Citation Building Guide: What Is It and How To Do It
You’re only as successful as your reputation. Learn how to make a name for your business online with listings and citations that push traffic – and customers – to your website.
Building your online footprint is critical for all service-based businesses.
With 46% of web searches focused on local businesses, you need to make sure you come up in local results often – and on top.
One way to make sure people find you online is to increase how many places you’re listed online – these are known as citations.
Creating a website or verifying your Google My Business (GMB) listing are awesome first steps, but they won’t be enough on their own. The more citations you have, the easier it will be for people to find you when they search for services you offer.
The word “citation” can sound like marketing jargon, but a citation is simply any mention of your company and contact info. Online citations exist whenever your business name, phone number, and address are included on a web page. This is known as your NAP.
Building citations is crucial because very few people will search for your business by name. Since new customers won’t have heard of you, they’re more likely to browse online directories, or describe their problem to Google – for example ‘emergency plumbing near me’ or ‘after hours locksmith’.
Upping your citation game will help these people see you in more places and give customers an easy way to leave reviews.
With more traffic and more reviews comes higher rankings on Google.
If you’re new to citation building, fear not. We’ve put together a simple guide to creating local listings that can boost your business and widen your web reach.
What are local citations?
Local citations take the idea of the online listing to the community level. They are specific to local businesses – like yours – rather than national brands or big-box retailers that provide both services and products.
Citations include essential contact information so people can confirm just how local you are to them. Customers searching for electricians, HVAC, and other home improvement services want to find someone close by, not on the other side of the country.
Citations can appear in many places, with Google My Business as the most popular and visited, as it’s located on Google and given priority in Google search rankings. Local citations can also appear on Google Maps. You don’t need a storefront to claim your own GMB listing as long as you provide a service that visits local customers.
Customers will also take to more specialized listing and directory sites if they have an ultra-specific service in mind (for example, patio paver repair or spring gutter cleaning).
It’s important to understand who your customer base is and where they might be looking for help so you can create citations accordingly.
What is citation building?
Citation building is the process of creating and adding listings for your business across the internet on relevant sites and directories.
As with most aspects of growing your business online, citation building typically benefits from a little bit of planning.
Start by figuring out who your dream customers are and how they align with the services you offer.
To do this, type in a search term related to your business like ‘tiling businesses near me’ or ‘emergency tree removal’.
Does YOUR business show in the results?
If not, this is a prime opportunity for you to build citations and target those keywords.
TRADIE DIGITAL TIP: Ask yourself where you think potential customers would go to look for your business, or to look for your competitors. Try searching for a direct local competitor in Google and see what websites they appear. Do you have a listing there, too? If not, you could be missing out.
What to include in a quality online citation
Ready to get started building out your online citations?
Before you start entering info into every directory on your list, make sure you have all of your content ready.
You’ll need your information to be consistent across all websites as it will confuse customers if your business hours are 9:00am to 5:00pm on Yelp but show as 24/7 hours on the YellowPages.
Take a few minutes and create a basic document where you can prewrite all of the details included in a citation. While most will only require a few fields, quality online citations will cover the following:
Name of Business
Straightforward, right? Just be sure to use the formal business name you are known by, not a nickname or short version. This can be important if there are competitors in your market with similar names.
Address of Business
Choose to use your primary address if you have multiple locations. You want to make it easy for people to know where you are based.
Phone Number of Business
This is incredibly important. Many people will search on their phone and click to dial directly to speak with a vendor. Be 100% sure that the number you list is set up correctly, answered during business hours, includes voicemail, and matches on every listing.
People want to know when they can call you and expect to speak with someone. Make sure your hours are current.
Services and Products
Most citation sites will let you include a description of your company with keywords or tags. This is where you showcase everything you provide in an easy-to-read format.
Even if you don’t think your work is exciting to look at, include images. If you’re an electrician, show off those new hanging pendant lights you installed for a happy customer, or your ‘Before and After’ photos of your latest landscaping project. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Social Media Links
Invite people to engage with you on social media with links to your website and profiles. They can check out more reviews, content, and find new ways to engage with you.
Why citation building is important for local businesses
Customers expect to see local businesses online and find detailed information about them. Building your citations can give you a competitive advantage in more ways than one.
Citations…improve trust and credibility
With 93% of customers looking for reviews online before choosing a provider, credibility matters. Online citations give current customers a place to share their feedback and rate your company. As a bonus, you can show potential clients how you engage with the community.
