Spring Cleaning Your Citations

online citationsIt’s that most welcome time of year, once again: the time when the white stuff melts and reveals an entire season’s worth of underlying dust and grit. While most people will find themselves beating rugs and washing windows, folks in our industry (of the automotive persuasion) have a spring-cleaning list of an entirely different sort — I’m talking about a good seasonal scrub-down of your online citations on the worldwide web. This post aims to elaborate on the nature of online citations (and their functions), while giving some recommendations on what to optimize and where.

Citations: What on Earth are They?

Let’s build on the basics; online citations are essentially your business’ calling card across various online properties. In their most basic form, citations are understood to communicate the Name, Address and Phone number of your dealership, also commonly referred to as the NAP information (NAPW if the citation features website URL information too).

In addition to this, there are two forms of citation: structured citations and (surprise) unstructured citations. Structured citations refer to those that appear on well-known websites geared toward providing business information/listings in a directory-style format. The underpinning intention of this type of citation is to use straightforward, codified data that a SERP could easily pull onto a search results page. Unstructured citations, similar to name-dropping, are in-text citations that mention a business’ NAP information in a more casual format.

Why Online Citations Matter

Citations are of huge importance to your business; they’re a major aspect of the way in which your website ranks on a search engine results page. In fact, it’s estimated that citation-related items comprise nearly 13% of ranking-related factors in local SEO. Why is Google so hung-up on citations? Simple: Google requires verification, and your business listings need to be validated. Search engines are in the business of providing the best possible answer to an individual user’s query, and the veracity of the search results they serve up is a big point of concern.

Dealerships change names, have colloquial nicknames, move locations, and undergo major rebranding all the time. For Google, information like this is fluid and hard to verify on its own. Barring that ability, it’ll take the next best course of action and set about looking for third party validation of your citation. Essentially, this is Google checking up on your references – a quasi-background check, if you will.

When it comes to ranking your site for search purposes, Google employs a rubric based on relevance (how well does this search result satisfy the user’s ask?); distance/location (how close is this dealership to the user’s location?); and prominence (how well-known is your dealership?). Prominence, the last of these three factors, is estimated via Google’s assessment your business’ online and social reviews, as well as the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) that your website maintains over time.

Where Should I Have Citations?

Citations are divided into four tiers that rank in respect to their levels of importance and risk threshold (a measurement of the likelihood that the citation is fabricated or false):

  • Tier One Citations: These citations have widespread recognition, retain a high domain authority, and match user intent closely. They include major listings on sites like Facebook, Bing, Yelp YellowPages, and the Better Business Bureau. Also included are more industry-specific properties such as Autotrader, Kijiji, and official OEM websites. Risk threshold for tier one citations is low.
  • Tier Two Citations: Citations of this type still hold a significant amount of domain authority; user intent is still well matched to the information provided in the citation, though the properties on which they appear are less well-known. Here we’re talking citations that might appear on sites like DealerRater, Unhaggle and Reviewsii. While risk threshold is still low, it is still a degree of certainty removed from those in the first tier.
  • Tier Three Citations: Third-tier citations are low-quality. They’re generic and they exhibit poor SEO practices like keyword stuffing. They also lack the relevance of the preceding two tiers, have a high risk-threshold, and lack serious domain authority.
  • Tier Four Citations: These citations have little or no correlation to user intent, and almost zilch in the way of domain authority. You get the idea…

What to Tidy Up First?

Look, we’re all busy. Especially those of us in charge of the online efforts for our respective dealerships. While it’s crucial that your business’ online citations are consistent across the internet, we recognize that, given time constraints, you’ll want to tackle the most important elements first.

Work on eliminating inconsistencies. Ask yourself:

  • Do my Tier One and Two citations have the same local business phone-number? – Emphasis on local numbers, not call-tracking numbers (as tempting as that might be)
  • Do my citations feature the same Canada Post-approved version of my dealership’s address?
  • Is the name of my dealership consistent? – Did we rebrand recently? Do we have a local nickname? (We were Johnny Appleseed VW before, and now we’re just Appleseed VW; we better get on this…)

Inconsistencies at the base level (such as these might seem) can really harm your business’ ability to rank atop Google’s search results page. It’s important that they’re sorted out, and they’re easy to fix, so why not?

In short, it’s important to shore up the information that features on your Tier One and Two citations first. Scratch Google’s back by being as consistent and straightforward as possible, and it’ll repay the favour by ranking you at the top of it’s search results. Once you understand the function and importance of your online citations, it’s easy to see why it’s a good idea to be diligent in maintaining them. Spring cleaning isn’t only limited to scrubbing away the month’s old veneer of road salt that’s been slowly devouring your driveway or airing a winter’s-worth of farts out of your feather quilts. It’s a time for cleaning up your online presence as well. Interested in doing so? Get in touch with us to learn more about online citations.

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