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

SEO Citations Study: How Many Citations Do Local Businesses Need?
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 search, SEO citations are an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. Keeping your name, address and phone number (NAP) consistent across the internet 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 citations 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:

  • The average number of citations for businesses in each industry
  • The average number of citations for businesses ranked 1-10 in Google Local results
  • The most popular citation sites for 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 citations your business has, you can find out by signing up for a BrightLocal free trial.

SEO Citations Study: All Industries

We grouped the data across industries to find out the overall story of local business citations, looking into:

You can read the methodology of this report here, and download PDF reports for each industry.


The Average Number of Citations Per Google Local Ranking

BrightLocal SEO Citations Study - Average Citations 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 Citations 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 local ranking factors as well as citations.

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The Average Number of SEO Citations Per Industry

BrightLocal SEO Citations Study - Average Number of Citations 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 to know how many citations you need to rank in local SEO results. 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.

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The Most Popular Citation Sites Among Local Businesses

BrightLocal SEO Citations Study - The Most Popular Citation Sites for Local Businesses
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 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 niche sites that specialize in an industry.

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 Citation Sites

Citation SitePercentage of local businesses with this citation
facebook.com84%
yelp.com80%
mapquest.com72%
yellowpages.com71%
manta.com71%
local.yahoo.com67%
superpages.com64%
whitepages.com61%
dexknows.com53%
bizstanding.com51%
chamberofcommerce.com50%
citysearch.com48%
buzzfile.com47%
merchantcircle.com47%
b2byellowpages.com46%
local.com28%
yellowbook.com28%
hotfrog.com24%
angieslist.com22%
zoominfo.com19%

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The Percentage of Businesses With No ‘Top 10’ Citations

BrightLocal SEO Citations Study - Local Businesses With No 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 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!


 

Methodology

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 content@brightlocal.com.

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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 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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About the author
Rosie Murphy
Rosie manages BrightLocal's delivery of research and survey pieces. She heads up data-driven content such as regular polls, webinars and whitepapers, including the Local Consumer Review Survey.

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