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Expert Local Citation Survey 2016

Expert Local Citation Survey 2016
Key 'Takeaways' From This Post
  • 90% of local experts say accurate citations are Critical or Very Important to local search ranking
  • 86% of local SEO experts say quality of citations is more important that quantity of citations
  • 'Industry Relevance' is the most important factor to consider when choosing which citation sites to use
  • 33% of local SEO experts say Niche / Industry Directories offer the greatest authority
  • Correct address formatting on Citations is Important but not Critical, say 21 local search experts
  • 62% of local search experts say rich citations are Essential or Very Important

[Update 19/12/19: This study mentions Acxiom. Since retiring its directory and local search offerings in 2019, Foursquare has stepped in as one of the main four data aggregators.] 

Welcome to the Expert Citation Survey 2016. This study takes a deep dive into the world of local SEO citations with the help of 21 local search experts who have provided their experience, knowledge, and insights. This is the 3rd time we’ve run the survey, having published previous editions in 2013 & 2015.

We asked our local SEO experts 17 questions that would discover how relevant citations are in 2016, how important they are for local businesses, and current best practices for building and cleaning up citations.

Citation survey participants

Huge thanks to the 21 local citation experts for taking the time and effort to give us their insights for this research. You can find the full list of participants below the survey findings and their sage quotes throughout.

Survey Questions:

How important are Accurate Citations to local search ranking?

accurate local citations
Key Findings:
  • 33% say accurate citations are critical to local search ranking (vs 55% in 2015)
  • 57% say accurate citations are very important to local search ranking (vs 45% in 2015)
  • Not a single expert says that accurate citations are Not Important

90% of the experts say that accurate citations are Critical or Very Important to local search ranking, which is the same as in 2015. However, last year 55% said accurate citations were ‘Critical’ but that figure has fallen to 33% in 2016, indicating that the relative power of citations has lessened while other factors have greater impact.

Quick reminder: in the 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors, External Location Signals (which includes citations) made up 13.6% of the overall ranking factors, down from 15.5% in 2014 & 16% in 2013. So Citations are still important to local SEO but their impact is waning.

Expert Quotes:
“Having accurate citations for a business is par for the course. Regardless if a brand has 10 or 10,000 locations, the local listings need to be accurate and monitored ongoing for discrepancies, ensuring users are able to successfully contact and visit the business”. – Nick Neels, Location3
“Correct NAP is essential at all times!” – Sam Austen, Creare
“Citation building isn’t a special strategy in local SEO anymore. It’s tables takes and everyone should be doing it and taking data consistency seriously.” – Dev Basu, Powered By Search

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Are Citations more or less important now than 12 months ago?

how important are local citations?
Key Findings:

  • 10% say citations are more important year on year
  • 19% say citations are less important year on year
  • 71% say they have the same importance

19% of the experts rate citations as less important vs 2015, with only 10% saying their influence has grown year on year. The large majority (71%) say their importance has remained the same.

We can see in this study that, since 2013, there has been steady decline in the perceived importance of citations. So why is this?

The primary reason is that Google has invested heavily in building up its own local data set to a point where it trusts the quality of its data more and more. When it comes to confirming the data it holds, Google looks to certain authoritative sites such as Yelp and Foursquare, and they pay less and less attention to the data held by smaller, less authoritative sites whose own impact and fortunes are in steep decline.

So, whilst citations are still very important, other factors such as traditional rankings factors (e.g. links) now carry more authority in local search.

Of course, ranking factors go in cycles. Links were recently confirmed by Andrey Lipattsev Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google), to be one of the top 3 organic rankings signals. But we also know that links themselves have had a very chequered past, so putting all our SEO eggs in one basket is never a good idea.

