Building Local Citations for Multi-location Businesses

Building Local Citations for Multi-location Businesses

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:

  1. The importance of staying organized
  2. Multi-location citation auditing
  3. Identifying citation opportunities across multiple locations (new citations / fixing incorrect citations / updating location information / locating duplicates)
  4. 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 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 business location information changes, your spreadsheet should reflect the change. Here’s a location information spreadsheet template you can use — this is 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.

Audit Citations for Multiple Locations

Always Assess the Current Situation

Now that you’re organized, you can start the first step in scaling citations for multi-location businesses. You’ve surely 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 probably performed a citation audit for a single location, so let’s talk about how we can perform citation audits for 50+ locations.

Upload Your Locations to a Platform of Your Choice

Most platforms supply a template so that you have all the necessary information to audit, build, and fix your location data across the web. This ensures that you have everything required to successfully upload your locations to the platform. A great example is BrightLocal’s citation-auditing template.

Here are some citation-building platforms you can use:

The citation audit process 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’re working with, you can decide for yourself which upload method best suits your needs.

Citation Audit Process

Citation audits will return useful data, including duplicate listings, incorrect NAP, missing NAP, and opportunities to build new citations. The first step is to add all your locations to the platform you’ll be using for your citations. Typically you have three options:

  1. Single location uploading: This option is probably the longest and most tedious. I wouldn’t recommend this option if you’re servicing 50+ locations, but I thought I would add it anyway. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to add single locations to BrightLocal.
  2. Syncing your Google Business Profile with your citation platform: This is a great way to add your locations. Assuming your Google Business Profile (GBP) listings are accurate — which they should be — this ensures consistency across the web. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to import locations from your GBP into BrightLocal.
  3. Bulk uploading location information via CSV.

Since BrightLocal is my preference, I’ll be showing examples from some of its reports. Below is a screenshot of the uploading options within BrightLocal.

BrightLocal Locations

Once you’ve uploaded your location data, you can run your citation reports. But remember that organization is key, so having these reports in one place will make your task much easier.

So what can we do? If you’re using BrightLocal, the best solution is to filter by client in Locations Overview. If you’re not using BrightLocal, then you could create a roll-up report if the tool you’re using allows this. 

Locatins Overview Filter

Once you’ve filtered by client or created your roll-up report, you can see the overview and breakdown (see BrightLocal example below) and access those individual location reports at any time.

Locations Overview Filtered BrightLocal

This is your high-level overview. In this summary, 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 give us that granular information that we require to scale out citations. Below is how this looks at a single-location level in BrightLocal.

Citation Tracker Report

Now that we know our current situation, we can start to identify 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.

  1. No Listing Found. Just as it sounds. This means your business is not listed on a site.
  2. 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 does not match the information displayed on a site.
  3. Duplicate Listing Found. This means that there are two listings present on a site.

So, how do you evaluate the importance of the three opportunities above?

Citations help build 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’, then that’s an opportunity to build a fresh citation or increase the frequency and quantity of the citations you have. 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’s a ‘Listing Found But With NAP Errors’, there’s an opportunity to clean up inconsistencies. When search engines like Google crawl the internet, they use your NAP data 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 isn’t 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 removing duplicate listings, you ensure that users are finding the correct listing with your correct data. This will impact rankings in a positive way and make sure that anyone visiting your business or website from a citation will have the right information.

How to Create a Priority List of Citations for You and Your Team

It’s good 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).

Competitor citations

If you’re looking to do this step for 50+ locations, it’s worth reaching out to your platform’s support for guidance or help with this. Forming a strong relationship with a support team member will be very beneficial if you have questions or concerns in the future, and they’ll certainly appreciate the size and complexity of what you’re dealing with.

Sometimes I’ll 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. 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 citations are built in the most natural way.

Determine a schedule that’ll allow you to scale out citation building or fixing for all of your locations. This way, you’ll see the results you seek the fastest. When I do ongoing citation building, I’ll build 10-15 citations every other month, though some people 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 show you how to prioritize your opportunities and get you on your way!

If you’re doing this on your own (without the help of support), you’ll 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 Builder Campaign’ button in the screenshot below.

Build Citation Campaign

My rule of thumb is to always start with data aggregators. Since they feed the ecosystem, they’ll give you a jump-start! Most platforms will allow you to go through and select which citations you’d like (since you’re doing this without the help of support). To do this, utilize the CSV you put together in the previous section.

Prioritize accordingly:

  1. Fix existing citations / remove duplicate listings
  2. Ensure you have correct data on aggregators
  3. Acquire new citations based on value

This process can be repeated for all of your locations, but this may not be feasible if you have 50+ locations. 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 they’ll make your tasks way easier. I’ll just leave you with a reminder of these two notes:

“ Being organized is like being in control.”

and

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Kyle Goodchild
About the author
Kyle Goodchild is an Associate Manager of SEO at Walmart Canada. He is focused on scaling the online grocery experience and leading the local SEO strategy and initiative.