Do Citations Work for SEO?

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Do citations work for SEO

Do Citations Work for SEO? One of the main factors when it comes to ranking locally is having enough citations. When set up properly, citations are quite simple to manage and can no doubt lead to better local rankings.

But, if done incorrectly, cleaning up citations can be a nightmare to do.

That’s why in this guide, we’ll walk you through how to do your citations right the first time so you can start your local SEO strategy on the right foot.

Do Citations Work for SEO? What are citations?

Before we discuss how to create citations, what exactly constitutes a citation?

Citations serve as an online reference for your business and will include its business name, address, as well as phone number (NAP). In the SEO industry, referring to citations pertains to the listings of a business on various websites.

Most citations are usually listed on online business directories although there are other types of citations out there.

Although the minimum info listed for most citations is the name, address, and phone number—many sites require you to add more information.

Types of Citations

There are different types of citation sites available online but if your business is new, it’s integral that you list your business on the following websites:

  • Google My Business (GMB)
  • Bing Maps
  • Facebook
  • Yelp

The above sites are the top places to list your business especially if your business is just starting out since a lot of people use them to search for businesses. Aside from these, there are hundreds of other potential websites where you can list your business in. However, make sure to list only on sites that are relevant to your business. 

While some citation directory sites have higher domain authority scores than others, getting listed in relevant ones is more important.

Although some typical interchange citation management with link building—they’re two entirely different things. A citation does require you to build links for a website but the intent isn’t the same which Google recognizes when analyzing links.

Why Citations Are Important

There are numerous reasons why citations are important to local businesses and below are just some of those.

Improve Local Rankings

Citations are one of the main ranking factors for local SEO. When your business is listed in trusted directories, it conveys to Google that your business is legitimate and it exists.

However, not all listings are deemed equally.

The number of your listings, their accuracy, and the quality of online directories where your business is listed affect how Google assesses your business. This is why it’s important to choose relevant citations and to post accurate details on each.

Rank on First Page Results

Another benefit of building citations is that the biggest online business directories often appear on the first page of local search results.

Websites such as Yelp and YellowPages will no doubt consistently rank high for most local searches.

When you’re listed on one of these sites, you’ll likely rank on the first page as well as for any keyword searches relating to your business.

Earn Referral Traffic

With big sites such as Yelp, you’ll likely get a lot of referral traffic since many customers go to them to research businesses. That’s why getting listed in such a directory can be very helpful especially if you’re just starting out.

How to Pick the Right Citations

How to Pick the Right Citations

With all of the available citations out there, it’s really impossible to get your business listed in each and every one of them. The key is to narrow down your list since quantity doesn’t always mean better.

You can use a tool to help you pick the right citations so you can pick the most relevant ones in your industry.

Apps like Moz and WhiteSpark will help you find sites with relevant categories where you can list your business.

Aside from listing on industry-specific business directories, you can still target a handful of general citation sites. BrightLocal has a tool where you can search popular directories that lists your business’ specific category.

You’ll know a good online business directory if it has a lot of users. After all, there’s no use listing your business in one if there’s no one searching for it.

For instance, people use directories such as HealthGrades to search for a doctor or specialist. But more than that, it can help establish relevance for new healthcare companies looking to drive referral traffic.

How to Manage Citations

Managing your citations is important so should there be a change in your business info then you can easily go back and change it across the board. 

The good thing is—you don’t have to manage everything manually! There are many helpful tools available out there to help you manage your citation listings.

Below are some tips on how to pick the right tool for your citation management needs.

What to Look for in Citation Management Tools

Different citation tools will vary in features, price, and other factors. So how do you exactly pick the right one?

Must be able to offer citation variety

A tool must be able to show citation opportunities in different industries and categories. Otherwise, there’s really not much you can do and explore if it only shows a limited set of options. Here are other aspects you should consider in picking a citation management tool:

  • Does the tool allow searching by industry-specific directories?
  • Does it let you select which directories to list on or does it pick for you?
  • How does it set up the citations?
  • Does it have a direct API to the directory site or does it use aggregators?
  • Can it suppress duplicates?
  • Is its duplicate detection accurate? 
  • Does it allow tracking and how accurate is it?
  • What type of tracking features does it offer?

Value for price

When it comes to the value for the price, it’s important that you get the features you need within your budget. Some of the questions you should be asking are?

  • Does the cost per location align with my budget?
  • How does it stack up to other similar tools that offer the same features?

How to Optimize Your Citations

Optimize NAP Citations

Citation management isn’t just about collecting citations on different sites and putting your business out there.

You have to be strategic in managing your citations and keep the following factors in mind in order to achieve the best results.

NAP Consistency

NAP consistency, as previously mentioned, refers to having consistent names, addresses, and phone numbers across all your listings.

As several independent studies have shown, having a consistent NAP listing is a factor when it comes to ranking in local SEO.

Business descriptions

Business descriptions help improve your local rankings by including your top keywords. But more than that, it can also help Google better understand what your business is about.

Linking to the Right Website Page

Most businesses just put links to their home page. However, a much better approach is to link directly to your contact page where your location is outlined. This reduces the steps for visitors who want to get the information they’re looking for.

Business Category

Some citations like Google My Business allow you to choose secondary categories. This can aid in helping you rank for secondary targeted keywords that are still related to your business category.

Business photos

Adding business photos to your listing can help you rank better in image searches when optimized properly. As more customers get to see your photos, they’re more likely to convert if they like what they see.

To optimize your images, use your target keywords in the image file name as well as alt text if the directory you’re listing in provides the said option.


Having great reviews not only helps you earn new business but can also improve your rankings. Google looks at review sentiment on 3rd party sites to gauge the quality of businesses.

How to Track and Measure Your Citations

Track and Measure Your Citations

Managing your listings is an investment and there are many tools out there that offer different ways to track your citations’ statuses and performance.

Tracking also helps because you can lose citations for a number of reasons and you can regain some of those if the issue is on your end. Below are some tools to keep track of your citations.

Little Warden

This is a paid tool but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. You can use this tool to monitor multiple URLs and has a setting that can quickly notify you through email if any of your citations have been removed.

Screaming Frog

This is an amazing all-around SEO app that has a free version. However, the paid version of the tool is feature-packed, which makes it pretty valuable. You can use it to schedule crawls of different URLs to check if a specific page or listing is still live.

How to Track Citation Performance

While many tools today can track different degrees of performance, none of those can typically track how each performs on your website. Although you can track individual site performance via Google Analytics’ acquisition report, you can’t track global performance without creating a custom report first.

A better option would be to add UTM tracking to your citations’ links and add the Campaign or Source name to your page’s URL. Here’s an example

Using this method, you can simply search within Google Analytics the term “citation” under the Source/Medium tab to see which citations are performing the best and driving the most traffic toward your site.