Expert Quotes:
“My opinion on citations hasn’t changed for the past few years. They are important, but they are only a small piece of the puzzle and I think the local community focuses too much on them. Get the Aggregators right and directories that bring you business and rank on industry search phrases and spend the rest of your time elsewhere… probably link building” – Mike Ramsey, Nifty Marketing

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What is more important, quantity or quality of citations?

quality of local citations
Key Findings:

  • 86% say quality of citations is more important than quantity (vs 71% in 2015)
  • 5% say quantity of citations is most important (vs 10% in 2015)
  • 10% say the same  (vs 19% in 2015)

Year on year there’s a big upturn in the importance of quality citations over quantity (+15%), and since 2013, that stat has risen by 22%.
By ‘Quality’ we mean the type of sites citations are built on. Quality sites are ones which are more relevant to a business &/or have higher domain authority – see next chart for more detail on this.

However it’s worth remembering that quantity is still important in certain scenarios. For example, in competitive markets such as Attorneys or Dentists, a business may have to build a certain number of citations just to have parity with their competitors. So there needs to be a sensible balance, but one with a focus on building citations on high authority sites first.

Expert Quotes:
“Citations in local SEO are a lot like links in traditional SEO. Back in the day, everyone just bought a lot of links because they helped rankings. Sheer quantity was more influential than quality. Then Penguin hit and sent the SEO industry reeling. I hope the local SEO industry learns from history and sees that citations are headed in the same direction. It’s only a matter of time before the local algorithm becomes refined enough to penalize businesses with citations that are irrelevant to their vertical.” – Cori Graft, Seer Interactive.
“Look at your competitors who are doing the least work with citations and yet getting great results. Try to get the same citations they have because they are doing the least amount of work and getting the best results as opposed to looking at the competitor who has 100’s of citations. I bet the competitor who has fewer has the ‘right’ citations. Remember it’s not the quantity of citations that wins, but the quality of those citations.” – Matthew Hunt, Powered By Search.
“The quality of citations continues to trump the need for simply having a massive amount of low quality citations on questionable directories.” – David Kelly, Location3

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What level of importance do these factors have when selecting citation sites to use?

importance of local citations

N.B. We asked the experts to credit each of the above factors with a ‘low’, ‘medium’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’ rating, and created a score based on their responses.
‘Offer Follow Backlink’ is new for 2016, so there is no year on year comparison.
Key Findings:

  • Industry Relevance & Local Relevance are considered the most important factors
  • Domain Authority is 3rd most important factor
  • Design of Site & a Follow Backlink are of lesser importance

Industry Relevance comes out as the most important factor. Industry specific sites are important because they give Google a clear understanding of what product or services a business provides. Because of their industry focus these sites have typically have deeper, more unique content which Google loves and so they rank well for targeted search terms. These 2 things combined means that these sites often deliver more targeted leads for businesses.

Similarly, Local Relevance provides Google with valuable insight on your location and areas served.

Whilst Industry and Localness are key, it’s also clear that there are a number of other factors to consider when deciding which citation sites you want to be listed on.

Expert Quotes:
“By building high quality, industry relevant and local citations you get a good mix for your business. It will help to build some links too, using white hat methods. Also ensure your business is listed on relevant pages. For instance there is no point paying for premium listed citations if the site isn’t getting a good amount of views in your specific category. For premium listings think about return on investment (ROI). Research relevant categories and look out for declining / rising directories to ensure you’re getting the best for your business.” – Sam Austen, Creare

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Which type of sites offer the greatest authority for structured citations?

local citations and authority

N.B. ‘Event Sites’ is a new category for 2016 so there is no year on year comparison.
Key Findings:

  • 33% say that Niche/Industry Directories have greatest authority (vs 32% in 2015)
  • 19% say Local Directories have greatest authority (vs 9% in 2015)
  • 24% say that all types of sites carry the same authority (vs 9% in 2015)
  • Event Sites offer the least authority (5%)

structured citation is a business listing with a clearly defined presentation of business name, address & contact details. On many sites these listings will use ‘structured mark-up’ (e.g. to make it easy for search engines to correctly interpret the data.

Whilst Niche / Industry Directories offer the greatest authority for structured citations, the rating for Local Directories has jumped up since 2015. At the other end of the scale, the general authority of large, National Directories has declined significantly.

As we saw in the previous chart, Industry Relevance & Local Relevance are considered the most important factors, and so these type of sites deliver higher all-round value as citation sites.

