SEO Citations Study: How Many Citations Do Local Businesses Have?

SEO Citations Study: How Many Citations Do Local Businesses Have?
Key Findings
  • Local businesses who rank in the top 10 positions in Google Local have an average 81 citations
  • Businesses ranked #1 in Google local rankings have an average 86 citations. Businesses ranked #10 have an average 75
  • Hotels, bars, and restaurants have the highest number of citations. Photographers, tradesmen, and storage businesses have the lowest on average
  • The most popular citation sites across industries are: 1. Facebook, 2. Yelp, 3. Mapquest, 4. Yellow Pages, 5. Manta
  • 5% of local businesses don't have any of the most popular citation sites. For tradesmen, this is 18%!

In local SEO, citations are an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. Keeping your name, address and phone number (NAP) consistent across online directories and local business listings helps Google decide where a business should rank in local search results, and impacts consumers’ trust in a business.

While it’s clear that consistent citations are a necessary foundation for local businesses, there’s little direction out there to help businesses know how many local listings they need to compete in their industry, or which sites to get listed on.

To solve this, we delved into our extensive citation building data and studied the citation profiles of 122,125 local businesses across 26 different industries. Our objective was to find out:

  • How many citations the average local business in each industry has
  • If there is a link between the number of citations and a business’s Google ranking
  • Which business listings and directories are most popular in each industry
  • How many businesses are missing listings on the top citation sites

Jump to the overall findings

Please note: Apple Maps, Google My Business, and Bing were not included in this study as data was unavailable. Take a look at the methodology for more information.

To find out how many local citations your business has, you can find out by signing up for a 2-week BrightLocal trial.

Interactive Industry Reports

To make it easy to benchmark your industry, we created an interactive graphic that showcases the most important data for each industry. Use the drop-down menu in the tool below to explore the citations trends for your industry.

The SEO Citations Study

Download the report for

BrightLocal’s SEO Citations Study uncovers:

  • How many citations local businesses need to outperform their competitors
  • Which citation sites are most popular among local businesses
  • The correlation between citations and local ranking positions in Google results

These findings are based on 122,125 local businesses found using 18,580 related keywords.

Average Citations

have an average of 78 citations

Median Citations

The median number of citations for is 110

Positions 1-3

ranked in positions 1-3 have an average of citations

The Correlation Between Citations and Google Local Ranking for

There is a strong correlation between the number of citations a business has, and how high it appears in Google's search results. Local businesses that rank in positions 1-3 have an average of 85 citations.

Top Citation Sites for

While many local businesses are making use of the most popular citation sites, 5% haven't claimed listings on any of the top 10 sites.

The Average Number of Citations Per Google Local Ranking

BrightLocal SEO Citations Study - Number of Local Business Listings Per Google Ranking PositionWe also grouped the data into the ranking positions 1-3, 4-6, and 7-10 to find the average number of SEO citations for these groups.BrightLocal SEO Citations Study - Number of Local Business Listings Per Keyword Grouping

Key Findings

  • Businesses who rank in position one for a local keyword have an average 86 citations
  • Businesses ranked in the top three have an average 85 citations
  • Businesses in position 10 have an average 75 citations; that’s 11 fewer than top-ranking businesses

When looking across all industries, we saw a strong correlation between the number of citations a local business has, and how high they rank in Google’s local results. In every single industry we looked at, businesses that appeared in the top 3 for a search term had more citations than those in the rest of the top 10.

Of course, it’s important to note that correlation doesn’t equal causation. It could be that businesses who achieve the top positions also excel in other ranking factors as well as citations.


The Average Number of Citations Per Industry

BrightLocal SEO Citations Study - Average Number of Local Business Listings Per Industry

Key Findings

  • Hotels and B&Bs, Bars and Pubs, and Restaurants and Cafés have the most citations
  • Photography businesses have the lowest number of citations
  • The average local business has 81 citations

Across all industries, local businesses who are ranked 1-10 in Google Local have an average of 81 citations. But it’s no surprise to see that some industries are more likely to have a higher number of citations.

Hospitality businesses have the highest number of citations, followed by medical-related businesses.

Hotels, bars, and restaurants rely heavily on listing sites when promoting their businesses. There is an abundance of specialist business listing sites out there for hospitality businesses, and it’s extremely valuable to be visible and accessible in every place that your customers are searching.

Medical-related businesses also have a high number of citations. The average dentistry business has 107 citations, medical practices have 101, and senior living services have 94.

It’s no wonder these are so high: if a consumer wants to be able to trust a business with their health, they need to be sure they’ve done their research.

At the other end of the scale are photography businesses, who have an average of just 34 citations.

