Local Citations – A Complete Guide For Local SEO

A key component of local rankings are attributed to local citations. This is because they contribute a considerable amount to Google’s local rankings factors (approximately 10%).

Table of contents

What are local citations?

Local citations

A local citation is an online mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business. This is also known as “NAP” info, which helps users find local businesses, and also impacts rankings in local search. Local citations may be built and managed by business owners or SEOs to improve search engine visibility and NAP consistency.

Types of local citations

🕷️ Search Engines: Google, Bing and Apple – these are the most important is because they’re the most impactful (covered below).

📦 Data Aggregators: These platforms distribute and source NAP information to local directories. The four main data aggregators include Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, Factual, and Foursquare.

♻️ Social Profiles: One key element for any local business is building the brand. Social profiles like Facebook Business Pages, LinkedIn Company Pages, and YouTube Channels are all forms of local citations because the allow businesses to add relevant info.

📍 Local Business Directories – Business listings can also be created and claimed on popular directories like Yelp.

🦄 Niche Profiles & Directories – For many business categories, niche profiles and directories can be created. For example, law firms may choose to have their firm and attorneys added to FindLaw’s directory, which can create an additional layer of visibility and source of backlinks.

📄 Unstructured Citations – Supplementary citations can either be built or earned on a wide variety of publications, including blogs, news sites, apps, maps, government databases, and more. These aren’t specifically structured for the publication of local business listings but still act as a reference to your business.

🌐 Website – Your website is the most authoritative source data for your business.

Google Business Profile: This is the one listing that rules them all. This is because of how many people use Google and Google’s Local 3-Pack results. Ranking in Local 3-Pack can generate TONs of leads or in-store traffic for local business. This is also how customers discover and find businesses in Google Maps.

Google Business Profile

Pro Tip: You can follow these steps to set up your Google Business Profile and use this optimization guide & audit checklist to improve visibility in search results.

Bing Places: Although it’s not the #1 search engine, it still places in the top 5. And they also have a similar version of Local Pack, which can be a source of traffic and business.

Bing Places

Pro Tip: You can use this guide to quickly sync Bing Places with your Google Business Profile to set your Local SEO campaign up for success.

Apple Maps: For those with iPhones, Apple Maps is pre-installed. This makes it a highly used app for those who request directions and use it to find local businesses.

Apple Maps

Yelp: Probably, the most highly criticized (If you know, you know)… But having a free Yelp listing is still beneficial. For example, their reviews are sourced to Apple Maps (see example above).

Facebook Business Page: A very worthy mention here is a Facebook Business Page, which also serves structured NAP (name, address, and phone number) information.

Facebook NAP info

Facebook Reviews and Engagement also contribute to Local SEO Rankings, and their reviews can also be featured on GMB Listings…

Facebook reviews featured on Google Business Profile

It’s also common for Facebook users to ask for recommendations, which can be a free and user-generated source of referrals for local business.

Pro Tip:
Having a Facebook Page that’s optimized, well-branded, and back by a content strategy can be a great source of website traffic. This Facebook SEO Guide provides everything needed to create, optimize, and start developing a social media strategy.

How to audit local citations

⚙️ Manual audit: There are 100s of local citation sources, which would make a manual audit very time consuming. However, you can manually audit citation by spot checking the high priority citations like Google Business Profile, Bing Places, Apple Maps, Yelp, and Facebook.

🤖 Automated audit: There are tons of local listing tools out there to audit and manage profiles. However, I prefer BrightLocal for their user interface (UI) and suite of other relevant tools. You get a 14-day free trial from BrightLocal and check your citations for free.

BrightLocal citation audit
BrightLocal’s citation audit

Pro Tip: You can use BrightLocal’s citation audit tool to quickly identify local citations that have errors (such as incorrect phone number, business name, or address).

How to build local citations

Local citations can either be structured…

An example of structured location data on a Facebook Business Page.

Or unstructured…

An example of an unstructured local citation.

This simply means that NAP data is present, often with a “structured” format as opposed to “unstructured” with casual links.

I always recommend manually building the most important Local Citations.

When automating or outsourcing local citations, important fields or optimizations can be overlooked.

Pro Tip:
It’s important to optimize Local Citations, which means maximizing SEO for each listing to appear in search. This is especially important for Google My Business, and you can find a complete Google My Business SEO Guide to ensure rankings in Local Pack.

Once high priority citations are built, I recommend outsourcing or automating the rest to save a TON of time…

How to automate citation building & reporting

BrightLocal is a Local SEO software that makes citation building super easy with an all-in-one dashboard. Plus, they offer a free 14-day trial.

Within their citation tracking dashboard, it’s easy to view NAP Errors…

BrightLocal's Citation Tracker Dashboard

And it’s also easy to fix them and build new citations…

BrightLocal's Citation Building Dashboard.

It’s also possible to track rankings and the progress of Local SEO campaigns…

BrightLocal's Keyword Rankings Dashboard.

While having 100s of citations for a single location is rarely necessary, it can ultimately depend on the level of local competition and there are tons of other factors that affect Local SEO more than additional citations.

Within the dashboard, there’s also a Local SEO audit that provides actionable insights after the first 25-50 citations have been built. Using these insights combined with the Local SEO checklist, you can easily determine the best course of action and next steps for your campaign.

Happy SEO-ing 🙂