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How to attract new customers online: Building citations to improve local SEO

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

By Deborah McIvor

Would you choose to visit a restaurant that you’ve never heard of with no online reviews or even a presence? Or, would you prefer to know ahead of time from a trusted friend or authentic patron reviews that the restaurant is considered ‘stellar’? The same theory applies for search engine optimization (SEO). No one wants to waste time searching out businesses that lack a strong reputation or ranking.

In today’s Web savvy world, if your business has no (or low) online citations with reviews, you are basically ‘invisible’ to your prospective consumers. You need credibility to build customer discovery, trust and therefore revenue.

Laptop with Google search engine on screen

Search engines are sophisticated systems that scan Web content in multiple ways, one of which is to review your site’s reputation for accuracy, substance and authority. That is why it is essential to become your own SEO specialist and connect your website into networks that already have the key ingredients to make search engine bots love


How to build citations to improve local SEO

Perhaps you have already invested a great amount of time or money into optimizing your website for search engine indexing and wonder whether you want to do more. Trust me, you do. There is great value in building a strong SEO foundation through local citations. With a few simple steps your site could rank better than your competitors in search results and achieve ‘the next level’, driving traffic to your site, increasing leads and sales. You can attract and retain new customers by simply learning a few ways to build citations or ‘backlinks’ with other credible Web sources.

As a business owner or Web developer, you can take many productive steps toward improving your local SEO by simply informing yourself on some basic tips on ‘backlink building’. There are tactics that can be used to generate local citations (backlinks), based on industry best practices.

What are local citations?

Local citations are Web directory listings that can drive local traffic to your website because they associate your brand with the referrers they trust. Citations typically include a reference to your business accompanied by your ‘NAP’ (name, address, phone number) and sometimes URL. Citations can be structured, meaning they are listed on directories specifically designed to refer users to businesses or un-structured such as on websites, blogs, wikis or news sites. Unstructured sources are not specifically business directories listing companies and services, but an unstructured citation can prove good value when analyzed by search engines and in potential customers’ eyes.

Why do citations matter?

According to a Google survey, 4 out of 5 users search local businesses online and 50% of those users then visit the business’ site or location within the next 24 hours. Approximately 34% visit on the very same day and local searches lead to 50% more purchases than non-local searches. That is because “local searchers are ready to act”. Just by gaining a clearer understanding of the practice, you can optimize and create multiple relevant listings in your citation network.

How to generate local citations (step-by-step)

In order to thrive, your business needs an audience that will become your customers or clients. You need to ‘do your homework’ and find out where your customers are going to find products or services like you offer. Here are some key tips based on industry best practices that will help you develop your network of online referrals and raise your search engine rankings:

  • RESEARCH sources and sites for relevance: a) Understand the value and reputation of the directories on which you’ll choose to spend your time . Search a similar business or competitor to see where they are listed and track those directories to see if you should also list there. b) A low relevance score is detrimental to your marketing goals, so be sure you are building a backlink network with sites and influencers who align with your offerings. Choose sites that are considered voices of authority in your area of specialization where your target audience might visit. For example, a restaurant will benefit more from a listing and reviews on Yelp or Trip Advisor rather than a basic business listing on a lesser known site. c) Socially follow and listen briefly to the tone and values of brands that are influencers. Periodically review any changes to sites, to Google and other search engine’s criteria for rankings, then request representation offering mutually beneficial linking. Google ranks business listings much like website listings, analyzing the quality of links and which impacts overall search score.

  • BUILD A STRATEGY for your local citation outreach: a) Strengthen your reputation, rankings and positively impact your revenue by being prepared with consistent information. You will want to have all of your relevant information on hand before beginning the manual task of repeatedly entering data to create or update citations. b) Quality matters! Increase your visibility in unpaid search results, or ‘organic social reach’ by creating a network of reputable sources who link to your site, social or advertising content. With an organized backlink strategy that includes actionable goals, a timeline and targeted tactics, you reinforce the foundation of your business as a whole. Focus on relevant local area listings, such as you would find on your Chamber of Commerce or economic development organization websites.

  • COMMUNICATE the value proposition of your products or services: a) Be sure you have meaningful communications on top ranked directories such as Google My Business or Yelp accompanied by enticing photos where possible. b) Reach out to influencers including bloggers, podcasters, and journalists. Demonstrate how aligning their content with your business will benefit their own business goals. To understand the basic principles of making new connections or ‘relationship marketing’, it’s essential to know how various audiences perceive your brand and to understand how users search to find the results they want.

  • ENROL YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK: a) Be authentic and focus energy on referral sources that are relevant to your business whenever possible. Join networking groups on social sites that exchange links or likes with each other based on mutual support. Ask friends and family to like, comment and share your website and social channels. b) Be sure that there is a clear path from your various online properties (i.e. social media accounts, online directories, websites) to the key place you want users to land. This can look like social accounts cross-listing each other and then having all of them drive traffic to your website landing page. Or, it can be the other way around, with the website providing all the basic information needed to persuade and inform prospects but then it drives the users to visit a social account. This is a part of a concept called building a ‘marketing funnel’.

  • EVALUATE how your listings are performing and course correct as needed: A) Track your Google analytics data specifically noting the referral sources, so you can test for and see the results of your SEO citation building work and adjust your strategy. b) Make sure your “NAP”, name, address and phone number are always up to date and easily accessible on your website as well as in any of the directory listings your business may have online. c) It is wise to create a spreadsheet (or find an online template) to track your numerous online references where your NAP is represented along with this basic information on your company.

The use of backlinks or citations to find businesses is a regular part of our lives now. For many, it’s a habit to open Google Maps or a search engine to look up and find exactly what they are looking for from a trusted source of quality products.

Being prepared and organized is the key to success in this sometimes daunting task so that it becomes a regular part of your company’s best practices. However, if you need a helping hand to ‘attack’ a sometimes mundane task and gain a strong online presence, boosting your reputation and revenue, then contact us at McIvor Marketing & PR. Ask how we can support you in your company’s growth through creating and maintaining your successful local SEO citation strategy.

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