Building and fixing citations is key to entering the local SEO playing field, but when you’re aiming for multiple citations for 100’s of locations, things can get very complex and overwhelming very quickly. Here, Kyle Goodchild takes you through his process for making multi-location citation building a cinch.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve built citations for a business before. Now you want to take your citation building skills to the next level, right? Here I’ll be discussing how to identify citation opportunities at scale for multi-location businesses and act on those opportunities found.
This article is broken down as follows:
- The importance of staying organized
- Multi-location citation auditing
- Identifying citation opportunities across multiple locations (new citations / fixing incorrect citations / updating location information / locating duplicates)
- Acting on your opportunities
Keep Your Location Information Organized
Being organized is like being in control
As someone who deals with several multi-location businesses, I know the importance of being organized and keeping all your information in one centralized document. The online ecosystem can move fast—always remember that! Uploading the wrong information can cause big problems for your business, and very quickly if gone unnoticed for too long.
Over the years, spreadsheets have become my best friend. I find that the most effective way to stay organized is to keep an up-to-date spreadsheet handy. Your client, business partner, colleagues, etc. should all have access to this document. It should act as a living, breathing data source.
When location information changes, your spreadsheet should reflect the change. Here’s a location information spreadsheet template you can use, based on what I use to stay on top of all location changes made within a business.
The more organized you are, the easier it becomes to find citation opportunities across several locations.
Audit Citations for Multiple Locations
Always assess the current situation
Now that you’re organized, you can start the first step in scaling out citations for multi-location businesses. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” That’s exactly what you want to avoid in this step. Assessing all your locations allows you to see how a business is doing across the online ecosystem.
So how do you assess the state of several locations, fast and effectively? Citation audits, of course.
You’ve most likely performed a citation audit for a single location, so let’s talk about how we can perform citation audits on 50+ locations.
Upload your locations to a platform of your choice
Most platforms supply a template to ensure that you have all the necessary information to audit, build and fix your location data across the web. These templates ensure that you have everything required to successfully upload all your locations to their platform. A great example is BrightLocal’s citation-auditing template.
Here are some available citation-building platforms you can use:
The citation audit process I’ve detailed below talks about other uploading options that you may want to test and try out. Everyone has their own preference, and everyone has their own pros and cons for each method. Depending on how many locations you are working with, you can decide for yourself which upload method best suits your needs.
Citation audit process
Citation audits will return data like duplicates, incorrect NAP, missing NAP, and opportunities to build new citations. The first step is to add all your locations to the platform you will be using for your citations. Typically you have three options:
- Single location uploading: This option is probably the longest and most tedious. I wouldn’t recommend this option if your servicing 50+ locations but I thought I would add it anyways. Here is a quick tutorial on how to add single locations to BrightLocal.
- Syncing your Google My Business account and listings with your citation platform: This is a great way to add your locations. Assuming your Google My Business listings are accurate (which they should be), this ensures consistency across the web. Here is a quick tutorial on how to import locations from Google my Business to BrightLocal.
- Bulk uploading location information via CSV.
Since BrightLocal is my preference, I will be showing examples from some of their reports in this article. Below is a screenshot of your uploading options within BrightLocal.
Once you’ve uploaded all of your location data, you can run all your citation reports. But remember that organization is key, so having these reports in one place will make your task that much easier.
So what can we do? Most often the best solution is to create a roll-up report, or an overview report that allows you to group all your locations into one report for easy access and organization.
Roll-up reports get saved and stored in a roll-up report section for easy access. Once you click into the report you can see the overview and breakdown (see BrightLocal example below) as well as access those individual location reports at any time.
This is your high level overview. In this summary section we can see initial opportunities and findings, but don’t forget that consistency is super important!
We need to make sure we’re also looking at individual location reports. These reports will give us that granular information that we require to scale out citations. Below is how this looks at a single-location level in BrightLocal.
Now that we know our current situation, we can start to identify our opportunities.
Identify Citation Opportunities Across Multiple Locations
How to scale citations
For this section we’ll take a look at identifying citation opportunities for multiple locations.
- No Listing Found. Just as it sounds. This means your business is not listed on a site.
