In local SEO, a citation is a reference to key business information—your name, address, and telephone (NAP) number—elsewhere on the web.
Local citations may appear in directories, on social networking or review sites, in apps, and on all kinds of other websites.
Obviously, these are an important part of the researcher experience; NAP information is the way a local consumer will find their way to your store or contact you.
But do citations help you rank higher in Google search results?
Claim: Local citations as a ranking factor
Some quotes only allow the signer’s name, address, and phone number.
However, you may be able to add a website link, job description, images, and more, depending on the directory or platform.
The idea here is that each of these improvements will help you rank higher in local search results:
- Your NAP information appears on more external sites.
- Ensure the accuracy of your citations.
- Improving each one by adding as much supporting detail as possible as the fields on this site allow.
White Spark Industry survey On Local Ranking Factors provides a good framework that shows the variety of considerations in the game when we talk about local quotes. Citations are evaluated based on:
- Quality / Power.
- enhancement / completion.
Evidence for citations as a ranking factor
Citations have long been widely accepted by SEO professionals as a key factor in local rankings.
“Consistency of Quotes” ranked fifth in the rankings Moz’s 2020 Industry Survey What SEO professionals believe are local ranking factors. (They ranked fifth in the Survey 2018Also, for both local/finder packages and localized organic search results.)
However, which citations are most important has been a matter of debate over the years.
When BrightLocal surveyed the industry in 2016, 90% of respondents said that citation accuracy was “very important” to the “critical importance” of local search rankings. What’s more, 86% said the quality of these citations is more important than the quantity.
In this video, Google emphasizes that local results are primarily based on relevance, distance, and popularity.
And while you can’t control all of these factors, they say:
“First, make sure all of your business information is complete. It is important that you have accurate information including your phone number, address, and category of business.”
Google also recommends that to ensure your GMB listing is accurate and to “help you stand out,” you should:
- Double check the accuracy of business hours.
- Use special business hours for the holidays.
- Add photos of your website, services or goods.
- Check your site to tell Google that you are the correct owner of the business.
in a “Improve your local ranking on GoogleHelp resource, the advice is clear:
Local results favor the most relevant results for each search. Companies with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches.”
Evidence against local citations as a ranking factor
You could argue that citations are very difficult to maintain and therefore not a reliable reference.
And I was right.
It is very difficult to ensure that all citations are updated via the local search system.
With so many aggregators, user suggestions, manual errors, and other elements wreaking havoc with citation information, how can Google trust that the information they find about any one business site is accurate?
This is exactly why managing local listings is so important, and providing Google with a single source of truth through your GMB profile is key.
Monitoring for citation errors is essential so you can correct them before misinformation is captured by compilers and distributed more widely.
Citation inconsistencies can occur for countless reasons:
- Companies move to new locations.
- Brands open and close stores.
- Employees and owners create lists without documenting them, and they become outdated as the business evolves.
- Consumers create duplicate lists by making typos when trying to leave a review.
- Google researchers suggest listing mods with the best intentions but misinformation.
- and more. Much more.
Google understands that all of these issues can affect citation accuracy, which is why it relies on a wide range of sources to determine whether information is trustworthy.
Local citations as a ranking factor: our judgment
Bottom line: It has been officially confirmed by Google that Google uses local citations as a ranking signal in Local Pack/Finder and localized organic search results.
Google’s goal is to provide the best, most trustworthy answers for every searcher.
Citations are an important indication of whether or not key business information is correct and that the site is the best answer to a relevant local search query.
If you’re just starting out, check out John McAlpin’s quotes and Local SEO: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.
Ready to get further? Ensure citations are accurate and complete on as many relevant sources as possible. WhiteSpark is free The most important local citation sources by country Finder lets you list top directories, networks, websites, etc. in 15 countries.
And if you really want to step up your local strategy, you’ll want to download Local SEO: The Ultimate Guide to Improving Local Search Rankings.
Featured image: Paolo Bobita / Search Engine Journal