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Which of these sources of unstructured citations do you favour above others?

 unstructured citations seo

*Experts were asked to select up to 3 types of site
Key Findings:

  • Industry Associations are rated the highest (25% vs 17% in 2015)
  • Local Business Groups (19%) & Local News Sites (15%) are also very useful

Unstructured citations typically don’t use a defined presentation of business data & don’t use specific mark-up to present the data. Often they will not be complete listings and display basic or even partial NAP mention.

Industry Associations & Local Business Groups come out top of the list. This is because they are comparatively more easy to get a listing on than other sites and they are ‘industry’ relevant which, as we saw above, is very important.

The high authority that comes from a listing on a local Government site makes them appealing sources of citations, but their preference among local experts dropped considerably year on year (from 20% to 8%). They do offer valuable listings but the difficulty in securing a listing makes them harder to achieve so many SEOs don’t target these sites.

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Do you update existing wrong citations or build new citations first?

fixing local citations

Key Findings:

  • 48% say you should update existing citations first (vs 45% in 2015)
  • 48% say you should do a mix of Update & New together (vs 50% in 2015)
  • 5% say build new citations first (vs 5% in 2015)

Local experts are split on whether to update existing wrong citations first or to tackle existing & new citations at the same time. However, since 2013 there has been a definite trend towards updating existing citations first.

It’s clearly important to clean up any existing data issues as these will hamper your local ranking and limit the impact of building new citations can provide. Doing a full audit of your existing citations before you start is always advised, then you can build new citations safe in the knowledge that you have a strong foundation.

Quick plug – using our Citation Tracker tool you can get a full citation & NAP in less than 5 minutes so please try it out!

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How important is it to merge or delete duplicate citations?

duplicate local citations

Key Findings:

  • 71% say merging or deleting duplicate citations is ‘Very important’ (59% in 2015)
  • Just 5% say it’s ‘Not very important’ (vs 5% in 2015)

Dealing with duplicate citations is a very important task to tackle and despite the fact it’s often a tricky, time-consuming process, it’s importance has grown year on year. 76% of local experts say it is either Very Important or the MOST Important thing to do.

This only reinforces the importance of having a clean data set that doesn’t confuse Google.

Expert Quotes:
“For a business with no citations or with considerably fu*ked up NAP issues, addressing citation issues can often be the key to increasing visibility in both local packs and the organic section of local SERPs…but our tests have shown that in competitive markets fixing citations can get you in the packs, but they are far less effective at moving you up in the pack results if you are already there.” –Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide

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Does address formatting need to be 100% perfect or do small differences not matter?

address formatting and local citations

Key Findings:

  • 5% say address formatting must be 100% consistent (vs 18% in 2015)
  • 57% say address formatting is important but not critical (vs 59% in 2015)
  • 29% say this is not an issue (vs 14% in 2015)

Most experts agree that address formatting is important but not critical. However there is a growing trend towards this becoming less of an issue (29% vs 14% in 2015). Likewise, only 5% said address formatting must be 100% consistent (vs 18% in 2015).

FYI, respondents selecting ‘other’ provided the following responses:

  • “Address formatting is important, but it’s difficult to achieve perfect consistency due to normalization on some sites.”
  • “Somewhere between important and not an issue”

Expert Quotes:
“When I’m talking about address formatting I’m referring to small differences specifically such as North Being abbreviated as N or LLC at the end of a business name vs not having the LLC. I haven’t seen what I would consider major issues with this. That being said I am all for best practices if you’re creating new citations. Regarding if it’s worth the time and effort to update incorrect old ones I would say no unless you spot a specific issue where you’re not given credit for it.” – Casey Meraz, Ethical SEO
“Each directory may have its own address normalization or reformatting process, resulting in addresses being changed from “100 Main Street” to “100 Main St” or visa versa. So while this type of normalization is controlled by the directories, the concept of address validation needs to be controlled by the brand. This means each location’s address and geocodes (latitude and longitude) are verified to be accurate, so when listings are distributed, the data is highly accurate and the address is recognized by all directories. Too many times have I seen locations using outdated street addresses or highly inaccurate geocodes, both of which result in a poor user experience.” –  Nick Neels, Location3
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How important is ‘richness’ of citations?

using rich citations

Key Findings:

  • 62% say richness of citations is Essential or Very Important (vs 45% in 2015)
  • 29% say richness of citations is Fairly Important (vs 50% in 2015)

When we talk about ‘rich citations’ we refer to listings that contain additional data such as a description, photos, opening hours, payment details etc.