Industries With The Most Citations

  1. Hotels and B&Bs
  2. Bars and pubs
  3. Restaurants and cafés
  4. Dentists
  5. Medical practices

Industries With The Fewest Citations

  1. Photography businesses
  2. Tradesmen
  3. Storage and removal businesses
  4. Accountancy and finance businesses
  5. Cleaning services

However, there’s no magic formula for citations. The best benchmark you can set is against your local competitors. If other providers have a presence on a site, you need to make sure you’re competing in the right places.


The Most Popular SEO Citation Sites Among Local Businesses

BrightLocal SEO Citations Study - The Most Popular Online Directories and Local Business Listings for Local Businesses

Business listings on Google My Business, Apple Maps, and Bing were not included in this study. More on the methodology here.

What Are The Most Popular Citation Sites?

  1. Facebook (84% of local businesses have a business listing here)
  2. Yelp (80%)
  3. Mapquest (72%)
  4. Yellow Pages (71%)
  5. Manta (71%)

We identified the citation sites used by the largest number of local businesses and grouped these across all industries.

While having a competitive number of citations is important, it’s equally important to ensure these are in the right places. Every industry has a different set of popular citation sites, with many having a presence on niche directories and industry-focused business listings.

Play with our interactive tool to find yours, or download a PDF report for your industry.

We’ve shared the 20 most widely-used citation sites below. How many of these popular sites does your business appear on?

The 20 Most Popular Business Listings and Directories

Citation SitePercentage of local businesses with this citation


The Percentage of Businesses With No ‘Top 10’ Citations

BrightLocal SEO Citations Study - Local Businesses With No of the Top 10 Citations

Key Findings

  • 5% of local businesses don’t have any of the top 10 citations
  • Restaurants, dentists, hotels, pet services, and medical practices are most likely to have business listings on the most popular citation sites
  • Tradesmen, locksmiths, and storage businesses are the industries missing out on the top citation sites

Only 1% of restaurants and cafés are missing out on listings on the most popular sites – despite these not matching up with their own top 10 list. Restaurants are also prevalent on TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Zomato, Citymaps, and Yahoo.

Tradesmen are by far the most likely to miss these popular sites, even though their top 10 list closely resembles the overall popular citation sites. Just 62% of tradesmen have a listing on Facebook – far less than the average 84% across industries!



For this study, we explored anonymous data for 122,125 local businesses across 26 different industries.

To do this, we identified 18,580 local keywords related to common industries and used these to identify the 10 top-ranked businesses for each search term. We then explored these top businesses’ ranking performance and numbers/sources of citations from a significant sample of online directories, review sites, and local databases.

This study omits data from Apple Maps, Google My Business, and Bing, among a limited number of smaller citation sites due to data complexities. While they were not included in the findings of the SEO Citations Study, we strongly recommend that businesses have an accurate presence on these sites to boost their local authority.

For more information on this, or for any questions you may have about the SEO Citations Study’s findings, please get in touch on


Citation building is a key foundation for local businesses’ SEO success, but it takes time, effort, and energy to get it right. To find out how our team of professional citation builders can help you identify the best local citation sites, business listings, and online directories for your business, visit our Citation Building hub

Thank you for reading the SEO Citations Study – let us know your experiences with using citations for local SEO in the comments below. 

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34 thoughts on “SEO Citations Study: How Many Citations Do Local Businesses Have?”

  1. I found this content and format very useful, kudos to the programmers and researchers who put this data together and to an amazing company like BrightLocal… thank you…

  2. Rosie,
    Thanks so much for putting this fascinating survey together!!

    I was looking at the data… have a question about median. It says the median number of citations a local business has is 108. Then it says that the average for the 1-3 spot is 85. The average for the 4-6 spot is 82 and the average for the 7-10 spot is 78.

    I know how medians work (the midpoint in the distribution)… Can you explain why the median is so much higher than the average? I am just trying to wrap my head around why and think there is some hidden gem there.

    Second question: it talks about top 10 rankings in “Google local search” – Please define exactly what that is for me… I don’t think it is referring to the map-based results that show Google My Business listings. I don’t think it is referring to searches with local phrases (ie “Austin Florist”). I think you mean that your made your searches look like they were for local businesses (someone in Austin tying in “Florist” or maybe “Florist near me” ?) nearby the searcher. Can you share some sample search operators for that or discuss how you do “local search” for someone in Austin if you are based in England??

    Third Question: I use your services for several years now. I quite like your tools and they help me out a lot. If I look at one of my client’s “citation tracking reports” it shows “active citations”… say, 128 or something… is this the same reporting you used to arrive at your data above? I would like to be able to show this to my client and tell him/her: “look, you have 128, that is your score” — did you use your own tool for the scoring?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Trent!