- Listing Found But With NAP Errors. This means your listing is present on a site but it contains errors. In more simple terms, the information you provided for a location does not match the information displayed on a site.
- Duplicate Listing Found. This means that there are two listings present on a site.
So how do you evaluate the importance of the above three opportunities?
Citations help build up your brand’s prominence across the web. This means that the more brand mentions you have out there (in the form of citations) the more credibility your business or locations have.
If there is “No Listing Found,” that’s an opportunity to build a fresh citation, or increase the frequency and quantity of the citations you have present on the web. Your citation audit will highlight the value of each citation opportunity, which will allow you to prioritize them. Check out this Top Local Citations resource to help you better understand the value and importance of certain citations.
The other aspect of prominence is consistency across the web. If there is a “Listing Found But With NAP Errors,” there is an opportunity to clean up inconsistencies. When search engines like Google crawl the internet, they use your CORRECT NAP to build your brand’s prominence and credibility. Having incorrect and inconsistent data in the ecosystem can hurt your brand a lot. This is a great opportunity to ensure your information is consistent wherever it’s present.
The last issue here is a duplicate listing. Despite what some may initially think, having more than one mention of a location on a platform is not a good thing. Your citation audit will tell you if there are any duplicates, and it will also tell you which mention is the primary listing and which is considered the duplicate.
By closing these duplicate listings, you ensure that users are finding the correct listing with all your correct data. This will impact rankings in a positive way and ensure that anyone visiting your business or website from a citation will have the right information in hand.
How to create a priority list of citations for you and your team
It’s great practice to build citations for your locations steadily over time. First focus on websites that deliver high value. You can export a CSV per location, and prioritize based on authority and value (see BrightLocal screenshot below).
If you’re looking to do this step for 50+ locations, it’s worth considering reaching out to your platform’s support for guidance or help with this. Forming a strong relationship with a support member will be very beneficial if you have questions or concerns in the future, and they will certainly appreciate the size and complexity of what you’re dealing with.
Sometimes I will identify opportunities on my own as it gives me different insights and allows me to learn which citations move the needle the most per industry (category) and location. Here’s the spreadsheet I use when prioritizing opportunities. Feel free to use it yourself!
Once we know the situation of all our locations, and we’ve uncovered the opportunities at hand, we can move on to acting on these opportunities.
Act on Found Opportunities
Scaling out citations For multiple locations
Effective citation-building (especially for multi-location businesses) requires ongoing submissions. This ensures that your locations’ citations are built in the most natural way.
Determine a schedule that will allow you to scale out citation building or fixing for all your locations. This way you see the results you seek the fastest. When I do ongoing citation building, I’ll build 10-15 citations every other month, though some like to do this monthly (it depends on the size of the opportunity per location).
Most platforms will work with you to achieve your goal. If you have 50+ locations that you want to build/fix citations for every month, support teams will most often help. They will help prioritize your opportunities and get you on your way!
If you are doing this on your own (without the help of support), you will want to make your way to the campaign portion of your platform. Below is a screenshot of how you can get there quickly in BrightLocal. See the ‘Create Citation Campaign’ button in the screenshot below.
My rule of thumb is to always start with data aggregators. Since they feed the ecosystem, it will give you a jump-start! Most platforms will allow you to go through and select which citations you would like (since you’re doing this without the help of support). Utilize the csv you put together in the previous section.
- Fix existing citations / remove duplicate listings
- Ensure you have correct data on aggregators
- Acquire new citations based on value
This process can be repeated for all your locations, but if you have 50+ locations, this may not be feasible. Use your chosen citation platform’s support team and build a relationship so that you have someone to contact when you want to start campaigns, ask questions or address any concerns.
Don’t be afraid to build citations for multi-location businesses. At first the job may seem intimidating and overwhelming, but I hope this article will help make the job easier.
Always remember that no matter what platform you choose, support teams are always there for you. Use their services and insights as it will make your tasks way easier. I’ll just leave you with a reminder of these two notes:
“ Being organized is like being in control.”
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Kyle Goodchild is a Senior SEO Strategist at Powered by Search. Kyle works to grow clients ranging from SMBs to enterprise size and enjoys analyzing the changing landscape of search.