After physical location and category selection, business citations are the next most important component in getting your business listed at the top of Google Maps. The thing that makes citations so amazing is that once you’ve acquired them, Google will often times reward your business by leap frogging it ahead of your competition, even if your competition is closer to the city center. Citations matter and they matter a lot.

What Is A Citation?

A business citation is nothing more than a mention of your business, (which could also include your address and telephone number) on a website or blog. The reasons this is important is that it acts as proof to the search engines that your business actually exists at the specified location. The more citations, (or mentions of your business on the Internet) the better.

What A Citation Is Not

Many search marketing experts are under the impression that a citation must include a clickable link back to your website. This is not true. All of the search engines including Google, Yahoo! and Bing understand that many businesses don’t have a websites and that it would be unfair to punish them for that reason.

Accuracy and Consistency

Citations are how the search engines know that your business actually exists where you say it exists. Therefore, you can imagine how important it is to insure that your business name, address and telephone number are consistent across the Internet.

If the search engines see multiple business names with multiple addresses and multiple telephone numbers showing up on multiple websites, they get confused. And when a search engine is uncertain about the accuracy of your business listing, it is hesitate to promote it. At best your business listing will show up deep in the search results where no one will ever find it.

First Things First

Start by checking the accuracy and consistency of your business listing on the Internet. You can do that by doing a Google search for your business name, business address and business telephone number. Search for each piece of information separately. In doing so you may discover that your business name is attached to an incorrect address or telephone number. If this is the case, correct the information on each website before acquiring new citations.

1. Check Out Your Competition

The best way to find powerful business citation sites is to do a little competitive research. Find the company in the top position on Google Maps and Bing Maps for your local search term and see what websites are citing them. (Bing will show many more citations)

Do this for the top three business listings in your community and work on getting citations from each of those sites. Let’s look at an example.

Do a search for “pizza Atlanta.”  You will find Rosa’s Pizza showing up in the number one position. Then, go to the Rosa Pizza local business listing and you will see under the heading More About This Place (as of 2/6/10) that Rosa has 63 citations. If you click on any of the 63 websites, you will see a mention of Rosa Pizza on that page … or at least the page where Rosa Pizza was mentioned in the past.

You’ll also notice that many of the websites citing Rosa’s Pizza are local directories and review sites including: UrbanSpoon.com, AllMenus.com, Yellowpages.aol.com, Kudzu.com and more. Once you see where your competition is getting their citations, it’s a simple matter of getting citations from the same sites. And most of the websites that offer the best citations are free.

Moving Target

It’s important to understand that the Internet is dynamic but not instantaneous. Google, Yahoo! and Bing don’t see citations the instant they’re listed on another website. Sometimes it can take months for the search engines to discover a citation before giving you credit for it.

On the other hand, if a citation is removed from a website or blog, the search engines will continue to give you credit for it until their spiders or crawlers discover that your citation has been removed.

2. Get Listed In Local Business Directories

After you’ve exhausted your list of citation sites gathered from your competition, look for ways to get your business cited on local directories. There’s certainly at least one business directory in your community. Just do a search for the term “business directory + your town + your state.” For example, if you do a search for the term “business directory Atlanta, GA” Google will show you 44,000,000 results.

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me

Now there are certainly not 44 million business directories in the Atlanta area, but there are at least a hundred that will allow you to list your business for free. Look for a link that reads, “Add a Site,” or “Add a Link,” or “Add Your Business” etc. These links are usually found at the bottom of the home page or in the navigation bar.

I would discourage you from paying for advertising with these directories, at least for the time being. Most will give you a free listing and then try to up-sell you to their paid service. Don’t do it. Go for the low hanging fruit first.

If you want to advertise in their directories later, feel free to do so, but make sure you have a plan to insure that you’re getting a good return on your investment. The way to do that is to ask every new customer how they discovered your business. This is the only true way to determine if your paid advertising is working.

Don’t Waste Your Time

The other thing to note is that the search engines will give you more credit if you have a citation from a website or business directory in your community. It’s a waste of time to garner listings from directories that are outside of your community. Stick with local directories.

3. Get Listed In Industry Directories

Just as the search engines will give you credit for having your business listed in a local directory, they will also give you credit for having your business listed in an industry specific directory.

For example, if you do a search for “pizza directory” you will find the National Pizza Registry which also offers a free business listing for people who own pizzerias. There is probably a similar directory available in your industry. Get your business listed there. These tend to be very powerful citation sites.

4. Get Listed In Universal Business Listing

For a one time fee of $30, Universal Business Listing will get your business listed and generate citations for you in multiple directories. Doing this on your own would take months.

