Originally posted on https://www.mltgroup.com/blog/building-citations/
Even the newest online business owner can imagine that the more places their website URLs appear online, the better the chance they have of getting noticed. However, spreading links all over the web without a plan makes as much sense as dropping leaflets from an airplane to advertise a new restaurant. In order to get the right link in front of the right audience, you need to build a smart citation campaign.
After taking action on this plan and growing your collection of purposeful citations on the right platforms, you may enjoy one of the most magical parts of digital marketing in existence. Your web of influence will grow automatically when loyal customers or clients start talking about you online—creating “citations”—without much effort or additional investment on your part. So, how do you start on that path? Let’s explore the digital marketing power of citations.
What Is A Citation Anyway?
To put it simply, a citation is any mention of your business on the internet. They do not require direct links to your company website or other unique platform, although that always helps. Your listing on a high-level professional directory is a structured citation. A customer who posts “ABC Company is awesome!” on their Instagram page gives you an unstructured citation. Both provide great benefits for your overall marketing efforts.
The example below demonstrates an unstructured citation: a reference and link to MLT Group that wasn’t prompted and that appeared organically on the web.
Something called co-citation also exists. When two different websites or pages mention the same source, that mention is called a co-citation. This does not include direct links. So, if ABC Inc. and XYZ Ltd. both mention your company as their source for quality information, Google gets excited and assumes that your website must be quite valuable. You have very little control over this type of thing unless you engage in a targeted guest blogging strategy or similar. Provide top-quality content that people want to mention, and it will happen organically.
Citations are a part of that age-old search engine optimization practice of link building. It would not make much sense for you to mention your company name somewhere without attaching the website address unless, for some reason, it was not allowed and your brand just came up in conversation.
Proper NAP for Citations
When it comes to geo-specific businesses that have physical locations or service areas, local citations matter more. These require the exact same name, address, and phone number (NAP) each time they appear online if you want maximum benefits. While you cannot control a customer posting something incorrectly, your structured citation plan must start with a decision about the precise NAP you intend to use everywhere.
For an example of a structured citation, see MLT’s listing below in the local chamber of commerce directory. It accurately lists our NAP and is one of many places on the web that includes this information.
Google and other search engines want consistent information. If your business is listed under different names or at different addresses, it looks sketchy. Before you begin building local citations, seek out inconsistencies and mistakes and try to correct them.
What Citation Building Does for SEO
In Google’s constant quest to bring the most effective search results to its users, they constantly find new ways to weigh everything from keyword phrases to links to vague mentions of your business. Google commands about 90% of global searches, so focusing on what Google wants makes sense in the digital marketing arena. Many online business experts constantly provide new information about what, exactly, that is.
Throughout its history, SEO focus has flowed from keyword stuffing to crazed levels of content creation, to machine-gun link building, to something that makes a lot more sense for actual people. Structured citations on directories give people information about what companies offer the products and services they need. Unstructured online mentions build brand authority. After all, why would a random customer post about your business unless it mattered in some way?
Number, accuracy, and positioning of citations all affect search engine positioning in really common sense, user-friendly ways. The more your NAP appears, the more important your brand looks in the industry. Correct information always outranks messy, inaccurate mentions. Where the citations occur matters a lot, too. Link building on popular sites is obviously more effective than spamming your link on trash sites that no one ever looks at.
Local Optimized Marketing Specifically
According to recent statistics, 86% of consumers find local businesses online. If your company operates in a specific geographic area, local citations are one of the most powerful options for improved SEO and rankings. Accurate and consistent NAP show potential customers and clients who you are and how you do business.
Taking an active approach to building local citations prevents the potential penalties and confusion that leaving things to fate often brings. This includes company information positioning, dealing with inaccurate or unflattering mentions, and maintaining control over how your brand appears online.
Where Do You Want Citations Online?
The more high-quality, on-topic, and positive citations you have online, the better. This answer makes sense from a logical point of view. The average consumer needs to first become aware of your brand through a mention or marketing, hear about it a few more times to build comfort and recognition, and then finally make a decision about doing business with you or not. It increases the chance of someone coming across your brand information and makes Google happy.
Structured citations such as regular business listings on directories create a type of extended platform that builds on your website and social media pages. Unstructured citations create something called social proof. People care more about what their friends – even relatively unknown social media friends – are doing than what businesses say about themselves. Even if you run the quaintest Mom-and-Pop shop, consumers will trust someone they know saying, “Hey, you should shop there” over you saying how great your bargains are. The Facebook “Like” button is a fundamental example of the social proof concept in action online.