We can see that these type of listings are growing in importance over time, with 24% of experts suggesting that rich citations are ‘Essential’ (vs 18% in 2015) & 38% saying that they are ‘Very Important’ (vs 27% in 2015).

A business listing is akin to a landing page for your business where you can inform & pitch to customers before they even reach your website. Therefore an incomplete listing has reduced value and limits your ability to convince a prospective customer to contact you. But if you add photos, a full description, product details & opening hours, you have a better chance of turning browsers into leads.

In the following chart we take a look at which additional data is most important to feature.

Expert Quotes:
“Citations go beyond name, address, and phone now, and consumers are expecting robust content online if they are to engage with a local business.” – David Kelly, Location3
“Richness of listings is HUGELY important — and not just from a data perspective, but from a customer perspective. If we’re doing our jobs well enough, people shouldn’t ever have to visit our websites. They should be able to get all the information they need to make a purchase decision from our local listings.” – Cori Graft, SEER Interactive
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Aside from NAP details, which additional data is most beneficial to citations?

which additional data is most beneficial to local citations?

*Experts were asked to select a max of 2 answers. This is a new question for 2016 so there is no year on year comparison.
Key Findings:

  • 39% say that a website link is most beneficial
  • 37% say that category is most beneficial
  • 16% say opening hours are most beneficial

Getting a backlink from a site & choosing the correct category are considered the 2 most important factors, beyond having a correct NAP.

Backlink – passes link value through to your site which has obvious benefits to both organic & local rank.

Category – this is increasingly important as it informs Google about what your business does. Using an incorrect category can confuse Google’s understanding of your business which can hurt your ability to rank for relevant keywords.

Expert Quotes:
“Always build and update with as much information as possible. Logos, opening hours and sales emails increase brand awareness even if they don’t help the SEO ranking.” – Sam Austen, Creare
“Citations is one of the cheapest, most effective link building tactics around” – Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide
“Richer listings… are far more engaging and useful for customers than just a stamp of your NAP.” – Cori Graft, Seer Interactive
“Reviews on third party sites will also continue to be an important part of the mix. In addition to optimizing the “richness’ of citations and ensuring listings contain additional data such as ‘description’, ‘photos’, ‘opening hours” it is important to help business owners develop a review strategy for these sites.” – Colan Nielsen, Sterling Sky

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Do you think it’s best to build citations quickly or steadily over time?

speed of building seo citations

Key Findings:

  • 29% say citation building should be an ongoing process (vs 38% in 2015)
  • 29% say citation building should be done over 3-6 months (vs 19% in 2015)
  • 19% say you should build as many citations as you can now (vs 5% in 2015)
  • 19% say it depends on your existing scenario

There’s a real mix of results here, but the top 2 responses suggest that citations should be built over 3-6 months, and that citation building should be an ongoing process that never ends.
19% of experts say that it depends on your existing quantity of citations. This is important because a new business can build 50 citations right away & see some good impact, but for an existing business, this may not even touch the surface. So each scenario deserves its own strategy.

A lot also depends on the level of competition in each industry or location, so it’s useful to benchmark against competitors and then gauge what citation work needs to be done.
There is also an increase in those experts who suggest building as many citations as you can right away (19% vs 5% in 2015).

Expert Quotes:
“I’ve always built my core citations all at once. Since the citations get crawled, indexed, and recognized by Google at different times after they go live, it doesn’t really make sense drip-feed your core citation building. Additionally, the pages initially have zero page authority, so the older they are, the more authority they’ll acquire. Besides, if your competitors have a large gap between their citation count and your’s, why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to catch up as quickly as you can?” – Dev Basu, Powered By Search
“I’ve said this for years now: stop obsessing over citations. Get solid on the top 30-40 generic listings, and on your niche listings, and move on.” – Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System

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For a new business vs. existing business, do you fix/build citations at the same velocity?

new business citations

*This is a new question for 2016, so there is no year on year comparison.
Key Findings:

  • 38% say you should build citations at the same speed for new or existing business
  • 33% say you should build citations faster for a new business
  • 19% say it depends on the business and location

Once again we see that there is some split on the best practice here, although most agree that building citations faster for a new business delivers value for that business quicker. An existing business is likely to already have some listings so many of those top citation sites that you want to get listed on, may already be in place.

