What is a local citation?
A local citation (also known as a business listing or online directory listing) is any place online that shows the following facts about your business:
- Phone number
Together, this information is known as NAP (and sometimes NAPW, to include Website URL) and getting this in the right places online isn’t just something that’s useful, it’s a foundational building block of Local SEO. Effective citation building is today pretty much ‘table stakes’ for local search. If you don’t have the right citations, you can’t play the game.
Here’s what local SEO citations look like on Yelp (with NAPW highlighted):
The more niche local business citations sites can vary from country to country, but some examples of the most popular and influential websites and platforms that display citations are:
- Google My Business
- Apple Maps
As you can see, even Google has local citations, in the form of Google My Business (possibly the most important SEO citation out there).
When searching for local businesses online, you may have noticed that a lot of the organic search results on the first page are hogged by online directories. Take a look at this SERP for ‘plumber san jose’ to see what we mean:
This demonstrates the importance of getting your local business citations into these popular and frequently-searched online directories. It can be tough for local businesses to get their websites into the ultra-competitive first page of organic search results, but if your business is just a step away, featured in one of these directories, you have a good chance of getting in front of potential customers looking for businesses like yours.
In local SEO, there are two types of local business citations:
- Structured Citations: This is the most common way to see NAP presented on a page, with name, address, and phone number listed by each other, in a format consistent with the rest of the listings on the site. These come as a result of submitting business listings via specific fields, so it makes sense that they show up this way.
- Unstructured Citations: Far less common, but no less valuable, are citations in which the information is spread across a web page. This includes things like blog posts, forum threads, or press mentions, in which the story might say ‘You can find Joe’s Plumbing on Hill Street in Vermont’ and then later add ‘Got a plumbing problem? Just call 555-456-765 for a quote’. You’ll see that all the necessary information is on the same page, but not all together. This requires a little more effort for search engines to scrape, but, as mentioned before, this doesn’t make them any less valuable.
Speaking of value, let’s take a look at what your business will get out of building citations. If you’re already asking ‘What is citation building?’, we’ve got you covered with this detailed article on how to build citations.