Last week I wrote an article about how mobile is going to be the crucial element of online marketing to master in 2015, but local citations are going to be a close second. If you haven’t mastered local search yet I recommend visiting this webpage from Google to get started. If you have Google+ Local created and maybe have a rough profile on Yahoo and Bing, now is a good time to go back and perfect them.

One of the biggest things to pay attention to when revising is going to be local citations. The local pages on many of the major search engines make local citations seem like just another part of the process to get through to create your local account—simply check a few boxes and move on—but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Local citations, as insignificant as they seem when getting started with local, are one of the most important aspects of your local strategy to get right.

What Exactly is a Local Citation?

A local citation is a mention of your company name and/or contact information somewhere on the web, but without a link. The “without a link” part is what usually gets companies thinking it doesn’t matter, but the truth is that Google still uses these citations when ranking websites. Citations can be found on someone’s blog, a yellow page directory, a local chamber of commerce report, a local business association, and more.

The biggest mistake with local citations is the mentality that it’s OK if your company name, address, or phone number (NAP) is different in different places. For example, our sister company HigherVisibility is one word. A rookie marketer might not see it as a big deal if HigherVisibility was spelled as two words or spell as Higher-Visibility when mentioned on a small directory, but Google sees this as a problem. Another example might be someone saying Milbrooke Ln as opposed to Millbrooke Lane. Things brings us to the next and most important section—why local citations matter for SEO.

Why Local Citations are So Important and the Role They Play for Your SEO

Below are some of the reasons that local citations are so important to Google and therefore for businesses focus on this New Year:

  • They show Google validity of your business. This is the most important reason local citations matter. Correct local citations across the web show that the company is something of value, with a real website, and with real, correct mentions by a defined community online (those who know your business).
  • It helps avoid confusion. If your phone number is different in different places and on different search engines, it’s going to be confusing to search engine users. As you know, Google’s main objective is to make things easier for their users, so they value everything that is mentioned on the web, link or no link.
  • Google rewards consistency. Going along with the last point, Google wants to see that your business is consistent. Because NAP information changes all the time, keeping on top of your local citations can help you show that you’re well-trusted and organized.
  • They are crucial for small companies without a website. Truth be told, every website no matter the size, should have a website. Still, many mom-and-pop shops in very small towns rely on local citations for any rankings at all. This may change in the future, but it’s something to mention just in case.

It’s important to keep in mind that local citations aren’t going to jump you from the 10th stop to the number one spot on Google if they’re correct. What local citations do is give you that small boost you need to beat our your competition for a ranking. It’s easy to keep track of your citations and take them seriously, so there really is no reason not to make this a priority in 2015.

How to Get Started with Local Citations

So as you may have assumed, because there isn’t a link associated with a local citation (that’s what makes these mentions of your company local citations), you’re not going to be able to find citations as easily through your tools that help you catch the link mentions. Again, this is a big reason local so many companies ignore citations.

However, it’s actually quite easy to find and manage local citations through Google Alerts. Setup an alert for all variations of your NAP data. Use hyphens in your company name, different abbreviations, etc. to make sure you catch everything that might be incorrect. If you see something wrong and you don’t have control over the local citation, reach out to someone who does to try and fix the mistake.

Of course the most important and crucial way to make sure your citations are correct is to make sure you change your NAP information on your local accounts. This includes Google+ Local (or Google My Business), Yahoo Places, Bing Local, and any directories or third party sites (such as Yelp) that you can control. You should also actively add your company to other authoritative places on the web such as forums or directory listings.

Any questions or comments? Let us know below or reach out to us on Google+.