For a new business, you’re starting from zero, so there’s more building work to do and a nice clean slate to start from!

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For a new business, how many citations do you aim to build within the first 1-2 months?

building local citations over time
*N.B. This question is new for 2016 so there is not year on year comparison.
Key Findings:

  • 29% say a new business should build 30-50 citations within the first 1-2 months
  • 29% say a new business should build 50+ citations within the first 1-2 months
  • 29% say it depends on the site

The experts are split on how many citations exactly should be built for a new business, but most agree that at least 30 within the first 2 months is the correct starting point.

A new business can tick all the right boxes by getting listed on some of the top citation sites no matter what industry they operate in. Here, we list over 1,000 citation sites for over 41 business categories.

Expert Quotes:
“One problem I noticed recently is the indexation of citations. Some people get too caught up building the citations and forget to see if Google ever sees them. I recommend force crawling the URL’s to ensure they get indexed, found, and that you get credit for them.” – Casey Meraz, Juris Digital

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Which US Data Aggregators do you think offers the best value & distribution?

which local data aggregators offer the best value?

N.B. At request of some experts we added Yelp as an option to the 2016 survey.
Key Findings:

  • 48% say that InfoUSA offers the best value & distribution
  • 24% say Yelp offers the best value & distribution
  • 10% say Factual, Localeze & Acxiom

InfoUSA is rated by the experts as the Data Aggregator which offers the best value & distribution. Not only does InfoUSA have wide distribution (Google buys data from them), they are also committed to scrubbing data and there is no cost for submission.

Yelp is also highly rated, which might surprise many people. As well as being important citation site itself, Yelp has content and review distribution relationships with other services such as Apple Maps and Mapquest.

Interestingly, Localeze has dropped significantly year on year (10% vs 32% in 2015). Localeze is the only aggregator which charges a fee ($299-$399) to add listings to their database so maybe this is why it’s less popular.

Expert Quotes:
“Yelp is one of the primary citation sources. They syndicate their reviews multiple places (Apple Maps etc) and among certain demographics are widely used for local discovery.” – Dan Leibson, Local SEO Guide
“As apps become more and more important, Foursquare and Factual have positioned themselves well in the Aggregator space over the past year, providing robust data sets and APIs for mobile app developers. Apps can be hard to measure compared to typical sites, which has brought additional complication to analysis and strategy, but has offered unique opportunities as well. It will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve, and how the more legacy Aggregators evolve to compete.” – David Kelly, Location3
“If there is one place that needs to be 100% awesome, it’s Infogroup (ow Data Axle as of 2020).” – Mike Ramsey, Nifty Marketing
“Having correct information at the Aggregators is essential if businesses want to be present when new sites, apps, and tools launch.” – Adam Dorfman, SIM Partners

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Which approach to fixing / building citations yields the fastest results?

Which approach to fixing / building citations yields the fastest results?
N.B. This question is new to 2016, so no year on year comparison.

Key Findings:

  • 67% say submitting manually, direct to each site yields the fastest results
  • 29% say that real time distributors yield the fastest results
  • 5% say that data aggregators yield the fastest results

To be clear, this question refers only to the speed of results.

Manual submissions, although very time-consuming, deliver faster results than using data aggregators & real-time networks. This is because many sites will put listings live on the same day or within a matter of days after submission.

Compare this to aggregator submissions which can take upward of 4 weeks to result in live listings/updates on 3rd party sites and applications.

Further below we list the full Pros and Cons for manual and aggregator submissions.