A combination of every type of citation makes sense, although you have little control over where a person might mention your company on their own. For what you can control, however, focus on website authority as a guide.
Understanding Domain or Website Authority
Online marketing master site Moz developed the concept of domain authority to help business owners and strategists figure out how they rank and how they can improve it. Authority goes up, you rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Most of the determinations for this website or web page authority are a matter of common sense. Does the site itself rank high? Do a lot of people visit it? Does it have a high amount of positive citations itself?
Every website has a specific value based on a very complex system that ranks the power of link backs and other factors. To explain it in the most basic way possible, the value of the sites that your links are on matter an awful lot.
Platforms for Citation Power
Your company exists in a certain industry, and you should know the most popular websites and other pages that people go to for the niche-specific information. If not, start researching as this knowledge can form the foundation of your overall marketing strategy. Also, understand that social media matters more than static websites in this socially connected world. Video is hot, podcasts are rising quickly, and mobile apps outrank a lot of other online access types.
Where should you build citations? The simple answer to that question is “Wherever you can!” although you should definitely shy away from poor-quality, low-authority sites. With the goal of improving Google rankings, it makes sense to start with the internet giant itself.
Google My Business directory pages provide not only a SERP-friendly platform to claim your place on the internet but also helps you maintain accurate NAP. Claim your Google My Business page, fill out everything properly using keywords and eye-catching graphics that help build your brand, and consider using the integrated web 2.0 site for more benefits. Below is MLT Group’s Google My Business page in action. This information is often the first thing a potential site visitor sees, so make sure to get it right!
Next, focus on business citations for both global and local reach on associated directories and review sites. Other search engines like Bing and geo-focused sites like Yelp are musts. Double check your NAP and make sure you have no double listings. Also, get citations on specific platforms. If you want to market a physician’s office, make sure you show up on HealthGrades. If you run a travel agency, TripAdvisor is a must.
Local citations affect rankings considerably, too. Look for geo-specific directories, business collectives, state commerce lists, and even neighborhood social media groups. You already know not to spam your business name around randomly, but it would not hurt to become active in the community you wish to serve.
Remember that whenever someone mentions your company name or brand information, you get a citation with the power to improve your marketing automatically. You cannot really control where someone will bring it up, although you can suggest existing customers and clients leave reviews. Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest work well. YouTube still provides a great option, too.
Track Everything: The Digital Marketing Mantra
If you fail to collect data and analyze it, your online marketing efforts of any kind are probably wasting time and money. Keeping track of your citations matters if you want to intelligently build your online presence and power. You need to ensure your NAP stays accurate, your links point in the right direction, and your mentions are providing benefits rather than detracting from your brand message.
Keeping Track of Citations
Various free trial and premium tools exist that search for your citations online. You could also just do comprehensive and specific Google searches for your company name, website URL, or any unique brand designations that people may use to mention your business. Track citations regularly so you know how your business stands in comparison to competitors.
Structured citations should pose no problems. These are the mentions you created yourself on top directories and review sites. They should not change after placing them. Just occasionally check them to ensure they’re still around and still 100% accurate.
Unstructured citations remain mostly outside your direct control. If someone posts something negative or on a low domain authority website, you cannot send them a message to remove it in most cases. Dealing with bad reviews is a matter for customer service actions, not citation building.
How Citation Data Helps You Succeed
Every piece of information you gather about your company’s reach and influence online matters. When you know the number and location of citations, you know where to focus your efforts. Do you need to extend your mentions to a new directory? Is your presence weak on a certain popular social media platform?
Things change all the time online. Competitors who manage their citations better can squeeze you out of the top-ranking results pages. Everything depends on comparative standing, after all. If a town has two plumbers, the one that stands out the most for the right reasons is going to get the bulk of the business. If your citations fail to engage and impress new consumers, growth stops.
The digital marketing world involves so many moving parts you have to wrangle in order to reach those coveted top Google positions and attract people with their wallets wide open. Citations come into play in all the strategies that have long benefited brands: content marketing, search engine optimization, boosting social proof, and direct advertising. Whether you place the mentions on purpose or conduct your business to inspire customers or clients to create beneficial citations for you, they play a considerable role in how the search engine algorithms and the buying public view your brand.
Start Building Your Citation Campaign Today
A strong citation campaign will build more roads to your website and help to generate leads and organic engagement. So, ready to boost your digital marketing power and grow your business? Contact MLT Group today for a free consultation and quote and learn how our digital marketing services can build a smart citation campaign for your business.