      Thanks for reading, and for your thoughtful questions. To answer in short:

      1. The median is high due to the significant number of businesses in the study who have a very small amount of citations. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of businesses with a high number of citations.
      2. We pulled the data looking at local search terms based on a batch of industry keywords (e.g. accounting, Scottsdale accounting, tax accounting Red Bank, accountant near me), that businesses in the industry have chosen to monitor and try and rank for. From here, we pulled in the 10 businesses who rank most highly in Google locally (to the businesses) for each search term. If you’re not familiar with it, you can check local search terms with our Local Search Results Checker:
      3. Glad you like us! Yes, absolutely correct, this is based on our own data.

      Thanks for your comment!

      1. Hello Consulenza,

        This isn’t something we’ve done for this Study, but it’s definitely on my agenda for future studies.


  3. Great article! My only problem is when I try to download the industry highlights for hotels and B&Bs its linked to the Health and Fitness PDF by mistake

    1. Hi Lesley, thanks for letting us know! We’ve now fixed that so I hope you enjoy the report and find it useful.



  4. I agree with the earlier comment about this report being US centric but will have a look at the link you’ve shared. Overall a brilliant piece of information, thank you for putting this together!

    1. Pleased to be of use, thanks Andy! If we repeat this study in the future, we’ll consider location-based splits!

  5. Thank you Rosie for this great Local SEO white paper. Our agency LinkoPlus use BrightLocal tools to manage our clients and it’s a real blessing to have your support via chat or from this blog.

    It’s helping to supppose for a moment that “all other things being equal” so we can focus on specific local ranking factors like the quality and quantity of citations.

    I’m mentioning that because in practice it’s a real challenge to find the best strategie or issues to fix to rank our clients locally on Google. The last Google update beginning of August hit one of our client hard because Google penalyzed sites with low authority while sharing high quality contents taken fron other sources like a content distributor.

    Nevertheless, BrightLocal you rock, keep on you good work!

    1. Hi Ray,

      Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, this isn’t something we’ll be able to do for this one. I’ve listed your feedback so that if we repeat this study (or do similar ones in the future), we factor this into our timelines.


    2. Great study.
      I would be very interested to see UK data too. Its a shame that’s not available as email didnt say anything about geographical focus.

      Judging by my client’s competitors, the UK legal sector appears to be well behind that of the US in terms of # of citations, average and median citations. Its the same for many industries.

      Interestingly, looking at Bright Local’s citation tracking, I cant see is correlation between the number of citations and positions 1-5. In London for example, Bright Local shows our top competitor 0 citations. My client has 46.

      1. Hi John,

        Thanks for your comment – splitting the data into geographic regions is on our agenda for the next time we run this study. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a major difference.

        Absolutely, individual cases don’t always show the same trend. We are very lucky to be able to view this on such a large scale to see a large sample of businesses.


  6. Nice work. I would be interested to know how many of the top three slots in google are occupied by sites with very few if any citations. This would validate the assumption that citations are necessary to rank.

  7. This is a great study. It will be very helpful to use while explaining to local businesses the value of citations. And, whereas they don’t need a MILLION citations, a certain quantity will prove beneficial as part of an overall SEO plan.

    Thank you, and keep the data coming!

    1. Thanks so much, Nikki! Be sure to comment here if you ever have any local SEO data needs – we’ll see what we can do!

  8. Funny, you didn’t show data for “financial” or “insurance agent” which is a more common job (and an under-represented sector in this article) than some reported above…

  9. Hi Rosie

    This is very interesting data and it’s always interesting to challenge the conclusions drawn (so forgive me for playing devil’s advocate!).

    Re. this paragraph under the Key findings section “Of course, it’s important to note that correlation doesn’t equal causation. It could be that businesses who achieve the top positions also focus their time and attention on other ranking factors as well as citations.”

    I think it’s a mistake to assume that all top-ranking local businesses have even heard of citations never mind spent any time on them or indeed any other ranking factor.

    It could be that some of the top ranking businesses acquired their citations as a consequence of ranking top because they will be picked up by more sources by default.

    The data shows a clear correlation but is it actually proof of the implication in the statement “How many citations local businesses need to outperform their competitors” or does the proof actually derive from the empirical testing and observations of gazillions of SEOs over time, watching cause and effect?

    1. Hi Ewan,

      Really appreciate your comment, I always like a challenge! I’ve slightly amended my phrasing here just to make sure my original intention is as clear as possible = that there are always other factors at play!

      Thanks for reading.


  10. Some of the citation sites are US-centric so would need to be excluded in other countries and, in those other countries, the order of popularity of the citations would almost certainly differ also. But a very useful piece of research which I will share with my audience.

    1. Thanks so much Andy – yes we were impressed by some of the citation profiles of the industries! Really pleased you enjoyed the report.

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