Expert Quotes:
“You need to have your citations correct on the Data Aggregators as they will push out that information. If it’s wrong you’re going to have some issues down the road. On the other hand, you shouldn’t count on this as a way of building a lot of citations. These take a lot of time to process and don’t even seem to have a wide distribution. In 1-3 months you can expect next to nothing.” – Casey Meraz, Juris Digital

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Which approach to fixing / building citations is most cost-effective?

 Which approach to fixing / building citations is most cost-effective?

Key Findings:

  • 57% say submitting manually direct to each site is most cost effective
  • 33% say data aggregators are more cost effective
  • 10% say real time distributors are more cost effective-

To be clear, this question refers to the cost effectiveness of each process.

Submitting manually is more expensive as you end up handling or paying for each listing one by one. So the time/cost is higher.

But manual submissions give you a combination of faster results and greater control over your listings. Submitting manually typically allows you to claim a listing so you have control over it forever more which is very important.

Real-time distribution is typically the most expensive option. These services have limited distribution networks (because they rely on API connections which many sites don’t have) and they charge recurring fees so you pay every month and year to maintain your data within their network. If you stop paying your data reverts back to its original state – which is often incomplete or entirely missing from a site.

Expert Quotes:
“The distinction between manual or not manual is a false dichotomy. We use a mix of aggregators, API solutions (Yext) and manual citation building and claiming to make sure brands that work with us are getting a complete solution to the local business listing problem.” – Dan Leibson, Local SEO Guide

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What are the Pros & Cons of using Aggregators to build citations?

Quick and easy to useExpensive, with costs regularly growing
Easier bulk management for companies with many locationsRich citation content is limited
Helps to build a solid foundationOften create duplication/bad data issues
Cost effective on a small budgetTakes a long time to feel the effects of submissions
Lots of sites buy their dataNo guarantee that data will be picked up by all IYP’s
Good solution for businesses that want a wide reach with minimal laborNo control over listings on the end platforms

Expert Quotes:

“Aggregators are not a quick fix, They often create duplication/bad data issues, even after you have fixed them at the Aggregator!”

  • Andrew Shotland, Local SEO Guide

“Using Aggregators ensures that your business data is correct at the top of the Ecosystem. Data is continually pushed/pulled into the Ecosystem. However, it doesn’t guarantee that your data will be picked up by all the important IYP’s. Data takes a long time to find it’s way through the Ecosystem and eventually get indexed by Google.”

  • Colan Nielsen, Sterling Sky

“Aggregators take forever to “build” citations, if it even happens at all. Also, if you just work on the Aggregators without fixing the downstream listings you’ll have tons of duplicates. Data Aggregators matter from a NAP-consistency perspective. They’re not how you build or fix citations.”

  • Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System

“The Aggregator method doesn’t take care of outdated listings on the myriad of sites the Data Aggregators might have distributed data to in the past. The process of the data getting distributed to the end platforms is long – it might take longer than 6 months. And there is no way to control the listings on the end platforms (unless you later claim them manually, of course”.

  • Nyagoslav Zhekov, Whitespark

“Data Aggregators provide citation growth over time for new or established businesses. These trusted data sources can be called upon and referenced by various directory sites to confirm existing or create new listings in the directories. However, whilst Data Aggregators have a large list of partners, their distribution method generally relies on their partners pulling data, rather than the Aggregators pushing data into those systems. This passive data distribution method means that their partners may not be up to date and may be missing listing data, if the partners aren’t actively pulling in new data from the Aggregators.”

  • Nick Neels, Location3

“The Data Aggregators continue to offer the greatest reach for the least amount of time invested. That value proposition is enticing to many agencies and local search managers, so it’s no wonder that they continue to dominate the local citation building conversation. For businesses that want a wide reach with minimal labor, they are a good solution, if expensive. They can be thought of as the “shotgun” approach, not all sites in the Aggregator networks may be relevant to your business, but you have the opportunity to utilize a blanket approach that can result in notable time savings. However, the cons of using Aggregators seems to increase every year. They continue to be expensive, with costs regularly growing. Utilizing multiple Aggregators can be nearly cost-prohibitive for small businesses. The speed of citation updates from the Aggregators publishing on the directories also has not kept pace with the always on, mobile-first ecosystem, which has made manual citation building and direct relationships more and more important. Aggregators may take less labor time upfront, but with the exception of Data Axle (Infogroup) increased speed, we still see publishing times between 45 and 90 days. Aggregators also limit the amount of expanded content that can be published for each citation. Directories are getting more and more specialized by vertical, which means more thought needs to go into the content of each citation.”

