The Ultimate Guide of a Local Citation for 2022

There are several guides on the internet about local SEO citation, but how do you define the ultimate guide for a local citation? Should the post be from an established website? Should a famous SEO expert write the guide for the local citation? Regardless of your preferences in choosing which resources for local citations to read, the goal is for you to be educated. Those resources should help you in your local citation campaign.

We label this material as the “Ultimate Guide” because this was prepared by individuals who are in the SEO scene, those who live and eat local citations, for 11 years and counting. It is the collaborative effort that resulted in coming up with this ultimate guide that you can use for your local citation campaign. 

Facts about our local citation builders: Our members worked for different local SEO agencies. Some notable brands are SEObuilder, HOTH, Web20Ranker, and more. We experienced firsthand the various strategies and processes from each agency and combined them to produce a great local citation guide.

To better understand this guide, we have divided this material into different sections that discuss the process for your next local citation campaign. 

  1. Introduction to Local Citations

  2. Project Onboarding

  3. Manual Citation Audit Campaign

  4. Citation Sources Research

  5. The Right Way Of Building Citations

  6. How To Cleanup Your Incorrect Citations

 

Introduction to Local Citations

 

A local citation is any mention of your business name, address, and phone number or NAPW on other websites. Some popular sources of citation are online local directories like Yelp, Yellowpages, Foursquare, and more. 

Structured vs Unstructured Citations

The structured type of citation is from the sites where you can accurately submit your business information. Usually, these sites provide you with a submission form where you can add information about your business. From the word “structured”, your data is marked-up appropriately, and search engine crawlers can quickly identify what those inputs are. 

Unstructured citations, on the other hand, are usually the mention of your business information in article posts, blog comments, press releases, etc. 

What are Citations Examples

local citation
local seo citation

The Benefits of Local Citation

Is local citation dead? The below graph from AdviceLocal shows that local citation, even though not as important as it was in the past years, it still contributes 7% to the total ranking factors.

local seo rank factors

A local citation is still beneficial for a local search marketing campaign. Here are some of the benefits of citation to your business:

  • Additional referral traffic to your site.
  • A cost-effective option for promoting your business. 
  • An option to collect customer reviews and feedback. 
  • Build prominence for your brand, which is one of the local search ranking factors. 

A local citation can be one of your base foundations for your local search campaign. But citation alone cannot do the job of ranking your website better, especially for targeting a competitive market. It should be combined with other factors for optimum results.

Most Commonly Offered Local SEO Services

 According to the survey conducted by BrightLocal here, local citation is the least offered service by local search marketers with only 79%.

local seo services

Note: This is based on the responder’s answer on what local search marketing services they offered.

Local Citation Management 

Now you know the benefits of local citation, don’t go out there yet and start building citations for your business. Several processes and important information are needed to be considered for a successful local citation campaign. To make the citation work for your business, one must consider the following factors:

  • The sources of the citation.
  • The right way of building citations.
  • Quality and quantity.
  • Accuracy of business information.
  • Relevancy of the citation site.

All of the above factors will be attainable by following the guidelines presented in the sections below.

Project Onboarding

How you start the process will dictate the outcome of the campaign. This is why Project Onboarding is one of the essential steps of a local citation campaign. 

Before pulling off the trigger, make sure that all of the necessary information about the business is already collected before starting the campaign.

Some of the important basic information that we ask our clients for the local citation campaign are:

Business Name
Business Complete Address
Business Phone Number
Business Website URL

Basic information (Business NAP) is necessary, however, we also ask for supporting information to make sure your business profile stands out on local directories.

Below is the sample form that we send to our clients after they have purchased one of our  local citation services

We prepare a Google spreadsheet that you can use for your campaign. Just tweak it depending on your needs so that it won’t look like everyone else’s report. Sample Report – Local Citation

Previous business information and campaigns are important information that should be taken note of.

  • Do they previously rebrand?
  • Do they move to a new location?
  • Do they change their phone #?
  • Do they change the website’s domain name?
  • Do they previously have a citation campaign?

Answering the above questions will give you a clear picture of how to approach your campaign. Furthermore, getting additional information from clients will be helpful for the manual citation audit campaign because you will have more inputs to use for tracking existing citations.

Manual Citation Audit Campaign

We now have all of the necessary information needed for us to get started for the next step, which is conducting an in-depth online search of existing business citations.

