Are Citations Really Significant Ranking Factor For Local Search?
Like most questions about SEO, it depends on who you ask. If you ask us, the answer is a definite YES.
What Are Citations?
Also called Listings, Citations are an online reference to a business that includes the business’ name, services, address, and phone number. The most important example of a citation would be Google’s Google My Business (GMB). Others include Yelp, Facebook, Merchant Circle, and, if appropriate for on-site customers, Apple Maps.
Most listings/citations are part of an online business directory; a group of individual business listings for various business or brand sites. Many include specific details about your industry, service offerings, as well as allowing the opportunity for owner and user uploaded pictures. Most listings are free (they make money on ads), but many offer increased visibility and “top of page” spotlights for a fee – basically paid advertising.
How do these third-party listings impact Local Search?
We’ve seen Google automatically make GMB listings for websites and businesses listed on lessor directories. We’ve also seen Google “penalize” businesses if their online presence (address, phone, services, etc.) is not consistent across these listings.
In many cases, citations/listings for your business can rank highly on the first page of search results, due in large part to the SEO strength of these large, national listing sites like Yelp, YellowPages, Facebook and GMB. It’s not inconceivable that your brand could take up several spots in Google’s Top Ten search results, even without factoring in your own website.
How should I use listings/citations to my advantage?
Appearing on listings like the Better Business Bureau can be a major plus, as it lends credibility to your business. Along with listings on Yelp, YellowPages, Facebook, and GMB, sites like the BBB allow your customers to review you, your products, and services. Positive online reviews along with adding Accreditation Badges (Trust Seals) to your site will help prospective customers gain confidence in your business (but probably not help your search engine position).
GMB, Yelp, and Yellowpages are must-haves for restaurants.