How To Build Citations for a Local Business to Improve SEO

You’re a local business and you want to populate in the local pack. It’s the most prominent organic position on Google nowadays due to the top placement on the page and continues to gain relevance. In order to “win the local pack,” which is to populate in the first three positions on Google underneath the map section, you’re going to want to consider a local citation strategy.

Let’s say your business is stuck in the #4 or #5 spot in the snack pack, unfortunately, not many people are going to find your local business since Google only displays three results.

In this article we’re going to go into more detail on how to build citations for your local business to improve SEO  by expanding on each of the bullet points below:

  • What are Local Citations
  • What are Local Directories
  • Why Most Businesses Fail at Local Citation Building
  • How to Dominate Local with Local Citation Building
  • How to Go About Local Citation Building
  • Tracking Results

The Importance of the Local Pack 
Below is an example search on Google for, “Columbus Landscaping Companies.” The first result to populate is the paid advertisement. After paid comes the map and local pack section, which is so prominent due to the bright orange reviews that populate for each business. You have to scroll a LONG way before finding organic results nowadays, which is why it’s so important for local businesses to populate in the local pack.

Importance of Citations – According to Others in the Local SEO Industry

Each year, Moz conducts a survey of the most important local SEO tactics. Citation building received a 10% score. It didn’t score the lowest, but proximity, category selection and name in business title all populated ahead of citation building. You can see the chart for yourself below, once again courtesy of Moz.

You might be asking yourself, if local citations are the fifth most important local SEO component, why focus on it? The answer is because your local business is likely stuck in a situation where you’ve done a lot of the up-front work required for the first 4 most important ranking factors, which includes the following: Google My Business Signals, Link Signals, Review Signals and On-Page Signals.


What’s a Local Citation?
According to Moz, a local citation is any online mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business. Citations can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms. Citations help Internet users to discover local businesses and can also impact local search engine rankings.

Below is an example I wanted to share with you. Downtown Columbus, where our agency is located, has a website (DowntownColumbus.com). They list local businesses downtown on their site. The fact that our name and address is on this powerful site is great local citation for Media Captain.

What’s a Directory?
If you were ever curious how a business got listed on MapQuest, Apple Maps and hundreds of other local sites, it’s not magic. Most people don’t submit their local information manually to all these sites. They submit their local business information to a site like Yext or Moz Local for a fee of around $30 per month. Yext and Moz are aggregator sites. Local data aggregators are large consumer and business data gathering companies that source, clean up, and distribute individual and business name, address, and phone number (NAP) data to publishers, marketers, and location-based service providers like search engines, review, and social media sites. It’s quick to do and makes things easy when a company rebrands, changes addresses or any other important local information on the business needs changed.

Why Most Business Fail at Local Citation Building
When it comes to local SEO, most companies have a “set it and forget it” mentality. They submit the business to a local aggregator and that’s it.

Dominating Local with Local Citation Building
When it comes to citation building, you need to dominate local. In Columbus, for example, the Columbus Chamber and Dispatch both have local directories. The Better Business Bureau is an important local place to be.  When your business is listed on these local sites with consistent NAP Information (Name, Address and Phone Number) it’s extremely beneficial for SEO. Yet most people overlook local citation building.

Local citation building isn’t cheap either. A lot of sites charge to get listed (like the Better Business Bureau). If you’re serious about local SEO, you should consider paying for certain directory listings in your local market.

How Do You Got About Local Citation Building?
It’s not complicated. Do a search for, “Columbus Business Directories” and “Columbus Business Listings” (but of course enter your local market name) and start searching. Make an Excel list of all the local business directories in your market and start gauging whether or not it’s a free listing, which you can easily submit your business to or if it’s a paid listing, which you can do a cost benefit analysis.

If you don’t have the time to execute on this strategy, our SEO Team can help. We can also help determine the most important local directories for you to be on at a local level.

WhiteSpark – Getting More Advanced 
Doing a Google search for local directories is the affordable and quick way to get started. If you want to seriously elevate your local citation building, you can sign-up for a great service like WhiteSpark – Below are some of the neat features:

  • Search Targeted Keyphrases
    • If you want to rank well for a term like “Dentist” in the Oregon market, you can select your location and keyphrase to make sure you aren’t missing any citations.WhiteSpark will help populate the list.
  • Identify Top Competitor Rankings
      • You can view the citation profiles of your competitors in the top results to see which citations sites they are on. You can then formulate a strategy to submit your business onto those citation sites.
  • Competitor Citation Analysis
    • You can compare numerous businesses to see citations you may be missing.

Tracking Results

Before starting your local citation building campaign for your local business, utilize a software like SEMRush to track your rankings in the local pack. You can read this article I wrote on a Fall 2019 Google My Business Algorithm theory where I showcased how to track rankings at a local level, which was very helpful during a time of local SEO turbulence. Joy Hawkins, one of the leading local SEO experts, constantly recommends PlacesScout. Below is a cool picture of how you can track ranking within PlacesScout.


In Closing
You can’t just refresh your computer screen over and over and hope your local SEO rankings change. Building local citations is a proactive way to improve local SEO. Utilize a tool like WhiteSpark to help you formulate great citation sites. Search in your local market for directory and business listing sites. We also recommend finding citations within your industry/business sector. Don’t forget to track your progress so you can see wins along the way.