At Formic, we work with many small businesses who are seeking to increase their local search presence through their Google Place page. Let’s briefly review what the local search results are and where they reside. For this article we’ll focus specifically on Google.
Here are a couple of examples where Google shows results on the 1st page (in the Universal, or Blended, search results). Click on images to see a larger version.
So, how does a business get listed in these local results? Well, there are many factors that affect local search rankings, of which I won’t go into as David Mihm has compiled an excellent list of local SEO ranking factors.
I want to dig further into citations, which are a major part of the local ranking algorithm.
What are citations?
A citation acts much like an inbound link. Both are considered a “vote” of confidence from another site/source. The more citations you have, the more credible you are in Google’s eyes, much like inbound links. A citation’s quality is taken into account, much like an inbound link. It’s more important to receive a citation/inbound link from a highly credible source than a low quality one. So, what’s the difference? An inbound link must actually be a link from one site to another, whereas a citation only need the NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). Citations don’t even need a link to your site to count.
How do you obtain more citations?
You can obtain citations through many different avenues:
- Manual submission to directories and major data providers
- Syndication through tools/services like Universal Business Listings (UBL)
- Mine competitor data to see where they are getting citations from
- Outreach to bloggers to write an article about your business/product/service, which includes NAP
- Press releases can count, as long as the NAP is included
I won’t go through the exhaustive list of additional ways, but I think you get the idea. There’s one of those tactics I’d like to discuss more, can you guess which one?
Mining Competitor Citations
If you were working to obtain more citations, the process used to be that you’d seek out those ranking for your particular keyword, see where they were getting citations from by mining each individual competitor and citation. Well, I’m ecstatic to tell you about the Local Citation Finder. This is a new tool by Whitespark that does much of the initial heavy lifting for you.
Here’s a quick look at the interface:
The above image shows all of the unique domains where citations were found for top competitors (those ranking in the local 7 pack for the term you entered). The bottom image shows the actual URL where the citation resides. No more mining individual competitor pages for citations!
After you receive this data, I would recommend pulling all of your own citations to compare what you already have, versus what your competition has. After you cross reference you’ll know which citations you need to obtain. Then manual process of actually submitting a listing or contacting a blogger begins.
I said this tool removed most of the up front heavy lifting, not all of it. You still need to put in some work, but when your citations begin to increase, you’ll most likely see your local search ranking begin to increase as well (assuming everything else with your Place page is in good order).
Has anyone used this tool? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. Do you like it?