You may have thought that you left the world of popularity contests back in high school. Think again. Now you need to win a popularity contest with Google in order to have your business show up in search engine results. In high school, the “cool kids” names were mentioned everywhere. Whether it murmurs in the hallway, over the loudspeaker at the football game as they were sworn in as homecoming king or queen, or in print throughout the yearbook for each sports team and organization to which they belonged. The bottom line…everyone knew their names.
Google’s variation of the popularity contest is very similar to the high school popularity contest. It’s not enough for you to build a website for your business. Google wants to see other trustworthy business websites “mention” your business and website before they deem it trustworthy and relevant. These “mentions” could take the form of a listing in an online directory (a citation) or a mention and link back to your website (a backlink). And the more of these mentions you have, the more apt Google is to include your business prominently in search engine results. This is called building citations.
What are Citations?
Citations are online “mentions” of a business, and they are one of the key factors in local search engine optimization (SEO). Most citations take the form of an online business directory that lists (at a minimum) a business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP). Some of the most common and important directories include Google Business Profile (formerly called Google My Business), Bing Maps, Facebook, and Yelp. Beyond those, there are literally thousands of other directories across the web. Google deems some more valuable than others because not all are trustworthy. While being listed on large directories, like Google Business, is imperative for search engine optimization (SEO), Google also counts every citation you build on smaller sites as a popularity point for your business. The quality of the citations is incredibly important, you only get points from Google if your information is consistent across these directories.
What is Citation Building?
Citation building is the act of posting consistent and relevant information about your business on reputable listing directories. This allows both search engines and customers to learn more about your business. Here is a guide:
Find, Claim, & Correct Existing Citations: Do a search for your business name and make a list of the directories it shows up in. Then go in one by one and claim each listing (if you don’t already have ownership) and correct any incorrect or outdated information. Maybe your business phone number changed a few years back, and old citations containing your old phone number need to be corrected. Google deducts popularity points for inconsistent information available across the web.
Build New Citations: While Google deems some directories more valuable than others, it's good to build citations on as many reputable websites you can find. Because there are thousands of sites out there, this can easily become a daunting task. But this can easily be accomplished using data aggregators. Data aggregators are systems that mine, present, and format data across the web in real-time. They then compile that data and submit it to directories and search engines. This is a HUGE time saver and increases the speed at which citations are created, and reduces errors. Thompson Marketing Partners uses BrightLocal as our citation platform and aggregator source.
Optimize Citations: Some directories may only have space for your business name, address, phone number, and website. But most directories will have many more fields like business category, hours of operation, business description, photos, logo, videos, and date the business started. This kind of information helps gives customers a good understanding of what your business does. Don’t skimp; fill in AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE.
Document Citations: Once you do all the work of finding and correcting citations, keep a spreadsheet. Let’s say business booms this year, and next year you move into a larger location. You’ll need to refer back to this list to update your business address on all these citation sites. Or, you can relaunch a data aggregator campaign as mentioned above.
Monitor Reviews: Remember that many of these directories allow users to review your business, so you’ll need to keep an eye on these reviews. Be sure to respond to all reviews, whether positive or negative. Thank those that leave positive reviews, and try to make things right for those that may leave a negative review. This is called reputation management.
What are Backlinks?
Another type of citation comes in the form of a mention of your business name, accompanied by a link to your website on another company’s website. These are considered backlinks. Said another way, backlinks are direct links to your website from a page on another website. They can also be referred to as “inbound links” or “incoming links.”
Note: The link above to Hubspot.com with the anchor text “inbound links” is an example of a backlink for Hubspot!
These links can take the form of a mention in a blog article, social media post, or other. Each of these “mentions” on another website also counts as popularity votes for your business because each mention tells Google that the content is valuable, credible, and useful.
What is Link Building?
Link building describes the act of working to establish relevant links from reputable websites back to your website. It’s not only a key component of SEO, but it’s also a marketing tactic for increasing brand awareness.
Just like citations, not all backlinks are created equal. Would you rather have a link to your website on the Harvard website or from some random guy’s website? Google feels the same way. The more reputable the website that your link appears on, the more that popularity vote is worth.
So, how do you get other websites to include links to your website? Two ways….
Create Quality Content: Websites are most apt to share content that adds value to their website. Take, for example, this article. Marketing agencies talking about citation building or backlink building may link to this article which explains the process. Also, make sure your website is designed in a way that makes it easy to navigate and includes compelling imagery.
Ask!: Find complementary websites that you think could benefit from a link to your website and reach out to them to ask if they mind placing a link. Or, become a resource for reporters and bloggers so that they link to your website when they mention you. While these tactics can be time-consuming, just a few high-quality backlinks can greatly improve your SEO results.
Why Is This SOOOO Important?
The QUANTITY and QUALITY of citations and backlinks are among the factors that search engines evaluate in order to estimate the popularity of a website. Search engines are answer machines. They exist to discover, understand, and organize the internet’s content to provide the most relevant results to the questions searchers are asking. Identifying the most popular, and reputable, and relevant websites help return the most valuable search results.
In today’s highly competitive digital world, customers choose businesses that come up high in their web searches. People don’t have the time or patience to dig down 2 or 3 pages into search results to find the answers they need. Therefore, in order to be competitive, every business needs to be concerned with showing up high in search results.
How Do I Get Started?
The good news is that you have options! You can build your own citations and links using the information in this article as well as the other countless resources throughout the web. Or, you can have a top-rated marketing agency like Thompson Marketing Partners take care of it for you.