Local citation management is an important part of optimizing your business for the web, specifically local search rankings.
Without this process, you may have inaccurate business information out in the wild you’re not even aware of.
In this post, we define local citation management and cover a few methods you can use to implement it.
What is Local Citation Management?
Let’s kick things off by answering a different question: what are local citations?
Local citations are online business listings on sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yellow Pages and more.
They contain key data, including a business’ name, address and phone number (NAP).
Many directories also include a business’ website and operating hours.
Local citation management is a process that involves keeping business listings up to date with accurate information.
A few of the tasks involved in local citation management include:
- Making yourself aware of listings, even if you didn’t create them yourself.
- Correcting inaccurate business information.
- Adding business details to incomplete citations.
- Removing duplicate listings.
Why is Local Citation Management Important?
The most obvious reason local citation management is important is just plain business sense.
Some customers won’t find you through your website nor will they hear about you on social media. They’ll find you through business directories instead.
Customers can’t find you if your old address is listed on Google and Yelp.
They also won’t be able to get ahold of you if a phone number you’ve never seen before or an old number is listed as your company’s primary business number.
Managing your citations helps you keep track of new, inaccurate and duplicate listings so you never miss out on new business.
Less obvious reasons include competition and local ranking factors.
Let’s say your competitor’s listing is on Yelp, and they appear when customers search for keywords related to your industry in their respective areas.
If your own information is inaccurate or missing but your competitor’s isn’t, you may lose potential new customers to them.
Finally, citations are a major local ranking factor.
Enter any local keyword in Google, such as “italian food,” “italian food near me” or “italian food new york city”.
Google has something called the “Google Local Pack.”
This is the map and business listings that appear when you enter local keywords into the search engine.
The businesses listed here are not random. There are multiple factors that dictate how they rank and which keywords they rank for.
Local citations are one of these ranking factors. Specifically, Google looks at:
- The number of citations you have.
- How complete your citations are.
- Whether or not your citations are consistent with one another.
Incomplete, incorrect and duplicate listings hurt your rankings.
How Do Local Citation Errors Happen?
Anyone can upload business data to unclaimed business listings. This happens when customers want to “check in” or review businesses that have yet to create online listings.
If you don’t claim your listings, you leave the fate of your citations to customers and data aggregators.
Data aggregators collect information online and distribute it to other websites. They’re automated systems that can’t tell if the information they collect is true or false.
How else do local citation errors happen? Here are a few additional ways these occur:
- You changed your phone number.
- You moved locations.
- You own multiple locations that get confused with one another.
- You or a team member created business listings but used different details for each.
- Your new phone number was used by someone else with information online.
- Multiple NAPs are associated with your business, and a different citation is created for each.
- You use or used to use tracking phone numbers.
If any of these apply to you or you haven’t claimed your business listings, yet, you may have a few citation errors on your hands.
3 Ways to Perform Local Citation Management
- Use an automated local citation management tool. With this kind of tool, all you need to do is enter your business information once. The tool will add you to its database of directories, creating dozens of citations.
- Use a semi-automated tool. This kind of tool audits your business and alerts you of possible listing opportunities.
- Manage local citations manually. Definitely the cheapest option but also the most time consuming. Just visit each directory directly, and add or fix your citations manually.
One of the most important things you can do with local citation management is use the same business information across all directories.
Make a list of the following details before you get started to ensure they’re consistent across all citations:
- Business name
- Phone Number
- Hours of operation
- Primary business category
- Short description of your business and the product/services you offer
If you operate multiple locations, be prepared to create separate citations for each.
1. Use an Automated Local Citation Management Tool
An automated local citation management tool is the most efficient way to create and manage local citations.
Most tools have you input your business details once. They’ll use that information to add your listings to multiple directories, fix errors, fill in incomplete citations, and remove or suppress duplicate listings.
This method is most effective. The caveat is the price of some of these tools.
Plus, some tools may go a little crazy and add your business to low-quality directories or directories that have nothing to do with your niche.
Fortunately, this is rare, and automated tools are the best way to get the job done.