A citation audit is another essential part of a local citation campaign because it will provide you with the full status of existing citations regarding your business before starting a new local citation campaign. The data from the completed citation audit will give you a detailed report about how and where your business information is distributed in different sources.

Do you need to update your business data on several citation sites? Do you need to submit your business on a particular website? An completed audit report will help you decide on your next course of action. 

Why Manual Audit?

Several service providers offer automated audit packages. One of the pros of these automated tools is that most of them provide real-time data or quick turnaround time. You’ll get your report after a few minutes or hours. 

But why is it better to do it manually?

The above report shows that our manual audit is guaranteed to have found more existing local citations compared to other service providers that offer an automated service. 

How to Perform A Manual Citation Audit?

Google it!

A popular phrase we use when someone asks you a question. When doing a manual citation audit, Google is the handy dandy tool that you can use. Armed with the business information collected during the onboarding stage, go to Google Search and use those as your search phrase.

local citation

You can also use Google Advanced Search to trim down the results.

Don’t forget the free automated tools. One of my favorites is the YEXT scan. We use YEXT to track those existing citations that might not appear on the search results. Using free automated tools will give you a quick headstart for your campaign, then follow with the manual audit to provide complete results.

Record your data. Visit all the links in both manual and automated audits. Make sure to record the citation details in a spreadsheet. You can categorize them for better identification of which data has the correct information or not. Here is an example citation audit report : Sample Report

citation audit
citation audit

Now that you have your accomplished citation audit report, you can choose whether to focus on building new citations or to put your effort into fixing incorrect information about your business.

Citation Sources Research

Citation sources research is about finding the citation sites you can use for your business and checking their potential on how to be beneficial to your local SEO campaign. 

Finding citation sites you can use to submit your business is time-consuming. Fortunately,  there are readily available citation sites lists on the internet that you can use. Most of them are categorized per country and business category. 

We also have compiled our list of citation sources, which we have gathered during years of auditing and research. The list includes top local citations, niche sites, and country-specific sites. You can access the list here OnlineCrib Master Citation Sources.

How To Find Citation Sources

Manual Search

You can go to Google and search for citation sources. Here are some of the search phrases that you can use: 

  • local business directory
  • business directory
  • add business
  • add listing
  • add company
  • free business registration
  • submit your business
  • create a company profile

If you are looking for niche-specific sites, just add your business category to the search phrase.

Niche Specific sites

Whitespark Local Citation Finder

You can use this paid tool from Whitespark, which automates the search for possible citation sources. You can use the tool for free however it gives you limited results. Pay for as low as $17 per month to avail of the basic package.

You can use the Whitespark LCF tool by searching for a keyword phrase or adding your business location. With the given information, it will provide you with the suggested sites based on your location.

One of the best features of the Local Citation Finder Tool is its ability to compare your citations versus your competitors. This will allow you to find citation sources that your competitors are using.

BrightLocal Citation Tracker

Another way to do an automated search for citation sources is by using BrightLocal Citation Tracker.  Although it is more expensive than Whitespark, subscribing to BrightLocal allows you to use other tools like Local Search Ranking Report, Google My Business Audit, Local SEO Audit Reports, and more. 

Using BrightLocal’s Citation Tracker is different from Whitespark. Whitespark has an easy-to-use platform. While using the BrightLocal Citation Tracker tool, you have to input all business information. But the good thing is that it is connected to other tools. This means, you don’t need to enter that same information when running a report to other BrightLocal tools.

Here is what the Citation Tracker looks like:

Quality of Citation Sources

Once you have the list of citation sites, the next thing to do is to check if those sites were not used before. You can compare the list to the citation audit report. Then remove those sites from the list to avoid creating duplicate profiles.

Then we need to identify the quality of those sites. There are some guidelines that you can put in place when selecting sites for citation building. Below are some of the items in our checklist:

Popularity

Most often, these are the authority sites, and you don’t want to miss submitting your business information on these types of websites. Another benefit of listing your business on popular sites is that it generates additional traffic to your site since there are a substantial number of people using their sites. Some examples of popular websites are Facebook Page, Google My Business, Foursquare, Yelp, and more.

Trust Ratio

One of the metrics you can use to determine the quality of the sites is Trust Ratio. This can be calculated by dividing the trust flow to citation flow. Citation Flow is the link juice, while Trust Flow is the measurement of how trustworthy those links are. Normally a  site that has a higher Citation Flow compared to Trust Flow could be a signal that the site is using spammy techniques to get their links.

