Ask around and you'll hear that after claiming and updating your Google Places page, nothing is more important than citations for improving search results for a local business. A citation is basically any mention of your business that associates your business with a location. A citation is not necessarily a link—just a mention will do. The quantity and quality of citations is a powerful signal to the search engines that your business exists and is where you say it is. And the more confidence Google has in your location, the more likely you'll be found in Google's all-important local results.
So how do you get these little gems? It's actually easier than building organic backlinks, since there are so many sites that actually want your local listing. But easy doesn't mean quick. Be prepared to invest 40 or more hours of your own time unless you're willing to spend a bit of money for a good automated LSV (Local Search Visibility) service.
There are many curated lists of citation sources around the web, but many of the best sources will be specific to your location or niche. It's well worth your time to look beyond the search engines, IYPs and review sites to dig up as many opportunities as possible. Here's a quick run down of the type of sites and sources you'll want to take advantage of:
- Search engines (Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local)
- IYPs (CitySearch, YellowPages.com, SuperPages.com, etc.)
- Reviews (Angie's List, Yelp, Brownbook, MerchantCircle, ShopCity, etc.)
- User-generated content (MyMaps, KML files, etc.)
- Vertical directories (search for "[industry] directory")
- Event calendars (search for "[city] events")
- Hyper-Local Sites (search for "[neighborhood] [city]")
- Local Groups and Associations (sometimes worth joining groups just for the listing)
- Unstructured NAPs (ask link sources to include Name, Address, & Phone)
- Inbound anchor text (ask link sources to include localized keywords)
- Location service check-ins (encourage customers to check in at your location)
- Geo-tagged content (upload and share geo-tagged images and videos)
- Your competitors citation sources (click the "more" link at the bottom of their Google Places page)
- Your own website (you should be your own best citation source!)
More than 20% of searches have local intent, and over half of mobile searches have local intent. Add to that the fact that Google often assumes local intent even when a location is not specified. This is why a high organic search rank is no longer enough for a company doing local business. Local search results are based on an entirely different algorithm—one that relies heavily on local citations.
The good news is there's no end to the opportunity. The bad news is it's a time consuming process. The pleasant surprise is that for a relatively small cost, a big chunk of this work can be done for you, and an immediate ROI is likely to result.