Tool #1: Moz Local
Moz Local is the best bang for your buck when it comes to local citation management, especially if you only operate one location.
For just $14/month per location (Lite plan), you can manage your business listings and submit your data to directories automatically.
There are over three dozen directories in Moz’s database.
Access to some directories requires a subscription to the Elite plan. This costs $33/month and includes Yellow Pages, Superpages and Nextdoor.
Annual plans come with a discount of up to 25%.
You can get started with a free listing score.
All you need to do is enter your company name, street number and ZIP code.
You’ll receive a score letting you know how complete each citation is and how many inaccuracies it found.
As a Moz Local customer, you can enjoy the following features:
- Overall listing completeness score.
- Listings organized into three categories: Listings in Sync, Listings Requiring Your Attention and Listings That Cannot Be Updated.
- Edit citations manually from the Moz dashboard.
- Send your data to Moz’s partners and data aggregators automatically.
- Duplicate citations deleted automatically.
- Add photos to complete your listings.
- “Cleanse” citations to comply with each directory’s data quality requirements.
- Reputation management and analytics.
Tool #2: BrightLocal
BrightLocal’s pricing is a little complicated. This is because the service is broken up into two separate tools: a semi-automated citation builder and an automated one.
You can use the semi-automated citation builder to manage your listings on your own through the BrightLocal dashboard.
This costs $3/citation or $2/citation if you pay in bulk. You’ll also pay a $3 fee every time you need to update a listing.
The automated tool lets you submit your business information to up to three data aggregators. This is an automated process that can distribute your business information across numerous directories.
This costs $15 for each aggregator or $60 for all three.
The service primarily works like this: you add your business information.
The tool will let you know of any citations you need to fix as well as any that are missing.
You can then have BrightLocal’s “expert citation submission team” apply changes for you.
The data aggregator service expands this by submitting your information to hundreds of directories.
Tool #3: Yext
Yext is one of the most well-known data aggregators for citations. It sends your data to hundreds of directories.
The cheapest plan costs $199/year for one business location, but it doesn’t include major directories like Google, Facebook and Yelp. You’ll need to pay $449/year for those.
Along with data aggregation, Yext suppresses duplicate listings, lets you know how your listings compare to your competitors and includes suggestions for how to improve citations.
Tool #4: Semrush
Semrush has a simple but effective listing management tool.
All you need to do is enter your business information. The tool takes care of the rest.
You can also update multiple listings at once.
Semrush distributes your business information across maps, search engines, directories and data aggregators. It even provides a score for each location.
This tool also has basic review management features.
Semrush’s pricing structure is a little disappointing. This is because listing management is available as an add-on service to the platform’s primary SEO packages.
You’ll have to pay a minimum subscription fee of $119.95/month.
And unfortunately, this price still doesn’t include the listing management tool. That costs an extra $20/month per business location.
Even so, Semrush is a fantastic local citation management tool if you need a powerful SEO/keyword tool as well.
2. Use a Semi-Automated Local Citation Management Tool
A semi-automated tool is ideal for those who want a tool that discovers listing opportunities but enables you to manage them yourself.
This is a great strategy for smaller businesses who don’t need access to the expansive collection of directories other tools offer.
That’s exactly what Surfer Local is great for.
It finds directories your competitors are listed on and tells you whether or not your business is listed on them as well.
It also labels each directory with tags like “Local” and “Well known” so you can decide if each directory is worth it.
Citations are a small part of Surfer Local. Here are its main benefits:
- Audit your Google Business Profile listing.
- Manage your Google Business Profile listing.
- Monitor Google Reviews.
- Track your local rankings.
- Generate a review poster with a QR code that leads to your review page.
Surfer Local costs $29/month per location.
3. Perform Local Citation Management Manually
There are a few things you need to worry about when it comes to local citation management:
- Which directories is your NAP listed on?
- Do any citations have inaccurate information?
- Do any citations have missing information?
- Are there duplicate citations in these directories?
Let’s go through each question.
1. Which directories is your NAP listed on?
Manual location citation management isn’t easy. Your business could be listed on dozens, if not hundreds, of directories.