Organic Traffic

Another metric is organic traffic. We want to make sure that their traffic is consistent and no major drop which can be a sign of penalty from search engines.

Authority

We are also checking their domain authority and domain ratings. We want to initially use all possible citation sources that have a higher DR and DA. 

Relevancy

One of the toughest parts is finding citation sources that are relevant to your niche. Maybe for some popular categories like legal, contractor, and health; wherein there are plenty of online directories. But for other categories, finding relevant sites will be a challenge. Relevancy is one of the ranking factors in local search. The more of these types of sites link back to you, the greater the results for your campaign. 

Indexable

Lastly, your effort is useless if these profiles will not be indexed by search crawlers. One part of our process in maintaining our list of citation sources is checking if a site has a no-index tag on the citation profile.

The Right Way of Building Citations

Now, we have the citation audit and list of citation sources on our hands. And we are all set for a new citation building campaign. Below are some guidelines you can follow:

Prepare Your Spreadsheet

You will need a spreadsheet to record the details of your submission. Normally you need to record the citation source name, the profile URL, and the login details. Here is our sample sheet. Sample Report – Local Citation

Create Email Account

We suggest creating a domain email address just for the citation campaign. The reason for this is that some free email accounts can easily be disabled when the user is no longer active or if it has seen some unwanted activity inside the account. Also, a domain email address is required for a couple of local directories.

Protip: Don’t use your business support email either on the citation campaign or display it on the citation profile. Or else, expect to receive a huge volume of marketing email to your inbox.

Setup Your Auto Form Filler

If you are planning to submit your business in several directories, it would be ideal to use an auto-form filler tool. This is to avoid doing a copy and pasting process and to eliminate the possible error when typing the business info into the form manually.

The tool we are using for auto-form filler is RoboForm. You can either use Google AutoFill or any other tool that you prefer. 

Optimize Your Photo

Add metadata to your photo. It’s been less popular now since most of the sites strip this data from your image to compress the image file size. But it is still a good habit to add this tiny bit of information where you can include your keywords, NAP, and geo modifier to your photos.

One of the tools we are using is the Photo Exif Editor, which you can download from the Microsoft Store for free.

Spin Your Business Description

We noticed on our test orders that those with unique descriptions have increased the citation index rate compared to those citations that used the same business description in all of their citation profiles.

Writing unique content for each profile would be a pain in the ass considering the number of citations that you are aiming to submit your business. However, our team uses the Spin Rewriter tool to produce unique versions of the business description in less than a minute. You can check the tool here.

Start With The Highest Quality Sites

It is always good to use the top citation sites first. Some examples of top sites are Facebook page, Foursquare, Yelp, and Google My Business. We have a complete guide on how to optimize your GMB page here[Link Here].

Use data aggregators sites like Factual, Infogroup, Neustar Localeze. These are the sites that distribute your business data across their network sites. 

Another reason why you need to start with top citation sites is that most of them take days or even weeks to review your submission application. Then once approved, you’ll get your profile to go live in their directory.

Perform Site Search Audit

What? Another citation audit?

Yes, you read it right! We are doing another set of citation audits during the citation building campaign. The main reason is that citations will not appear in search results (especially if they are not indexed). So one way to locate them is to do a site search.

Why not do them during the citation audit campaign?

Since we don’t know where your business is listed, it would be a bad decision to do a site search for all citation sources (that will take forever to complete). So our process is to grab the citation site we are planning to use, then do a site search to check if the business is already listed.

Submit with Accuracy

Submit your business information and make sure that all information is accurate. Inconsistency in your business details can confuse search crawlers that can be a bad user experience for your potential clients. Always check the inputs before submission to avoid this problem. 

Complete Your Profile

Business NAP or name, address, and phone is your citation. But it does not mean it ends there. If the sites allow you to provide more information, use that opportunity to add every information available. The more complete your profile is, the more it looks trustworthy. Also, it will give your potential clients more ideas about your business. 

You can upload photos, unique descriptions about your business, services, business hours, social media profile, videos, etc. Remember that more information is additional content for your profile and could end up being indexed by search engines.

Claim and Verify It

Some citation sites allow you to verify or claim a business profile. If the option is available make sure to perform that process. This is to avoid another person from claiming your business. Also, a verified badge added to your profile makes it a more legitimate business. 

