What Are Citations? or, Don’t Sleep On Your “NAP”
If you’re anything like me the mere mention of a “citation” conjures up awful memories of late nights in university, vainly skimming dense academic papers at 4AM in an attempt to find a source to shoehorn—I mean reference—into a paper due at 6, while my body waged an internal war due to too much caffeine and not enough sleep. No? Just me? Perhaps those in the automotive industry are more likely to conflate citations with the traffic ticket they received while showing off all that new horsepower. Either way, there’s a citation you should be far more concerned about—at least in regards to your business: the local citation.
What Are Local Citations?
A local citation—or, from here on out, just citation—is any reference found online to your business including your business’ name, address, and phone number; or, what we in the biz like to call a NAP. Sort of like an old school link, before links existed (see: phone book). That means any mention of your NAP information, even one in plain text with no link to your website (though links are okay—even recommended), is a citation. Much like links to your website, Google takes any citations of your business into account when determining the authority of your site. So you know how links are beneficial to your site? Ditto for citations.
Now, I can tell you’re paying attention if you ask questions like, “Who goes to the trouble of writing all that information?” And, in the event that someone has not included everything, you’ve got what’s called a partial citation. A name and address? Partial citation. A name and phone number? You got it—a partial citation. Better than a kick in the pants, but certainly not as beneficial as the full meal deal.
Want an example? Of course you do, you’re a practical person:
16830 107 Avenue NW, Edmonton, Alberta T5P 4C3
Now, it doesn’t matter if your citation is written horizontal, vertical, or even backward (well, maybe not backward), if all the information is there, you’ve got yourself a full citation!
Can Your Citation Include Different Information?
Sure—it’s a free country! You could include your hours, the forms of payment you accept, taglines, social links, fax numbers, the list goes on. But for a complete citation it’s important—no, critical!—that you include the NAP information above.
Not only do you want to ensure you’ve got your full NAP, it needs to be consistent too. Now, that doesn’t mean it always needs to be written vertically, but the language and format used absolutely needs to be consistent. That means if you write your phone number (780) 433-8844, it stays that way. No 1-780-433-8844, no (780) 433-TUGH, no variations period. If you write 107 Avenue NW, you will always add that NW. Not northwest, not North West, but NW (if this seems important, it’s because it is; we’ll explain soon). But the moral of the story here is to be consistent.
What If You Use Different Phone Numbers?
As every dealership scrambles to add another chatbot to their site, creating yet another line of communication to make it easier for customers to reach them (while slowing down their site’s speed), an older method of customer communication begins to gather more and more dust. Look, we’re not opposed to dealerships having a call-tracking number (or chatbots, DealerRater, a fax machine, carrier-pigeons), it just needs to be used properly. And, just to really hammer home the importance of the paragraph above, your citations need to consistently use the same phone number.
Our recommendation? I thought you’d never ask! Search the internet for your current citations, and use the number you see most often—probably your main line (or the one you’ve had longest). It’ll save you—or someone else—from having to change more citations down the road. Then, you can ensure that your GMB listing—which is considered the canonical citation Google will compare any other citation to—is up-to-date, with your primary number being the number you use in your citation. Your GMB listing also has a section for secondary phone numbers; this is where you can add all those other phone numbers which might be found in the variations of your citation floating around in the ether.
Why Citations Are Important
The influence of a proper local citation is two-fold. First, they act as an important ranking factor. In the past, we’ve talked about Google ranking factors—the things Google looks for to determine which business deserves the vaunted (or, at least, once-vaunted) SERP features, Local Packs, and first page results. While there are a number of these ranking factors, like links and reviews, and the importance of these factors or the factors themselves can change over time, citations have long been a focal point for Google. And it makes sense—if a business is mentioned a lot, all over the internet (and on relevant websites), it is probably a more relevant business to include in the search results.
This is why we made such a stink earlier, about your citations being accurate and consistent. Google looks at not only the number of citations you have online, but how accurate said citations are as well as the prominence of the platform your citation is found on. Google doesn’t like looking foolish, so they aggregate these factors to ensure they’re showing reliable businesses in their results. That’s why having 100 citations on low-quality websites, featuring incorrect or out-of-date information, won’t do you any favours. However, having 50 or 60 complete citations, that are consistent and found on high-profile websites (think news outlets, Facebook, etc), will give Google the confidence to boost your page to the top of the SERP!
The second reason a proper and consistent local citation is helpful, is probably the most obvious one: it increases your business’ visibility. Having your business’ name appear on multiple sites across the internet just increases the chance potential customers will see it. More people seeing, leads to more people shopping, leads to more people buying, leads to more money to pay for those pesky traffic citations. Beyond the potential for more sales, won’t somebody think of your reputation? A business with consistent citations and a number connected to a phone that a person actually picks up would appear to have their poop-in-a-group. A business with six different phone numbers and an address written four different ways—well, that just seems like a mafia-front more than a place for customers to spend their money.
Where Will You Find Citations?
Local citations can appear anywhere on the world wide web, from business directories (RIP phone book) to online newspaper articles or social platforms. But wait—that’s not all. Act quickly, and you can get citations for your business in blog posts, forums, press releases, and more! Basically, if the information exists somewhere online, it counts as a citation. Let’s take a look at a few more examples, shall we?
An Incomplete Citation (Sort Of)
Taken from the ‘Stockists’ page of a Canadian clothing company, this is a bit of a lame example since they link to the stores in the text. But for arguments sake, having the business name and both the city and country would qualify as about as incomplete a citation you could find. The link is nice, but by adding an address and phone number, the stockist would basically get the benefit of the link and the citation.
An Incomplete Citation (A Better Example)
Here’s a couple citations from the ‘Retailer’ section of a large, multinational brand. We blurred the name to save them the embarrassment, but we’d suggest they “Just Do It”—”It” being create a complete citation. They’ve got the store name, and a decent version of the address (the screenshot below shows what happens when you click on the store), but they’re still missing information.
And this, people, is why Google is winning the war. After having to find the ‘Retailer’ section on the site, then entering an address or picking an area on the map, you still have to click on the individual store to get the information. As opposed to just Googling “**** Broadway” or “**** near me”, and enjoying all the information in a GMB listing—though, this is a different problem entirely. Perhaps this company thinks they’re too good to worry about their local citations, but they might be able to draw more business to these local branches of their business with a proper citation.
A Complete Citation
Here we have another ‘Stockists’ page, with another Google Map link. Only this time, they’ve included a complete citation! Here we see the business’ name, complete address, phone number, and for good measure, website. Now there is no confusion as to how to find or contact this store, and they’re receiving the benefit of having a citation. A-plus work, Midnight Rambler!
How Do You Fix Your Citations?
Nice try! If there’s one thing I learned from finishing my papers at the 25th hour, it wasn’t planning or time management—it was always leave ‘em wanting more. So while you’re now wondering how you can fix this important aspect of your online presence, you’re going to have to contact your Online Marketing Manager, or the Strathcom SEO team. If you’re really interested in fixing your citations we can definitely teach you, but it would probably be easier to just sign up for our Local SEO Fundamentals package. This package covers review responses, GMB optimization, citation work, and more. It’s easily the best bang for your buck when it comes to SEO work, and many OEMs actually provide co-op for this type of thing. So just contact us, and let us do the work for you—and quit sleeping on citations!
I promise I won’t leave said work until the last minute.