That’s a lot of citations to manage.
If you’re going the manual route, focus on the most important directories for your business.
Yes, you should fix all of your directories at some point, but if you’re pressed for time and expenses, stick to your industry’s most crucial directories for now.
Here are some of the most important listing sites to maintain:
- Yellow Pages
- Industry-related directories
Make a list of the top directories your business is listed on.
2. Do any citations have inaccurate information?
Your next goal is to ensure all of your citations are consistent with one another.
So, as you scour the web in search of listings, make note of any that have inaccurate information.
Fixing these citations may involve claiming your listings so you can edit them yourself or submitting your data to directories.
3. Do any citations have missing information?
Same as question Number 2, except this time you should keep an eye out for listings that don’t have all of your information.
Your NAP are most important, but your listings should also have your website.
You should also do a quick check of other businesses in your area to see what details they add to their listings.
This little bit of research can help you stay competitive in each directory.
4. Are there duplicate citations in these directories?
Your business should only be listed once per directory. Duplicate listings can hurt your rankings and siphon reviews from your primary listing.
Delete any duplicate listing you find. This process differs between directories.
Some allow you to log in and delete duplicates yourself. Others may require you to report duplicates in hopes that the directories will remove them for you.
To help with this step, think of any NAP variations you may have. If you’ve moved locations or have ever had a different phone number, you may still have listings out there for each.
Some directories may even create separate listings for similar but different business names.
For example, “The Smith & Doe Law Offices” could also be listed as “The Law Offices of Smith & Doe” or even “Smith & Doe: Attorneys at Law.”
9 Best Practices for Local Citation Management
Here’s a recap of the most important tips in this article:
- Claim your local business listings.
- Use the same business data for all citations.
- Do not only focus on citations you create.
- Remove duplicate listings.
- Correct inaccurate citations as quickly as possible.
- Fill in incomplete citations.
- Check your listings regularly.
- Choose relevant business categories
- Do not add your business to irrelevant directories.
1. Claim your local business listings.
Claim your listings on sites like Google, Facebook and Yelp.
These platforms create listings for you when users want to review or check in at your business.
If you don’t claim your listings, you miss out on keeping them up to date.
Plus, you run the risk of having someone else claim them.
2. Use the same business details for all citations.
Choose a single NAP set to represent your business, and add these details to all directories.
Delete duplicates, and fix citations that don’t have your chosen NAP set.
3. Do not only focus on citations you create.
A common mistake businesses make is only focusing on citations they created themselves.
As we learned, data aggregators may add your business details to hundreds of directories on the web.
If you only focus on citations you create, you likely have numerous citations with inaccurate or missing information out in the wild.
4. Remove duplicate listings.
Remove duplicate listings you find.
Report duplicate listings if you can’t remove them yourself.
5. Correct inaccurate citations as quickly as possible.
The longer citation errors exist, the lower your rankings will be.
Citation errors may also divert customers away from your business.
For these reasons, the faster you fix citation errors, the better.
6. Fill in incomplete citations.
Missing information also hurts your business.
Make sure your citations have your NAP, website and operating hours.
Add them as quickly as possible if they don’t.
7. Check your listings regularly.
Citation errors can occur at any time.
Check your listings regularly, and be on the lookout for incorrect or missing information.
Again, fix any errors you find as fast as possible.
8. Choose relevant business categories.
One of the best ways to find your target market on directories is by choosing the most relevant categories for your business.
Choose a primary category that best represents your business, the products you sell and the services you offer.
Secondary categories should be just as relevant.
9. Do not add your business to irrelevant directories.
While it’s certainly better for your business to be listed on as many directories as possible, it is not beneficial to add your business to directories that have nothing to do with it.
Doing so may hurt your rankings in local search.
Plus, it doesn’t make sense to dedicate time managing citations on directories your target market does not visit.
Online Reputation Management as a Whole
Local citation management is just a small part of online reputation management.
Be sure to check out our online reputation management guide for more information on managing reviews, getting more reviews and generating awareness for your business.