Citations are a critical, but often overlooked part of SEO for small business. They’re where your site is registered online in “directories,” like on Google, Bing, Yelp, Foursquare, etc... well-known and respected banks of knowledge that give basic information about your business.
Your address, business name, phone number, website…
Search engines use citations like these to verify that your business is legit. That it's categorized correctly. And that the URL, name, address, etc., is accurate. It also helps the internet know that you are a real business that is really part of a real community. You exist. You interact. You’re open and ready to accept customers.
Citations are a key part of Google and Bing’s ranking algorithms. Other factors being equal, businesses with more citations will probably rank higher than businesses without them, or with fewer.
Now, most of those sites aren’t magic. Meaning they don’t know your business exists until you tell them.
The good news is: registering your business – “getting citations” – takes only a few minutes, is usually free, and you only have to do it once.
So how do you get started? It’s a good idea to register on the big ones like Google and Bing, then look for other directories based on your area of expertise and your location. Finally, we’ll make sure your social profiles are in order and your information is consistent everywhere.
First, the basics.
1. Google & Bing
When you search for a business on Google or on Google Maps... you know those boxes that pop up featuring a business’s hours, menu, directions, reviews…?
Once you claim your profile, you’ll be able to add all kinds of information about your business so customers can find you better. You can add images and respond to reviews. You’ll show up better in search, on maps, and you’ll be better situated to welcome new business.
When Google has a better handle on your business, you can get featured in more generalized local searches, too. So if people near you search for a business like yours ("Seattle Shoes" for example), you can possibly show up in the special "Local Snack Pack" results, like below:
Even though these businesses aren't NAMED “Seattle Shoes," they’re still featured for that query in the local snack pack. Pretty handy.
Bing Places (www.bingplaces.com) works the same way. Just visit that link to claim your business and personalize your listing. You’ll receive the same benefits of enhanced listings and better visibility to your customers.
2. Local Citation Sources
Once you have the search engines themselves sorted, consider hitting big local "phonebook" type registries. Yellow pages, Yelp… places where people in your city go to find info about various types of businesses.
Many industries have go-to registries that specialize in cataloging that kind of business.
If you’re a plumber, for example, you’d want to be on Angie’s List. A photographer may want to be on WeddingWire. Yoga studios do well on YogaFinder.
Think about where you would go to find a business like yours and complete your profile there. (Moz also has a good tool to help you find local citations by category.) Think about also Googling your industry to see what registries show up.
If you think like your customer, you’ll find where your business needs to be.
Will posting on social media sites make a difference to your SEO? It’s hard to say. But having a strong profile page absolutely will. Social sites have high usage and viewership, which means two things.
1. Search engines weight social profiles highly, resulting in a more valuable citation. (Notice when you search for a company, their social profile is often the 2nd result.)
2. And beyond search indexing, social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and others are used heavily by your customers. For that reason alone you should make sure your active pages drive people to your website.
You don’t need to join social sites that you don’t use or won’t make sense for your particular business. But you do need to make sure any profiles you have FOR BUSINESS include your contact information and a link to your website. A full profile enhances your business’s credibility and active pages help build a following. All of this will influence your SEO and search ranking.
When thinking about your social media strategy,
Go where your customers are
Post content they would love
Be proactive, positive, and professional
Tips on using some different platforms:
Have a distinct business page that is separate from your personal page (this is true for all social sites). In addition to driving people to your store or site, you can collect reviews here and respond to customer questions. It’s a good idea for almost all businesses to have at least a Facebook page.
If you’re using Instagram (photographers, this is a no-brainer), make sure to include a link to your website and your business name. Post gorgeous stuff and use plenty of #hashtags so your customers can find your posts.
B2B and professional services companies work well on LinkedIn. Fill out your profile completely and post things relevant to the business & professional crowd.
Your twitter can be whatever you want it to be – a place to answer customer questions, share your recent work, advertise sales, or just share funny tidbits. But it NEEDS a complete business profile.
I know. But it’s a “Google” product, and that’s not worth nothing. Content you post here gets indexed immediately, so it’s a good place to consider sharing any blogs you write.
Pinterest is another platform that’s highly visual and works well to drive users back to your website. Post great photos and fill out the descriptions fully with a link back home to your site.
5. Scrub Old & Inconsistent Information.
You want to make sure that your business is not only listed, but listed correctly.
You may be cataloged at an old address or phone number somewhere out there on the web – which is not doing you any favors. You want all mentions of your business address, phone number, URL, and name to be 100% accurate and up-to-date.
Moz Local has a tool to help you find many of your current citations and see if there is any incomplete, conflicting, or outdated information on those sites.