Businesses are busy competing for the organic top spot on the search engine results pages (SERPs). While this is still a vital position to obtain the most traffic and, as a result, the most conversions, businesses can achieve a position even higher than the organic results by focusing on their local listings. Local listings appear at the top of SERPs, perhaps under one or two ads, but always above the fold.
These local listings are in prime position for those searching for products or services with their device’s location turned on. However, it will only show the top three, so it is still competitive. This is where local SEO becomes imperative, particularly as voice search is on the rise. According to the Internet Trends Report of 2016 22% of people using voice search are searching for local content and information.
Typically if someone was looking for a specific type of business, for example a restaurant, they will type/say ’restaurants near me’ into Google. Google then uses the device’s location to find matching businesses closest to the person who is searching, showing the top three. These three clearly have the advantage.
A local listing is not specific to bricks and mortar businesses such as shops and hairdressers, they can also be used by businesses with physical offices.
The traditional method of improving local SEO is building citations. These are mentions of the company around the web, usually textual, appearing with contact details such as address and phone number (name, address, phone number a.k.a. NAP)
But do citations still matter for dominating local SEO?
Type of Citations
It is a common misconception that citations refers to directory listings alone, but this isn’t the case, there are many other places where a citation can appear; for example, in the by-lines of articles and blog posts, profile pages, video and image descriptions to name just a few places.
However, directories are still one of the most popular places to get citations from. They have been given a bit of a bad reputation over the years due to some being host to web spam activities and generally being of low authority. Despite this, directories are still worth the time, if you can find a good directory of high authority and in a niche relevant to the business, then it is worth listing.
Here are five of the high quality directories to get you started:
Most of these directories are free to list with. Some will not allow a link to a business but as this is a matter of building local citations for SEO and not a link building activity, these should not be avoided.
Make sure that the business’ NAP appears in these listings in exactly the same way as it does in Google’s listing/s and on the website. All these instances of the business name and this information together will be what helps improve the ranking of local listings and local SEO. To ensure that mentions of your NAP across citations is consistent it is recommended that a NAP audit is conducted. Use the Moz Local tool to check directory listings and make changes where necessary.
Quality not Quantity
Not too long ago it was the norm to build as many citations as possible. But, as with link building, it is the quality of the citations that matter and not the quantity. A study by BrightLocal found that 86% of local SEO experts said the quality of a citation was more important than the quantity.
So, what makes a good citation? Relevance is an important factor, if a business is a car repair garage, listing the business on a beauty directory is likely to have more of a negative impact of local ranking rather than a positive one. Businesses should either target general directories, such as Yell and 192, or those within their own niche.
Domain authority/trust flow: the authority of a website is also important. Although this can be manipulated through their own dodgy link activities, you can often tell by the look of a website, along with the metrics, whether or not it is a quality website that will benefit the business.
Whilst it is a good idea to build up the number of local citations a business has, quality needs to come before the quantity.
The Experts Say So
Possibly the most critical factor that validates the importance of citations for local SEO is simply that experts have said that they are. The 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors survey listed the local ranking factors that local SEO experts believe are most important.
Although gradually going down the list in favour of link signals, citation signals appear at numbers four and five on the lists of local pack/finder ranking factors, the box of local results that comes up at the top on SERP and the results when ‘more places’ is clicked (see examples below), and localised organic ranking factors.
Citations are still very much an important factor when it comes to local SEO. If you need help with your local SEO, contact Receptional to see how we can help.