Citations…help customers find you
Very few people search for a specific business name. They’re looking based on location, specialties, and services. The more places your company appears online in combination with what you offer, the more likely people will be able to find you on the sites they use most often.
Citations…improve your SEO
With Google as the number one search engine, where your business shows up in the search results matters. Most people don’t scroll past the first page of results and will never see your company as an option. Building your citations adds clout to your site in Google’s eyes and will help raise your rankings.
Citations…increase website traffic
With more places to be found and higher Google rankings, you should expect to see an increase in traffic, inbound requests, and ultimately new business.
Types of local citations
There are two main types of citations you’ll encounter online:
- Structured Citations
- Unstructured Citations
Structured citations appear on sites designed to present directory information. Unstructured citations are opportunities to list your details in more general content.
The majority of listings can be found in structured citations.
These sites are designed to present business information in a consistent format. These sites make it easy to find company information, comment on services and rank higher in search results.
Some examples of structured citation sites you’re probably familiar with include:
- Apple Maps
- Google Maps
- Google My Business
- Yellow Pages
You don’t need a formal listing to include your business details online.
Unstructured citations are a great way to increase credibility for your company. Just be sure to provide the same content across the board.
Whether producing your content or partnering with others, here are some creative ways to build unstructured citations:
- Mentions of your business in an online news article
- Including your contact details in a press release or blog
- Getting listed with local unions or trade organizations
- Sponsoring local events for extra coverage
- Cross-posting compatible services (i.e. a lawn service recommending an irrigation company)
How to build local citations
Creating and curating your local citations is easy once you know what to include and where to start.
Here are the general steps to build your online citations.
1. Finalize your listing information
Check and recheck that you have everything you need to start populating listings. From the right company name, to contact details, to a few awesome photos – finalize your content before you get started.
2. Search your business to find existing citations
Odds are your business is already listed online, even if you haven’t claimed all of your citations yet. Do a quick Google search to confirm where you do, and don’t, appear.
Online reputation management software can help you with this task by highlighting where people are already talking about your company.
Looking for more directories and listing sites? Unlock EIGHTY (yep, 80) free and paid business listing sites to build citations FAST
3. Clean up existing citations
You’ll want to get any existing content up to date with the right information before you start creating new listings. This way, everything matches moving forward. People engaging with your company will have access to the latest details about your products and services.
4. Competitor research
Time to Google the competition again.
What sites do your top five competitors come upon? Are you listed there, too?
If you aren’t, get to work creating a listing or working with those websites to get some unstructured citations in the works. You need to be where your competitors are, or you’ll keep losing potential business to them.
5. Create new citations based on your research
Expand your reach by creating new citations wherever it makes sense for your business, based on your research. This is where you put your plan into practice.
Get in touch with local groups, associations, and news sources to start building up your unstructured citations. Then, get to work making sure you’re listed on all of the major players:
- Google My Business (GMB)
- Google Maps
- Yahoo Small Business
Don’t be afraid to go deeper into more niche listings based on your industry or region.
6. Keep track of your citations
Find your business already listed? Added yourself to Yelp? Make sure you create a list and keep track of your citations moving forward. If you do this as you go along, the task of future-proofing the upkeep will be quick and easy, and so will your listing maintenance.
7. Update your citations regularly
Did you add a new service or remove two others? Has your mailing address been updated? Do you have new photos that better show off your talents?
Take the time twice a year to evaluate where your business and your listings stand and do a quick update. Since you already have a list (see step 6), you can quickly visit each site and make the required changes.
Build your way to a bigger business
If you think business is booming now, wait until more people who need your services can find you online.
Citation building can seem tedious, but it’s a proven roadmap to exposure, improved SEO, and increased site traffic – with minimal to no cost in ad spend.
The first step is to check where, and how, your business is listed online today. This will set your baseline and show you what needs improvement. Decide how you want your business to be represented and make that effort to clean up your citations.
Take the extra initiative and create new listings in relevant directories (remember not to skip Google My Business!) as well as community websites and groups to expand your reach.
With new citations published consistently, your business will move up the search results, increase your online reputation, traffic, and ultimately bring in new business.
Ready to take your local business to the next level? You don’t have to spend big to get big marketing results. Sign up for our newsletter to receive tips and tricks for how to make the most of your digital footprint and boost your business success.