Way back in the day, before the Internet, phone books and telephone directories were really the only way for people to find contact information for individuals or businesses. If you wanted your business to be found, you had to be in the phone book.
It’s true that the unwieldy paper phone books from days of yore still show up on our doorsteps at regular intervals, but the Internet has made the need to be in print a thing of the past.
While printed directories are no longer the best way to get found, directories still exist; now they’re in digital, online form, easily searchable from any computer or device connected to the Internet.
And it’s important to list your company in online directories, but now for very different reasons.
The Difference Between Citations and Directories
Before we get into why it’s important to list your business in online directories, we need to make an important distinction. The distinction between a “citation” and a “directory”.
A citation is any time your business name and address appear on a webpage. It doesn’t have to have a link, it simply needs to be your business name and address. For example, an article that lists your location and hours, your Yelp profile, or profile on a local chamber of commerce page. Anywhere your business is mentioned online is a citation.
A directory is a place for structured citations, that is they have a structured format for listing business information. Think Yelp profile, or even Facebook. There are TONS of directories all over the web where you can add your business citation. Sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee.
A citation can go into a directory, but can also exist without a directory. Citations that live within the content of a blog post, article, or even a comment, are known as unstructured citations. As the name suggests, the only difference is that an unstructured citation has no format to it and can appear anywhere, though it still contains the basic business information.
Citations are really what search engines “look” at and influence how well you rank in local searches.
Why Do You Need Citations?
In a nutshell, the more your business is mentioned online, the more prominent you’ll appear in the eyes of the search engines. Multiple citations lend your business legitimacy and are a key component in how search engines rank your site in local searches.
The more mentions that search engines can find about you online, the better. And if they are on a reputable site with a dofollow link, even better! But citations don’t need to have a link in order to be valuable.
How To Get Citations
Citations are relatively easy to get. All it takes is time, and a list of directories or online resources that accept them. It’s often free to add a citation to a website or directory. Think Facebook, Yelp, or Google My Business. Check out this article from Whitespark that lists the Top 50 Citation Sources in the US.
There are, however, websites or directories that will try to get your money. They’ll tell you need to pay for the listing to be published, or to update it, or for an “enhanced” listing. Feel free to walk away from sites that want your money and give you little (or nothing) in return.
Unfortunately, there are some directories where you won’t be able to add or update a listing unless you pay. And, more and more directories are coming under the umbrella of Yext, a service that charges you huge sums of money annually to manage online directory listings.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed! It’s ok, we’re here to help! Not all directories charge and there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of directories to choose from. Start with the most important directories and work your way down.
Start with Primary Data Sources (these sources gather and validate data, then distribute the lists to other websites).
Then move on to the Tier 1 data sources (these are websites people often use to find out more about a business).
Tip: Free and paid resources change frequently. Just be aware as you start your search.
It’s a good idea to look for hyper-local and niche directories, too. Try these searches on Google to find directories in your location and niche:
Local links and citations are super important for local SEO. Look for directories that list businesses in your city, state, or even county.
- (city) business listings
- (city) business directory
- (city) directory
What keywords do you use to describe your business (for example, “software development”, “bakery equipment”, or “insurance broker”)? Look for directory sites specific to your niche.
- (keyword) business listings
- (keyword) business directory
- (keyword) directory
Avoid These Citation-Building Pitfalls
Building citations online can be immensely helpful for your business. It could mean the difference between you or your competitors showing up in a local search!
This is by no means an exhaustive article about the ins and outs of citation building and directories. We can, however, help you avoid some common pitfalls when it comes to citation building.
- Be careful about paying for citations. There are services out there (like Yext) that will DELETE all your citations when you stop paying for their service. Read all the fine print before agreeing to anything!
- Keep track of the web page your citation is on, and any directory sites, with a link to your specific citation or profile. That way you know where they are and can periodically review them to make sure all the info is still up-to-date.
- In addition to keeping track of where your citations are, also be sure to note which email address and password you use to add citations or create directory profiles. This will save you a ton of time in the long run!
Citations Boost Local Visibility
One of the best ways to boost your visibility in local searches is by having lots of citations around the Internet. Get your business listed in the major data aggregators and Tier 1 data sources first, then branch out into more local or niche directories from there. Keep a detailed accounting of profile or citation URLs and login information so that you can easily find and update your listings in the future.
Citations and links to your business are just one aspect of local SEO success – a very big aspect, but there’s more you can do to get that boost. We’ve been helping businesses grow with local SEO for years! Give us a call to see how we can help you out, too.