We all know what links are. Those are the things that let us click and link to other pieces of information and media online. 

When it comes to traditional SEO, a website owner wants to get quality, authoritative links in order to help rank on major search engines.

This can be done through various means including; content, sponsorships, testimonials, memberships, associations, forums, web 2.0 properties, vendor lists, etc.

What is a citation?

When businesses want to rank in the maps section of search engines like Google, citations play a major role in ranking.

Think of citations as links, but for a local business. A citation is the mention of a business Name, Address, Phone number, and website.

Commonly referred to as a NAP.

When a searcher does a query for dentist in city on Google, Google wants to show the most relevant information possible. This is where a businesses NAP comes into play.

Google uses the consistency of NAP of all dentists within the radius of the query, and one of the major ranking factors for these dentists is how consistent their business NAP is.

Think about it. The more consistent the business NAP is across local data aggregators, and third party local directories, Google is more likely to trust that the business is still in business, and all of the information provided is accurate.

Search engines, including Google, don’t want to provide outdated or wrong information.

It’s in the best interest of search engines to have 100% confidence in the local results they are providing.

If Google starting showing results that have closed businesses, wrong phone numbers, or businesses that have moved, that’s going to piss users off.

Google doesn’t want to piss users off, not even for a simple search of “dentists in city”
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There are two different types of citations:

  1. Structured Citations: These are the yelp.com, superpages.com, and botw.org websites of the Internet. A local business goes to one of these sites to add their listing, and follows presets in order to add the listing. Hence, structured.
  2. Unstructured Citations: Any mention of a business’ NAP would be considered an unstructured citation. Have a video on YouTube? Add your business NAP in the description, and you then have an unstructured citation for your business. Got some local press coverage? Chances are they put your NAP in the article, if not, ask for it! Even if there is no link from the unstructured citation to your website, it will still be crawled by a search engine bot (unless the page is blocking bots, uncommon).

When dealing with structured citations, there are 5 major data aggregators, and 45-50 other local directories that a business should be listed on.

Other than these, there may be some industry related  directories to get listed on, and maybe a few local city directories too.

Easiest way to find out if you want to get listed on one of these is to look at the site, and see if you would use it as a user. If it looks spammy and has a ton of ads, don’t bother, nobody else is!

With unstructured citations, there is no real recommendation on what to get. What you don’t want to do is start spamming business NAP all over the Internet to try to help rankings.

If you have a video on YouTube, add a link and your NAP in the description.

If you’re getting an article written about your awesome business in the local paper, ask for a link and your NAP in the article.