How to Sell and Provide Local Citations and Listings Management Services

How to Sell and Provide Local Citations and Listings Management Services

Despite predictions over the years to the contrary, local citations and listings management haven’t gone anywhere. Sure, building citations is more of a foundation-building tactic than a rocket-to-the-moon quick win, but it’s still considered a key local SEO ranking factor.

Not only are they still important, but they’re still misunderstood, whether that’s by the businesses that need them or the agencies that are trying to sell them. Many big SEO agencies still don’t understand the real difference between local SEO and traditional SEO, for starters, let alone why local citations and business listings are still more important for some businesses than they are for others.

But, here’s the thing, there’s an art to selling these services to stakeholders or clients. You need to sell the value, without overselling it. As experts in selling citation-building services and listing management, with years of experience, we know a thing or two about the mistakes people make.

So here’s how to do it properly.

6 Tips for Selling Local Citations Services and Listings Management

1. Educate, Educate, Educate

So let’s start with the truth here: many people simply don’t know what local citations are, or why they form part of a strategy.

We often find this to be true of both the businesses themselves and those that are doing the selling. A few people understand the concept, but then don’t understand the importance, or why they’re still useful in 2023.

The simplest thing to do is to educate. People talk about listings, citations, links, and Google Business Profiles… but they don’t understand the differences between them.

Read: Learning Hub – What Are Local Citations?

2. Don’t Sell Listings and Citations as Link Building

The truth of it is, many businesses are completely mislead when it comes to local citations.

A lot of people still talk about business directories like they’re link building. Sure, back in the day if you added your site to a hundred directories it was part of your link building campaign. But citation building isn’t quite the same thing. Yeah, links are involved, but there’s more to it than that.

Get the terminology right

  • Listings: your shop window and brand perception. If it looks rubbish, your brand looks rubbish.
  • Citations: performance and algorithmic trust. More of a data move and consistency.
  • Backlinks: links from external sources to your site. Yes, links are contained in listings and citations, but it’s slightly different from traditional backlinks. They’ll only affect local results, for one.
  • Profiles: businesses often mistake this for their own website, but generally it means your listings and citations, or even your GBP.

Tell your clients what listings are and what citation building actually is and cover how it differs from link building. If you don’t know yourself, then read about local link building here.

Remember, they’re not links in the traditional sense, so they shouldn’t necessarily be used as link building. This means that when you build citations, if you’re buying a batch from a service like BrightLocal, they’ll all come through across a short period of time.

Agencies in particular have a habit of asking to buy batches so they can report on supplying clients with a certain number a month.

So, if you’d hoped to pay a one-off fee and then trickle out links to clients over a number of months, you’re looking at the wrong thing. Get out there and build actual links.

3. Don’t Oversell Them, and Be Honest

Citations aren’t going to take your client to the moon, so stop telling them they will.

We regularly get asked the classic SEO question “How quickly will this make me rank number 1?”, which further highlights both a misunderstanding and a complete misrepresentation of listings to businesses.

Citations and listings won’t propel your business to the top of the local rankings. But they will provide you with a solid base to build from. Google generally prefers businesses to have a solid listings profile so it can verify information about your business. It’s simply the first rung on the ladder.

Being dishonest with your clients is just going to lead to anger or disappointment when the work you deliver doesn’t fire them to the top of the SERPs as you promised. But it doesn’t mean you can’t show them real value.

4. But Really Show the Value

This makes it sound like there’s no point in building citations and listings in 2023. But the reality is they offer so much more value than just a link.

We have a lot of experience at selling in the true value, to help agencies and their clients really understand what it is they’re buying.

For local citations, we find that the true value comes in highlighting the brand perception.

For local citations, we find that the true value comes in highlighting the brand perception. You need to make sure your external listings are all accurate—if you have name, address, and phone number (NAP) inconsistencies, it’s going to look bad to prospective buyers. Actively building your own citations and managing them will help your information stay accurate.

