Go to Google and search for businesses like yours in your city. I tried searching for attorneys in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles and got 114 million, 340 million, and 38 million results, respectively. For dentists, Google returned 38 million, 11 million, and 11 million, results. Now, think about searches you’ve done for services in your city. How often do you look past the first page of Google? If you’re anything like me, it’s very rarely. With so many businesses vying for a spot on the first page, how do you get your business to the top of the list?
Solid rankings for high volume searches can be important for small businesses, so we’ll answer that question. However, before we do, remember that rankings aren’t the only goal. With that out of the way, let’s get into the basics of how Google’s local search algorithm works.
Search Engine Rankings
Google and other major search engines rank web pages based on complicated proprietary algorithms. We don’t know everything that goes into those algorithms, but studies show certain best practices correspond to better rankings. One of the most important local ranking factors for major search engines is the consistency, quality, and authority of citations. The better your citations, the better your rank.
So what is a citation?
What is a Citation?
In simple terms, a citation is a mention of your business on another website. A citation is not a link. For example, if your business name, address, and phone number (“NAP Information”) is listed on Yelp or YellowPages, each of those listings is a structured citation. When your NAP information appears on a blog, or another site that doesn’t typically list local information, it’s referred to as an unstructured citation. Google, crawls the web and aggregates information about businesses from these citation sources. Consistent NAP information is indicative of a business with a reliable location, that Google trusts enough to list in local search results. When NAP information is inconsistent, users and search engines become confused about where your business is located. This can hurt visibility in search.
How Can I Use Citations to Build Business?
First, get control of your listings on Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Axciom, Localeze, and Infogroup. You’ll need to search for your business on each of those sites and then claim the listing. Once claimed, you’ll need to verify the listing (usually this requires you to answer your main business phone and enter a code). Claiming listing on Axciom, Localeze and Infogroup is important since these “feeder directories” supply the web with much of its information about local businesses.
Once you’ve claimed and verified your major citations, make sure your information is correct on each platform. Your citations should be consistent everywhere; your business name, address, phone number, and website should be the same on every listing.
In addition to citations on the major search engines and feeder sites, you can seek citations on local websites. Check out Whitespark to see what your local listings look like and claim and correct all the citations you can. If you’re a member of any professional directories, make sure your citations are complete, correct, and verified.
Just Do It!
With all the businesses out there, it’s tough enough to stand out as it is. Citations aren’t the only factor that contributes to local visibility, but they are an important foundational element. So get organized, and take control over your online presence. You’ll be glad you did.