  • Search Engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN
  • Online Yellow Pages such as Superpages, Yellowpages.com
  • Portals and Guides such as AOL, CitySearch
  • Cell Phones and Mobile devices such as BlackBerry and iPhone
  • 411 Directory Assistance
  • In-Car GPS Navigation
  • Telematics such as OnStar

5. Get Listed On Local Websites

We like to reward our local Maui customers with valuable citations from our Maui websites when they provide testimonials. You can see an example of what we do on our Testimonial page here. You probably have businesses in your community that do the same thing. This is a little know way to acquire very valuable local citations and a lot of goodwill at the same time. We not only post the testimonials we receive from our customers on our website, we also add their photo and a full business citation.

More importantly, we freely give testimonials to the companies who provide us with exceptional service. We end each testimonials with our business name, address and telephone number and ask that the business owner add that information to our comment if he or she chooses to use it on their website. You can do the same.

6. Get Listed On A Local Blog

Every community has someone who is a blogging fanatic. These people love to write about what’s going on in their community and they do it every day. Find those people in your community. Make friends with them. Write them and tell them how much you enjoy their blog and tell them about your local business.

And when they write about your business in their blog, and they will, ask them to include your full business citation in the post.

I have a friend who is the author of A Maui Blog. Her name is Liza Pierce and she is the blogging queen on Maui. She blogs about life on Maui every day and her blog is very interesting.

I contacted her and asked if she would write about the Internet Marketing Association of Hawaii and how it was helping business owners in Hawaii. She wrote a wonderful post describing what we did in her blog. Not only did her article provide us with great local PR, but it also provide us with a valuable business citation.

7. Article Marketing

We’ve recently been adding a business citation to the author block of every article we submit for distribution, and it’s working. We’re still testing the value of these citations, (in that they are not posted on local or industry sites) but they are showing up as citations on Bing and Google.

If you do article marketing, I encourage you to add your business citation in the author block. It’s easy to do and we’ve not had a single article directory turn us down for adding a business citation to the author block. Try it and see what happens.

Here’s an example of an article from GoArticles.com that provided a citation on Google. And here’s the author block showing the business citation.

Join permission email marketing expert Bob Sommers at the Internet Marketing Association of Hawaii and learn how to run your own successful email marketing campaign. Internet Marketing Association of Hawaii 821 Kumulani Drive Kihei, HI 96753 808-891-0449

You can see where this article, along with the business citation, is currently showing up on 72 different websites.

If you want to learn more about how to use article writing to build your reputation and generate multiple business citations, check out this set of Article Marketing videos. They will show you everything you need to know.

If you want to use a great article distribution service I highly recommend DistributeYourArticles.com This is the service we use and they do a fantastic job.

8. But Wait, There’s More

Recently a WhiteSpark created a new citation service that will help you identify the most important citation sites for your local business. Go to Whitespark.ca and sign-up for their free service. If you really want to take advantage of their service, invest $20 and use their service for one month.

10 Responses to “Gathering Powerful Business Citations”

  1. Mary Bowling says:

    Bob, this is great advice for all small business owners! All of the citation sources you provided also have the potential to send customers to your business, too.

    May I add that it’s critical to use the same business name, address and local phone number in all of your citations. This reinforces the trust the Search Engines have in the information you give them about your enterprise in your local business listings on Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing Local.

  2. Tom Crandall says:

    Excellent run-down of citation sources. Lately I’ve been seeing a bigger impact from local (city/metro) directories to improve Google rankings for local business results.

  3. Paul Dumas says:

    This is easily the best article I have found explaining how Google’s citations work. I wonder how multiple citations from the same domain impact the listing? For instance, hotfrog.com will often create a unique citation for each and every category listed (often resulting in 30+ citations). Surely Google doesn’t weigh each one equally. Anyone else have any experience with this?

  4. Matt Carter says:

    thanks for the info. I have been working on improving my placement on google maps ect and found this article to be as helpful as anything else out there!

  5. […] Generate additional business citations. […]

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  7. Josh Townley says:

    Since the big G made changes its harder to see local citations. I have noticed that there is a big difference between places before and after, but citations are like links for places pages. My question is, “Do you think backlinks to the site play a part in the places page ranking now?”

  8. This the best help i have found so far. Thank you very much i have trying to learn about Citations for some time now.

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  9. Sommers says:

    I like how you added your citation to your comment. Smart!

  10. Sommers says:

    Hi Josh: In my opinion, I believe that links leading back to an optimized local website are more important than citations … particularly if the anchor text in the link is either the business name or a full citation.