How to Find Your Competitors’ Best Citations

Before we even get started, let me answer the question you’re probably asking: do citations matter for SEO in 2024?

They do, and we’re not the only ones who’ve found that to be true! Just check out this blog post from our friends over at Whitespark. As is often the case in our industry, citations are a “quality over quantity” issue. Building 100 citations from questionable sites like “” (not a real website) isn’t going to move the needle, but getting your name, address, phone number, and website listed in quality directories is still an effective way to build trust with users and Google.

Now that we’ve hopefully convinced you quality citations are worth it, let’s dive in.

Try Common SEO Tools to Identify Competitors’ Citations

We’re big fans of some SEO tools you might already know. The two we like to use for finding our clients’ competitors’ citations are Ahrefs Link Intersect and Semrush Backlink Gap. They both work similarly, so you can pick your favorite or use the tool you already have a subscription for. For this blog post, we’ll show you Ahrefs.

You’ll need a list of competitors to compare against your site before you get started. If you don’t already have such a list, you can do a quick Google (Maps) search of your top keywords and grab a few of the websites you come across. Ask your client or other stakeholders who they think your competitors are.

Ahrefs Link Intersect

This tool functions simply but effectively. First, input at least two competitor domains or URLs with the option of listing your website under the “but doesn’t link to” field:


After clicking “Show link opportunities,” Ahrefs will provide you with an exportable list of all the domains not linking to your website that link to at least one of the competitors you listed. We’ve redacted the actual websites in the screenshot below.

Identifying Citations

Unfortunately, neither Ahrefs nor Semrush have a built-in feature to single out which links are citations, so this is where your legwork comes in. We recommend exporting the list as a spreadsheet so you can categorize the links as you go along. At RicketyRoo, we use the following link categories, but you can use whatever categories you want as long as you do so consistently (learn more about our link benchmarking process from our blog post on the topic):

  • Citations
  • Topical
  • Local
  • Editorial

What are citations?

When looking for citations, think of websites that look like listings in a directory. Some of the most recognizable examples of citation websites include Yelp, Foursquare, and BBB. However, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of smaller citation sites to watch while going through your competitors’ backlinks, many of which are specific to industries and locations. Here are just a few examples relevant to specific industries:

  • and Thumbtack (home services)
  • Avvo and Justia (law)
  • Eventective (event planning)

Assess the citation links for quality as you go along, as well. Nearly every SEO tool website has or uses some quality metric for domains (Domain Authority from Moz, Domain Rating from Ahrefs, Authority Score from Semrush, etc.) which is a good proxy for quality. You should also trust your instincts on whether or not a citation is worth pursuing. And don’t worry; you’ll hone that instinct over time!

Conduct Manual Searches to Find Citations

We’re primarily looking for competitor citations, but it’s also worth doing non-competitive citation research. This is especially true if your competitors have smaller backlink profiles.

Freemium Audits

In addition to the paid competitive analysis tools mentioned above, there are a few freemium options that you can start with to manually generate a list of local citations to focus on. BrightLocal Citation Tracker, Semrush Listing Management, and Moz Local Listing Score all function in very similar ways: you provide part or all of your NAP (name, address, phone number), and the tool generates a free report of how consistent your citations are across common directory sites. The premium side of the “freemium” equation is usually a product to help correct the inconsistencies, but you can use the free report list to do that work manually.

Manual Search

Finding local or topical citations is sometimes as easy as performing the right Google search. Searches for ‘[service] near me’ or ‘[service] in [city]’ often result in directory websites, and you want to appear on those directories whenever possible (this tactic is also known as barnacle SEO). You might have to get creative with your searches to find anything beyond the Yelps and Angis of the world, but you might be surprised by what you find. Don’t be afraid to try even more direct searches like ‘[service] business directory’ or ‘[location] business directory’!

Build a List of High-Priority Citations

Using the tools and techniques we looked at above, you will have seen a good number of citation directories from your competitors and your own research. Even if you’ve been using your judgment while analyzing these sites, you’ll still likely have a list of directories that need to be prioritized by quality and relevance.

Consider some of the following parameters for prioritizing citations

  1. Competition: Are all of your competitors listed on this site? If so, it’s likely worth following suit, even for sites otherwise of lower quality.
  2. Topicality and/or Locality: Is the directory topically or locally relevant to my site? This can sometimes bump an otherwise low-priority site up the list.
  3. Quality: How high are the site’s 3rd-party metrics (i.e. Domain Authority)? Is it flooded with hundreds of new citations for questionable businesses from all over the globe, or does it have an actual approval process for businesses submitting to get included? Is it generic (like our fake example or does it differentiate itself in some way?

Get Listed on Citations That Matter

Armed with your prioritized list of citations, it’s time to get to work. It wouldn’t be practical for us to explain how to get listed on various directories manually because they’re all unique. Typically, you’ll be filling out a form with your business’s information (Chrome’s “Manage Addresses” feature or a similar product will save you time here) and proving ownership with an email address that matches your website’s domain or phone call verification at the business’s number. Some directories will require payment to get listed or for a premium version of your listing, but be wary of giving your credit card information to questionable sites. If relevant to your business, you should try to get a listing for all your locations.

Remember the all-important mantra: quality over quantity! Even if that means you’re only creating five new citations out of this process, you won’t be wasting your time on irrelevant listings that won’t move the needle. And, of course, if this all sounds exhausting, you can hire us to do it for you instead!

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Blake Denman

Blake has more than 14 years of local SEO and paid search marketing experience. He founded RicketyRoo in February 2009. Outside of running RicketyRoo, Blake enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and Goldendoodle, June, hiking throughout Central Oregon.
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