Citation Building 101: Claiming Your Business Directory Listings
Learn How to Build Your Presence Online, Exactly Like Google Wants You To!
Citations, also known as directory listings, are a critical component of internet marketing for small businesses. They not only help you rank higher in Google + Local (as long as done properly), but they also expand your footprint across the internet, making it easier for you to be found! (That’s a good thing!)
In the beginning small businesses focused on general SEO strategies. Then the internet became local. News sites, directories, and search engines began applying localized filters to their search results. After all, 43% of all searches on Google have local intent!
Now is the best time to have a hyperlocal approach to marketing your business online. Citation are part of the foundation to that strategy; to targeting your local audience.
In this follow-up to my previous article on citations (be sure to read it to get a basic overview of what citations are and how they are useful for you) I am going to show you how you can claim and optimize your business listings. I will also show you how you can make your listing stand out from the competition.
Citations, also known as directory listings, are a critical component of internet marketing for small businesses.
The most time-consuming part of the citation building process is citation research. Firstly you will need to collect all the data for your business. Start by creating an Excel spreadsheet with the following columns:
- Directory Name
- Phone number
Here is an example of how your Local Citation Building spreadsheet may look. Go ahead and download this one so you can keep track of all your citations.
Next, fill out the columns as follows:
- Directory– this will be the name for the website with the citations
- Name– the name of your business as shown on the particular website
- Address– the address of your business
- Phone number– the phone number of your business; I recommend to always fill in the phone number in the same format regardless of the format on the website where your business is listed (this will help you sort the results more easily in the end; the preferred format would be (123) 456-7890.
- Categories– the category or categories, under which the business is listed on the particular website
- Link– the link to the listing
Once you’re done, we are ready to crunch the data. Let’s have a look at tools we have at our disposal. Adding your business to these sites will help you to increase your visibility, gain traffic and also improve your Google rankings.
Local Citation Building Tools
Before I get into the tools, keep in mind that NONE of these tools are 100% accurate. Some of them are very good, but they are designed to give you an idea of what you need to do. Their findings shouldn’t be set in stone. You still want to double check each and every listing.
Getlisted.org’, recently acquired by Moz, and rebranded to MozLocal is a great tool. In addition to showing you the listingsunder the Listings tab, the Reviews tab pulls all the reviews from different websites so you can conveniently skim through them. The last tab – To Do – shows you in a very neat and concise way what steps you should take to make your business’s online profiles complete (for example under Yelp it can tell you to add categories, photos or suggest getting some reviews).
Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder has several paid tiers ranging from $20 to $100 per month that limit your number of daily searches and number of projects. They do allow you to run a free test with some additional limitations, but this is enough for a small business to get a good idea of what they need to do to get started.
Another company offering similar tools includes Bright Local. I use Bright Local myself for when I am doing research for a client and when I am building citations. I subscribe to their service (they have different subscription levels), but I can pull a ‘Citation Tracker’ report which shows me which citations have been ‘claimed’ (meaning myself or the client has already went to the website and verified ownership), and which haven’t. Other great features it has:
- Ranks citations in order of importance using specific metrics (then easily sortable so I focus on the best ones first)
- Which citations haven’t been claimed
- Direct link to where the citation was found
It is a great report and I use it regularly when working on my client’s SEO campaigns, saving me a lot of time, and allowing me to be much more productive with my time.
You can use any of these sites to check the online listings for your business. You can also expand on this list and find other similar online tools. I recommend using at least two or three sites just to get more accurate results.
Here is the process laid out simply:
- Pick one of the tools from my list above and fill in your business’ information as asked by the site
- It takes a few seconds to process the data, so have a little patience
- Copy the information from each listing into your spreadsheet
- Mark the boxes with incorrect information (wrong phone number, incorrect address, etc.) with red color (you can also optionally use yellow color for less serious issues, for example a mistyped business name)
- Repeat the steps above for one or more tools
After you are done compiling the list of websites onto your spreadsheet, make a note of the issues marked red and yellow. It can help if you find some errors, because believe me, if there’s one thing I know from doing this for years, THERE WILL BE ERRORS.
For example, if you find a listing with wrong phone number, run the search again – this time using your correct business name and the incorrect phone number. This can lead you to other incorrect listings of your business. Furthermore, as practically all business directory websites get their data from third-party providers, you are very likely going to find one common source for all the wrong information.
Where Does All This Information Come From?
The most common sources are the websites that have the largest networks of sites to which they supply business data. These include:
- LocalEze– with a network of over 100 local search platforms (including big names like Yahoo, Bing, Yellowpages.com and MapQuest)
- Express Update– which provides business data to the “top 5 search engines” and various in-car navigation systems
- CityGrid– used by Bing, Yellowpages.com, Superpages, AOL Yellowpages, Citysearch or MapQuest
- Acxiom– which is partnered with Yahoo and AT&T (who in turn is the owner of Yellowpages.com)
For a visual of the local search ecosystem, check this out.
Finally, you might want to double-check that none of the really important listings directories got left out by the automated tools. I highly recommend checking at least these 20 directory sites and doing a search for your business. Pay attention to incorrect or duplicate listings as these might have a negative effect on your business online presence. Report duplicate listings and of course be sure to claim a listing that is already created as opposed to building a brand new one.
Feel free to include any other directories you know or that are relevant to the area of your business. These are great general directories, however, let’s not forget industry specific directories you will want to be sure that you are on. An example is a doctor will want to be on HealthGrades, Vitals, Better Doctor, etc.
In summary, remember these tips to make the process of building citations as easy as possible:
- Make sure to claim all your listings (high authority, both general, and industry specific); this will often add a “verified” sign on many directory listing websites
- Claim an existing listings rather than creating a new one whenever possible (claiming the one with the most accurate data)
- Report duplicates
- Whenever possible, try to use an email registered with your domain, as opposed to free email services (firstname.lastname@example.org rather than email@example.com), this includes for your Google My Business listing.
- Use as many photo’s as you can. Great photo’s would include logo’s, pictures of your building, of your staff, etc. Some sites allow you to add video, if you have a video to add, do it, that’ll really help you stand out!
Building citations can be fairly straightforward, however it can quickly get complicated with duplicate listings, inaccurate data (especially if you’ve used tracking numbers in the past), and business name changes. Done right, it usually takes a significant amount of time, but it is definitely time well invested. The goal of all this work of course is to help YOU show up better in the search results, making sure the information about your business online is accurate and how you want to be portrayed.
Of course many business owners simply don’t have the time to do it themselves. Sound familiar? If so, contact me it’s a service I provide for businesses looking to improve their visibility online. Our speciality is local SEO for Dentists and other healthcare professionals.
Go ahead and comment below:
- What is your citation strategy? Do you do it yourself, or hire somebody?
- What issues are you running into?
- Can you share some best practices with us?
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