Sure, that takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s where services like Citation Builder and Active Sync come into play.

If you’re selling in more advanced listings management services, outside of just a one-off citation-building campaign, then things can get a little more complex. The value is still a great place to start, though.

5. Consider Angling Citations and Listings Differently

When we’re talking to potential clients we often find it easier to make these two things different.

For building citations, the conversations we have usually focus on the following:

  • Getting to the bottom of the problem. Is there missing or inaccurate information? Is it causing poor brand perception?
  • Is there a knowledge and time gap? Often one feeds into the other, a lack of understanding makes the job seem either pointless or like too big a task.
  • It’s rarely about SEO. People usually come to us saying “Oh $#!+, something’s wrong and it’s affecting the business”.

For listings management, we center conversations around the following:

  • We use the engagement and authority layer that ActiveSync targets.
  • We highlight that these layers build a really solid foundation and are the first step everyone has to take.
  • With our own system, we can highlight that businesses get access to their listings permanently, which is a real bonus to be able to sell to prospective clients. This is something to consider as a real bonus when you’re selling them yourself.
  • Once these important listings are built, there’s always an option to bolt on the maintenance layer when it’s applicable. Interestingly, despite being a bolt-on, clients tend to want it.
  • We know people don’t go to page 6 to find a MerchantCircle listing, for instance, and we’re open and honest about that.

6. Audit Your Potential Client’s Current Standing

Before you even start selling though, you need to get prepared. The most critical thing to do is audit your potential client’s current standing in terms of local citations and listings.

It’s no use approaching someone if they’ve already got a flawless listings profile. But the truth is that many local businesses don’t.

Highlight the issue and you’re on to a winner. Do something like this:

  • Understand where they are performing in terms of share of voice. Are they getting the catchment on the keywords they are interested in?
  • Look at their existing citation profile – use this using a tool like Citation Tracker or other citation scanning tools.
  • Then go to them and show them the inconsistencies. Highlight it and ask them whether they know, then emphasize the negative impact these inconsistencies could have.
  • A frequent response here is “Arrrgh what happened here???” followed by a bit of a panic.
  • If they don’t rank, ask them when they ever last looked at this
  • After you’ve looked at their citation profile, do a deeper audit based on industry and geography. This will help them see the opportunities against their competitors.

What else is important?

Outside of these tips, before you start selling citations we’d recommend getting to know the whole process yourself.


  • How long it will take if you do it yourself, and how long it will take if you use a service like Citation Builder.
  • The platforms available for your client to get listed on. Find the best business directories.
  • Pay attention to which directories are actually important for your client or business. Find the best citation sites by location and the best by industry.
  • How you can monitor the listings once they’re live and keep them updated.
  • That some services will only allow you to rent your listings (not us!).

It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of the bigger, more successful agencies don’t actually know much about local SEO. A shocker, I know. If you’re one of those agencies, and you’re doing local work for clients, then spend some time getting educated. There’s plenty of resources out there, like BrightLocal Academy and local SEO learning hub.

If you really don’t have the time though, and you’re not sure you can sell in a service you know is needed but aren’t as confident about, don’t be afraid to hand over the communications to people that do. We often work directly with agency’s clients to do this, helping clients sell the service that’s needed.

Your “Too Long, Didn’t Read” Tips for Selling Listings

Basically, what it all really boils down to is three simple things:

  • Educate yourself and your clients.
  • Be upfront and honest. Set expectations.
  • Audit their presence.

If you do that, you should be on to a winner. If you need support with any of the steps, whether it’s a citation-building service or listings management, BrightLocal is here to help. We’re experts in both selling the value and actually doing the work so that we can help agencies at every step of the process.

Mike Hawkes
About the author
Mike is BrightLocal's Senior Content Marketing Manager. With over nine years of experience in digital marketing, he is responsible for devising and executing our content strategy and delivering a host of local SEO insights to our audience.

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