Directories are out and Citations are In
Google’s newest algorithm update (named Penguin) devalues links from directories and slightly increases the value of business profile (citation) listings. Citations have always been an important part of any SEO campaign, but they now hold more value as a website ranking factor for Google. They’re also valuable for referring potential clients or customers to your website because these profiles show up in Google searches and help your business’s Google+ local business and map listings rank higher. Citation listings are essential for branding as well. The more mentions you have of your business across the web on quality sites the better.
What is a Citation Listing?
A citation is just a business listing that includes your business name, address, and phone number. Some local citation listings also include a link to your website, description, products and services, and social profiles, but not all. They are essential if you want to rank locally in search engine results because they create trust for your business name and reputation. Basically they’re like the old phone book listings, but online.
How to Find Local Business Citation Opportunities
First, make sure you’ve got the big listings covered: Google+, Yahoo, & Bing Local. Then you can start creating or claiming the big name local citation listings online: City Search, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Info USA Listings, Super Pages, Brown Book, and Map Quest. If you get stuck you can always head over to White Spark or Bright Local (mentioned below) and do a citation search for your business. Alternatively, you can Google competitors’ phone numbers that are ranking well locally to see where they’re listed. Make sure you perform searches of their phone numbers with brackets, dashes, and with just the number because they will all yield slightly different search results.
Difference between Directory & Citation Listings
Directories don’t usually include complete business details, although there are some local business directory exceptions. Also, directories almost always include an anchor text link, while citation listings sometimes have a www, http, or visit website link but sometimes no link at all. Citations are mentions of your business that play an important part in a website’s ranking and they should be the first part of any SEO link building campaign. If you have any doubt about whether a local directory is safe to submit to, don’t do it until you know for sure. You can always contact me if you have questions or need further clarification.
Best Third Party Business Listing Sites
If you don’t have time to submit your business to business profile citation sites there are a few quality and affordable listing submission sites to consider: Citation Bust from Bright Local, White Spark, and Universal Business Listings. Submitting your business’s information to profile sites is time consuming and basically entails a LOT of data entry. Do NOT use any service that is not reputable or that says they will build hundreds or thousands of links for you! That is some shady black hat SEO stuff that you don’t want to get a website penalty from. Also, stay away from Localeze, Yext, and City Grid. They charge hefty fees to create temporary local listings which you have no control of should you discontinue the extortionately priced subscription.
The following three citation sites are currently the highest quality business profile submission sites that you should consider. Why these three? They create the listings for you based on a form you fill out quickly and efficiently, and they give you a detailed report including usernames, passwords, and email addresses used to create them so you will always have control of them.
Whitespark is my favorite but it’s also the most expensive. It costs about $200 to get 30 business listings submitted from them, along with a follow up report including the usernames, passwords, and login access page in case you need to edit or update your business details in the future. It costs an extra $20 for this report, but it’s essential that you have this information because at some point you might need to adjust your business’s description, website, or contact information. Even better, Whitespark gives you the option of submitting to basic local citation sites, niche listing sites, or a combination of the two. Local listings are easier to find than niche citations, so the niche profiles cost a little bit more to create but are worth it.
Citation Burst from Bright Local
Bright Local is awesome! After you create an account there you can search your business’s name and get a custom report that includes all of the citation opportunities for your business. From there you can either submit your business yourself, or you can pay them to submit for you. They also include the username, password, and login access so you can update the profiles in the future if you need to.
Universal Business Listings
UBL.org is one of the best known business profile listing sites around. They’ve been providing listing submission services for a long time, and other business profile sites use the information from their site to populate local listing data for their sites. Your business’s NAP details is pulled from the UBL listing by business profile aggregators to automatically create new business listings.
Citation Submission Tips
While it’s important to have a consistent name, address, and phone number across multiple sites, make sure you use unique descriptions when you can. Also, be sure to have your business’s logo, product, and other images saved to your computer. Once they’re saved right click on each image and select properties, then details. Then you can add a title, subject, tags, and copyright information for each image. Also make sure you have a word document or spreadsheet saved with the following information ready to cut and paste:
1. Business Name
3. Phone Number
6. Business Email Address
7. Link Building Email, Username, & Password
8. Social Profile Links: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ & Maps
9. Business Categories
10. Business Tags
If you’ve got a spreadsheet phobia or just don’t have time to make your own, Casey Meraz offered this free citation building spreadsheet template on the highest authority blog in the internet marketing industry: Moz. If you haven’t heard of moz.com yet and you’re trying to DIY your SEO, please create an account there and start learning SEO best practices before you begin your search marketing campaign. The Moz community is very helpful and its members represent the internet marketing industry’s top experts. The template I mentioned here came straight from Casey’s article on Moz: Finding and Building Citations Like an Agency. I highly recommend you read it before submitting citations.
If you’re submitting citations manually, make sure you document everything. Create a spreadsheet with column heading for listing site name, website address, login portal, email address, username, password, date submitted, status, and listing URL. Keep it open while you’re submitting your business information and document everything so you can access these profiles in the future and avoid duplicate submissions and save it somewhere safe. I like Google Drive for citation documentation, here’s a free citation documentation spreadsheet you can save to your Google account cloud and access anywhere.
Create a Business Profile Spreadsheet
Submitting your site to local directories like Yellow Pages, City Search, B2B Yellow Pages, and similar citation sites can be a tedious data entry ordeal. Make the process easier by creating a Google profile for your business on Chrome. Click on the tool bar on the top right of google chrome (the rectangle with horizontal lines) and select settings. Scroll down until you seen any option to add a user. Here you will add the email account you’re using specifically to create and maintain your business listings, it should be a non-private account that you would be comfortable sharing with others in the future should you decide to share or delegate this responsibility.
When the screen to select an avatar appears, choose one that you will remember and name it appropriately (I would name mine Clicked Solutions Citations). Last, select the “Manage Auto Fill Settings” option on the settings menu and click “add new street address”. Here you can put your name, business name, address, phone number, and business email address.
Now Google Chrome will auto-fill these form fields for you, making the submission process much easier. If you really want to get efficient though, check out this guide that details how to submit citations like an agency using Robo Form and other tools widely used in the Internet marketing industry.
Make Sure Your Business is Not Already Listed
Check to see if your business is already listed on the site to avoid duplicate listing issues. You can do this by using some easy search operators on Google: (inurl:listingsitehere “your business name”). So if I was checking to see if Clicked Solutions was listed on Super Pages I would type the following in a Google search: (“inurl:superpages “Clicked Solutions”). Another way to search for your business on a specific website is conducting a search using your phone number and the site name: (Clicked Solutions and Super Pages). If you’re not familiar with search operators you can learn more about them from Google here.
If you find an existing profile with inaccurate information, just claim it and update the information. If your listing has already been claimed you can usually contact the listing company and make a request for them to release the listing so you can claim it. Other times they will simply delete the incorrect listing information and you can create a whole new one.
Start Creating Business Profiles
Now you’re ready to start submitting business profile listings like a pro! Just remember to track the progress of each listing along with login details should you ever need to update them in the future. Use the citation status spreadsheet template from local visibility’s article here: it’s also got quite a few bonus citation listings on it to help you get started. Let me know if I missed any good citation building sites in the comments or if you have any local listing questions.