Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Citations is Number Three of Ten Top Google+ Local Optimization Tips You Can Count On

Google+ Local rankings will use Citations as a major signal.  Count on it!

The first time I remember seeing the power of a citation was early in the days of local search marketing.  My client had a major product line in his small shop.  The major brand had just started adding dealer locators to their site.  This dealer was not on the locator.  We got him added, along with his website (back link bonanza to boot), and his Google Maps Local Business Center listing shot up in rank.

There is no secret that citations are critical to rank.  However, there are many kinds of citations, and each one has their own special place in terms of helpfulness. 

Starting out, lets quickly define a citation.  In the broadest sense, a citation is the company NAP or name, address, and phone number found anywhere on the web.  Assuming that Google or other search engines find that citation and correlate it to your website, Google Places, Google+ Local, or other media or channel that you are hoping to effect, you will get some extra juice.  In particular, the search engine used by Google+ Local will give you more credibility, and therefore rank your listing higher if they find that you are cited elsewhere on the web. 

Getting these citations is neither easy nor cheap.  If you do it yourself, I will estimate that you will spend 30 minutes or longer per citation.  And if you really want to rank your Google Places/Google+ Local listing at the top of a competitive search, you will need 100's of citations.  If you choose to use a company like ours to do these listings for you, obviously there is a cost. For really competitive keywords, you may also need to spend some money to join organizations that provide you with more more credibiliity with Google. 

Local Search Engines - Yahoo and Bing are true local search engines.  So is Google+ Local.  However, they are closely related to the YP's (Yellow Pages), and the major directories such as Yelp, City Search, Insider Pages, and others.   These could all be called local search engines, and I prefer that definition.  In other words, you go to the site, you enter a business type and a city or zip code and the engine serves up businesses that meet those two criteria. 

There are over 200 of these types of citations available to the small business.  Only a rare company will actually go to all 200+ and create a unique and detailed listing.  Our company goes to about 12 of these to create optimized listings.  The rest get the listing from those 12 or from an aggregator.

Some of the companies listed above are happy to sell their information to Google or others.  In addition, several aggregators sell or give the information to all comers.  Examples are Axciom, UBL, and Info USA.  These companies charge a fee for listing you in most cases.

Google themselves has noted two specific citations that they consider to be highly credible:  The BBB and the Chamber of Commerce.  Generally speaking it will cost you $400 a year to be a member of a local BBB, and $400 is also a pretty good estimate of what a chamber will charge you.

Very high in credibility will be a listing of your company in an industry specific directory.  Almost every industry has these type of directories, and in many cases they are .orgs which have even greater cred.  But in addition to the organizations, there may be listing in industry online magazines, blogs, and similar.  As mentioned above, you want to be listed on any dealer locator that your distributors or manufacturers provide.

Also high in benefit to your ranking is to be listed in locally created website directories.  These might be created by local newspapers, TV stations, magazines, or visitor's bureaus. 

Beyond these, there are less valuable places to list your business.  You can find these by using resources like WhiteSpark.com. 

As a final note.  Your NAP must be identical in every place you list it.  

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