The Importance of Citations in Local SEO

Since the 2013 Pigeon update that show Google’s emphasis on the importance of citations on local SEO rankings, experts still agree that the quality of citations can play a major role in the rankings game of search engine optimization.

Is it still important?

However, what changed since its first appearance is the fact that, three years after, the growth rate of the importance of citations has significantly dipped. For example, in 2013 only 6 percent of SEO experts deemed the Pigeon update to be not so important. That number grew by 18 percent after 2 years in 2015. Additionally, of the 44 percent SEO experts who said that the quality of citations are very important in local SEO rankings that figure now stands at 23 percent. While the general trend is that citations has somehow lost traction when it comes to its value in generating enough credibility scores for a particular local website to rank highly on Google’s search platform, it would seem that there are other factors that are now at play. Does the recent 2016 Panda update have something to do with this?

Quality or Quantity?

Whatever the case, one thing is undeniable – quality citations remain a considerable factor in local SEO rankings. And whenever quality of citations is spoken of, two things come to mind – authority and relevance. SEO experts now believe that, while quantity is definitely trumped by quality, it nevertheless can play a role in improving the likelihood of higher rankings. For example, having 5 highly authoritative and very relevant citations is a lot better than having just a single authoritative and relevant citation. Unfortunately, getting 30 high quality citations might be impossible so a good mix of citations with varying levels of authoritativeness and relevance should be a lot more effective in securing local SEO ranking points. Caution must be exercised however to focus more on accurate citations secured from highly authoritative and relevant sites before considering citations from low credibility sites.

The question most SEO specialists ask is the number of citations that that are guaranteed to bring in the much-desired local SEO ranking. Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut rules or standards as to what can be considered as just the right mix of high quality citation sites, moderate quality citation sites, and low quality citation sites. There is no recipe such as a 70-20-10 split or even a 60-35-5 spread. What experts suggest, however, is for local SEO marketers and analysts to monitor their local SEO ranking performance after the citation work. Additionally, performing some benchmarking tests against competition can provide a clearer picture of the number of citations you might want to work with.

Choosing Citation Sites

Citation is important in local SEO. Equally important, however, is learning how to choose the correct citation sites. Local SEO experts agree that there are currently 3 stand-out factors that need to be considered when evaluating the importance or value of a citation.

  • Industry relevance – Considered to be the most important factor, industry-specific sites allow search engines the capability to correctly classify a business according to its type and the services it provides. Additionally, industry relevance convey an image of being a specialist site; hence, commands medium-to-high levels of authoritativeness and credibility. Lastly, industry-specific sites allow for higher ranking in organic results that target specific terms. They also are considered an excellent source of targeted leads to a specific business or organization.
  • Local relevance – While they do act like industry-specific sites, local or regional directories lack specialism. This simply translates to content that is less focused, traffic that is less targeted, and lesser ad revenues generated. However, local directories do provide one major advantage – they send very clear local signals to search engine platforms like Google.
  • Domain authority – The overall authoritativeness of the citation site itself.

Choosing the best citation site should be more about striking a balance between quality and quantity and the relevance of the citation content to the authoritativeness of the website.

Sites for Structured Citations

The more structured the citation is, the easier it is for social and search crawlers to identify the information being cited without risking ambiguity. And when it comes to the authority of citations, nothing can beat those from National Directories. These sites have substantial volume of website traffic, highly-structured and highly-organized classification system of categories and locations, and a business model that allows marketing and technology investments. These are sufficiently large scale websites that have come to be respected in the world. Industry directories are not as authoritative as National Directories but they do play their part. Local directories and event sites will always be at the bottom of the authority hierarchy.

The Value of Data Aggregators

Of course, collecting and analyzing all of these numerical information can be done. However, if you are the owner of your business, you simply might want to consider getting the services of data aggregators such as Infogroup, Localeze, Factual, and Axciom. InfoGroup has so far provided the best value and distribution followed by Localeze. These two data aggregators are currently slugging it out in the US market until perhaps the entry of a transformed Foursquare.

Citations remains important in local SEO. However, a good balance of both relevance and authoritativeness is crucial in order to reap the full benefits of local SEO marketing efforts.

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