Most of the citation sites allow you to verify the business via email confirmation, which is the most convenient way. Some will need a verification process that requires phone verification. In that case, we sort these sites and schedule a day of meeting with the client to do the verification process.

Keep a Record Of Your Citation Campaign

You must keep track of your citation campaign. Make sure that every submission is recorded on a spreadsheet for safekeeping. Basic information in the spreadsheet must contain the citation site name, profile URL, date submitted, and login details. Here is the example report of a completed citation building campaign.

What Can You Do More Out Of Your Citation?

Collect Reviews

One of the uses of these citation sites is collecting customer reviews. However, third party reviews do not appear on GBP any more but still reviews from top citation sources can add more value to your profile. 

For example, the two profiles below. I would choose the 2nd business over the other one because some users had a good experience with that business.

Share Fresh Content

A good example would be your Google Business Profile. There is a feature called Google Business Post that you can use to add events, updates, and discounts regarding your business.

Cleaning Up Incorrect Citations

This is one of the toughest parts of managing a citation campaign – not because the process is difficult compared to the other, but mainly because the results are in the hands of the citation sites. 

Why is that so? Some citation sites take time before responding to a request regardless of the countless email outreach that you sent them. So you have to be resourceful on how to contact them, which is included below on this guide.

You will also encounter sites that didn’t provide contact information as well as for instructions on how to edit your business profile. Some citation sites use external sources of data that they display on their directory. Just like how Local.com and Yellowpages distribute data from their network sites.

Below are some of the guidelines and process we use during a citation cleanup campaign:

Create You Email Outreach Account

Using a free email account is fine, but we highly recommend using a domain name email. The reason is that when sending an email to citation site owners, they are more likely to respond to the requests coming from the domain emails. 

There are cases where we used a Gmail account and the site where we sent an outreach email called the business phone number to verify if we are connected to the business. This might happen to your campaign during citation cleanup.

Prepare Your Outreach Template

I would suggest creating a different outreach template per citation cleanup campaign to avoid getting marked as spam because of the same format of the email that other citation sites are receiving. Below is an example of an outreach email template that you may use:

Hey {First Name}

I am Gerry, a local marketer that represents {Business Name}. We are tasked with managing their online profiles and we found out that our business information is listed incorrectly in your directory. 

Can you please assist us in editing this profile {Profile URL}?

The correct information is as followed:

Business Name {Correct Business Name}
Business Address {Correct Address}
Business Phone {Correct Phone}
Website URL {Website URL}

Let me know if you can update it for us. 

Regards,

Gerry

Starts with the Source

Always start the actual cleanup campaign on the source of the data. The source could be a government site, data aggregators, phone companies, etc. These trusted sources are usually used by citation sites for their directory. 

Cleaning the citation profile directly might result in reverting to the old version, which is based on the data of the source. And in some cases, citation sites will respond that they can’t update the profile and will point you to the actual source.

Clean The Popular Citation Sites

Like the other instructions in the citation building campaign, always start your campaign with the top sites. The reason is that these popular sites commonly have a great number of visitors daily that can see your business’s incorrect information.

Do Not Settle With Email Outreach

Sending an email is the simplest way to do the citation cleanup. Once you have the contact email address and outreach template set up, you can fire the email right away and wait for the sites to respond so that they will update your profile. 

Other ways to update the citation are: look for report incorrect information links, contacting them via social media sites, contact form, claiming the business profile, or call the site.

Schedule Your Check and Follow-up

Some citation sites will not respond right away, and it is good to set up a day where you can check the results of your campaign and schedule another attempt to clean up your citation in case the first attempt failed. For example, in our team, we do weekly results checking and a weekly cleanup campaign. 

Record Your Campaign Activity and Results

It would be best to record the list of citations that you are trying to clean. The list must also include the date where attempts were made, and the process you used on that attempt. The reason is that we want to identify if that process gave us good results. For example, we did an email outreach on the first attempt, and we sent an email to a specific account, however, we should also consider doing other options like contacting them on social media, calling them, or maybe search for another contact email address.

Conclusion

Local Citation is still one of the best ranking factors for a local search campaign and one of the affordable local SEO services. It is still one of the data from SEO surveys that search engines use in their search algorithms. But for it to work for your business, you must ensure the quality of the citation sites, the right way of building citations, and the accuracy of your business information.