  • David Kelly, Location3

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What are the Pros & Cons of manually building & claiming citations?

Can hand-pick sites you want to be listed onTakes longer than an automated solution
You have complete control over listingsExpensive
You can fine tune listings for each siteTime Consuming & tedious
Allows you to create richer listingsSemi-Permanent
Manual listings get indexed faster & more frequentlyYou may miss sites you don’t know about
Easy to update existing listingsComplicated for a multi-location business
You own your listing rather than “rent” themComplicated to fix problems when directories overwrite your data
Flexibility to spread process over timeIf not done by an experienced person, duplicate/outdated listings may be missed
Can remove duplicate and outdated listings
May seem tedious, but it’s worth the time to have control of your data

Expert Quotes:
“The pros of manually building and claiming allow you to hand pick any sites you wish to be listed on / updated. Any information that you want to be changed can be done with any site idiosyncrasies accounted for. This is however a time consuming job and may not be cost effective for businesses with hundreds of citations. If there are any sites that you do not know about that the business is listed on, then you may miss these off too.”

  • Sam Austen, Creare

“It takes a lot of time because it requires setting up accounts at each place, but you get complete control over listings.”

  • Mary Bowling, Ignitor Digital

“Manually building and claiming citations can feel tedious, but it’s worth the time investment to have control of your data. This becomes especially worthwhile if a business moves and you need to update citations. Manual citation building also typically allows you to create richer listings, which are far more engaging and useful for customers than just a stamp of your NAP. That being said, manual citation building isn’t always the best use of time or money for multi-location businesses. When you’re working with hundreds or thousands of locations, it’s more efficient (and effective) to push a complete data set out through Aggregators and focus on giving a few highly important listings some manual TLC. Which listings you deem “highly important” will depend on the industry you’re in, but as a general rule, it pays to focus manual efforts on listings that people actually interact with. I think of these listings as customer touchpoints, not as data sources.”

  • Cori Graft, Seer Interactive

“The pros of manually building and claiming citations is that you will own it and the access to it. If you ever need to change something in the future you’ll be able to do easily. The biggest con with manual citation building is the amount of time it takes to get these done. It can take many man hours just to fix some of the tricky ones. I suggest just adding 15 minutes a day to your schedule and start building these.”

  • Casey Meraz, Juris Digital

“It’s more time-consuming initially but it gets the job done much better and gets more citations indexed.”

  • Joy Hawkins, Imprezzio Marketing

“If you don’t have pre-existing credentials on already live listings, public edits sometimes take numerous edits to stick if they stick at all. This causes the end customer headaches when they are paying for manual claiming. However, you’re able to reach an entire index with manual claiming & if you’re operating with a team of great magnitude, often times we find businesses live from manual submission on 40 sites or more within 48 hours.”

  • Justin Liles, Advice Local

Citation survey participants:

A huge thanks to the following local citation experts for taking the time and effort to give us their insights:

Survey Participants Survey Participants
Myles Anderson – Sam Austen –
Dev Basu –
Mary Bowling –
Adam Dorfman – Bill Hartzer –
Joy Hawkins – Matthew Hunt –
David Kelly – Dan Leibson –
Justin Liles – Casey Meraz –
Nick Neels – Colan Neilsen –
Mike Ramsey – Phil Rozek –
Darren Shaw – Cori Graft –
Andrew Shotland – Gyi Tsakalakis –
Nyagoslav Zhekov –  

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Ross Marchant
About the author
Ross is the former Marketing Manager for BrightLocal. With 9+ years SEO and content experience, Ross spearheaded the marketing and CRM initiatives which focus heavily on creating useful and informative content. Ross coordinated the research program at BrightLocal which delivers unique insights into both the SEO industry and local consumer behaviours.