I recently created our Yelp listing and got to thinking about citations for local SEO and how important they are for the SEO of a business that has a ‘brick and mortar’ base. In other words if you have a shop, restaurant, guest house or any other type of a business that you need people to actually come to, then you need to be thinking about local Search Engine Optimisation as part of your online marketing. More about citations later, but let me set the scene first.
Google is getting better and better at delivering relevant results to users based on device, location, past browsing history and more. This means however, that we as business owners must feed Google with information, so that we can get found. A perfect example of this is the Knowledge Graph. This is where Google flexes its muscles and shows us that it knows everything about everything. To demonstrate what this is and how it appears in the SERPs, I carried out this search in Google: restaurants Kanturk. I tested it on three devices a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. In reality, the most likely device for this search is a mobile phone, as people search on phones while on the go all the time. My results are below.
restaurants kanturk Google Search
Laptop result – restaurants Kanturk
You can clearly see that one restaurant has benefited from a place on the Knowledge Graph, as well as being number one on the organic results too. To the consumer, this is a really strong indicator to choose this restaurant, particularly if one is in a hurry for a ‘bite to eat’. But where did Google get the information for the Knowledge Graph? Well, Google has a host of places where it can glean this kind of data. In the case above, we may have a clue that some of the data was sourced from their Facebook Business Page and from TripAdvisor. It’s impressive that I’m even told the opening hours for today. Again, look at the organic listing, it seems that some information was gathered here from their Google+ page (the address and the phone number). What Google will seek out in delivering these results is consistency; that is 100% consistency across every mention of your business online. If Google is confident that it’s information is correct, it will display it, as it did above. Can you imagine the uplift in footfall? Huge.
It is also worth looking at my results on tablet and smartphone. Are they the same? How are they different or better? Is it the same restaurant that appears in the Knowledge Graph across mobile devices?
Tablet and smartphone results
Tablet and smartphone results
You will see that mobile results look a lot different, but the same restaurant heads up the results on both tablet and smartphone. The Knowledge Graph on my phone gives me a map and three key buttons to click: Call, Directions and Website. Google presents the results to me knowing that I’m probably on the go and need to either call or get directions. Very clever. The first organic result is also the same restaurant. No other restaurants get a look in on that initial screen. On the tablet results, the Knowledge Graph takes up about 50% of the screen, but I do not get the opportunity to call. Google knows that this device does not have the ability to make a telephone call, so it does not give me that option.
Now that I’ve set the scene, I thought we’d concentrate4 Steps To Using Citations For Your Local SEO on one particular aspect of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for Local Businesses, that being ‘citations’. Citations are mentions of your business around the web; they do not have to contain a link to your website (though they can). They typically consist of your Business Name, Address and Phone Number, or NAP. These are easy enough to get and you probably have some already, possibly without even knowing it. Your NAP information contributes to Google’s knowledge about your business and the more you have the more important Google will think you are. The more local ones you have, the more important for local search. I believe that this is a critically important part of your online presence and I suggest that you spend some time working at it. Consider that the return on investment of gaining three extra families per month at your restaurant (continuing from the example above), is potentially much greater than posting beautiful updates on Facebook, that nobody sees because of low organic reach. In regard to search results, when someone is searching a specific query, they are actively seeking an answer and need that service or product. In other words, search equals intent. If you can appear in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), you have a really great chance of making a sale.
My four steps below will help you get those citations you need and your NAP information consistent across the web:
#1 Carry out a Citations Audit
Your first step is to do an audit of all your mentions online. This includes your own mentions. Where have you mentioned your self and in what format does it appear? Look at your Website, Facebook Page, Twitter profile, Google+ and so on. Are they consistent? Where else is your business listed? Local directories, community or town website, events where you were a sponsor? To do this you need to search for your business name in different formats, eg My Business and My Business Ltd. Then search for your address and then for your phone number. In particular, you’re looking for duplicate listings (within a directory maybe) and a common format that the most citations carry. Be especially aware of the address, what format does it take, do you share a building with another business? Perhaps you and they need to decide how you are going to express that. Maybe you need to put in ‘Floor 1’ for an accounting practice which is upstairs from a hairdressing salon.
#2 Competitor Listings
Next you need to conduct research on where your competitors are listed. This will give you ideas on how they’ve done it and how well they’ve done it. Are they listed in places you never thought of? Are they listed in places you wouldn’t want to be listed? Do they feature in the Knowledge Graph for various searches? Is their NAP information consistent? You’ll carry out all this research in a similar way to number 1 above, taking note of any interesting ideas you encounter.
#3 Decide on a format for your NAP information
You are now armed with the information you need to decide which NAP format you are going to use across the web. In step one above in particular, is there a lowest common denominator? Do the majority of your citations display in a particular way? Are you happy with this? Perhaps it’s a good idea to print out this format on an A4 page and put it on the noticeboard in your office. Bring it to the attention of everyone in the organisation that this is the format of the NAP information your small business is going to use from now on. Explain why it is so critically important that your business sticks to this.
#4 Amend or update the information
Remove Duplicate Listings
Remove Duplicate Listings
Now go along and amend the listings where your NAP information is inaccurate, incomplete, or inconsistent with what you’ve decided. During this part of the process, you’ll need to login to various directory sites or claim your listing. Keep your login details and password for all of these, as you may need them in the future. I am mainly concerned in this article about your Name, Address & Phone Number, but you will also have an opportunity to build out all the information on various sites. Use that opportunity to fill out as much information as possible, like opening hours , services, images etc. Remove any duplicate listings you may have noticed during the first step above. Yelp gives this option on one screen, as they obviously have found it to be a problem.
Take your time to do all of this work and do it well, as it has the potential to really pay off. Another thing of course, is to monitor these listings regularly, and especially new listings which may pop up. If you would like further reading on the subject, Neil Patel has an excellent article on Entrepreneur.com entitled 5 Things Most People Forget About Local SEO. In it he says that a business doesn’t even need to have a website to do well in local SEO, by getting their citations right and adopting some other tactics. Now that is really something to ponder!
I hope this has been helpful to you as a small business owner and that you will now use this tactic as part of your internet marketing. Please do let me know what you think in the comments below.