find that you have lots of listings that you haven’t set up yourself and that’s because sometimes listings occur naturally as a result of your usual marketing activities e.g.
o Setting up a Facebook business page – you’ve created a NAP listing
o Creating an event and publishing the details online – yup, another NAP listing!
o Exhibiting at a conference/speaking at an event where the organiser publishes information about your business online – yet another NAP listing
You can see the obvious potential here with multiple free online mentions but also the potential issue with people getting key details wrong – a misspelling of your business name, only partially listing your address etc. – and these discrepancies cause Google and other search engines to become confused.
Another NAP listing issue is when your business moves address. It’s crucial that all NAP data is updated to show your new address, otherwise, Google and others will get confused as will your customers/potential customers; and NAP consistency is key to consumer trust.
In a 2018 Local Citations Trust Report, more than 9 out of 10 customers reported being frustrated by incorrect information in online directories. We have been very clearly told!
So, having established what citations are and what citation management is and what it involves we suggest you get checking your NAP listings and think of this as a valuable long-term investment. The figures don’t lie!