Local Search and Citations Defined
A local search citation is any online mention of the name, address, phone number (and website) for a local business. There are many websites where a local business can get a citation. These include actual local business directories, news sites, blogs, classified ad postings, social media platforms, apps, and private blogs. Citation building is a key ranking factor in improving your SEO and page rank. It is important for a local business to have NAP + W accuracy across all listings.
What is NAP + W?
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number and the W means Website. As good SEO practice for local search, you should make sure that your NAP + W information is consistent across the board on every website you are listed on. For the sake of consistency, your NAP + W information should look very similar to this example:
Archmore Business Web (Name)
2nd Floor 309 S State St. Westerville, OH 43081 (Address)
FAQ: Are Citations and Backlinks the same?
Yes and no. A local search citation can include a link back to your website, which essentially counts as a backlink, but by definition, a citation must include all NAP information about your business while the W (in NAP + W) is the actual backlink. To be technical, this is called a "naked anchor text backlink."
For example, if our URL was not linked in our listing, then it would still count as a citation, but obviously we don't have a backlink. Using ourselves an an example, this is what a citation without a backlink would look like. As you can see, the website URL is just plain text and doesn't take you anywhere.
Archmore Business Web (Name)
2nd Floor 309 S State St. Westerville, OH 43081 (Address)
FAQ: Can I have multiple (duplicate) listings for the same business?
That is a negative. Flat out no. Doing this will only anger the search algorithms gods and penalize your local search rankings. Even if you are a service area business and plan on providing service to different areas, you do not want duplicate listings in every area that you serve. The general rule is you should only have one business listing per address and don't try to use a friend's house or PO Box for multiple business addresses (unless you are really conducting business from that address). Unscrupulous digital marketers have tried this in the past tried with SAB (service area business) companies such as HVAC repair companies. At one point in time, there were shady marketers making Craigslist ads offering to pay people $50 to use their home address to get a business listed on Google My Business in different areas of the city and when Google caught onto it, the punishments were severe and all of these businesses got suspended.
However, if you really do have more than one business in a different location, then it is perfectly fine to have a separate listing for each business (ie: you have multiple pizza shops in different cities). If you are a service area business with only one physical location, but deliver goods or services to multiple areas and cities, then you will need to implement SEO for your Service Area Business. in the form of landing pages. Remember: DO NOT create multiple Google My Business listings operating out of your friend's houses or PO Boxes within different cities.
FAQ: Can I have multiple businesses running out of the same address?
Yes. The best example of this Walmart. For example, their main Google My Business page is Walmart Super Center, but they also have departments such as Walmart Bakery, Walmart Automotive and Walmart Vision and Glass for example. Each department has a unique phone number (or in this case extension). You will notice that each department has their own Google My Business page and is basically a separate business entity. The same rule applies to the Subways, hair salons and nail salons operating out of a Walmart Super Center. Having the same address for each unique business will not penalize your local search rankings because the name is unique, the phone number is unique and the website is unique.
If you are a smaller business, you can do the same thing, but you should have a unique phone number for each separate business. If the phone number for your plumbing business is the same as your graphic design business, then there will definitely be red flags. Google has been known to suspend GMB listings because of this. Having a duplicate phone number for multiple businesses could be detrimental to your local search rankings, so invest in a second line.
Do not Try to Game the [Local Search] System!
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT add keywords as your business name. For example, our business name is Archmore Business Web. We do not want to do this: "Archmore Business Web Design, SEO and Digital Marketing in Columbus, Ohio." Unless that is "really" your business name and it appears on all NAP citations, then you do not want to add keywords to it, because Google algorithms will know that you are trying to game the system and your Google My Business page might get suspended. As a rule of thumb, keep things consistent and don't attempt to do manipulate keywords into your business name on other directory sites either. Trust me, Google knows what you are doing and they have known this for quite some time. Artificially adding keywords to your business name will not help with your local search results. This strategy may have worked pre-2010, but do not try it now. If you try to game the system, then the Google algorithm gods will invoke their wrath upon you and you and utterly destroy you by suspending your listing. The suspension is only temporary (you will have to make the appropriate corrections), but getting reinstated is time consuming and you really don't want to waste time dealing with that.
How does NAP information affect Local Ranking Factors?
Having consistent NAP information will affect a website's ranking factor in local search and it is quite significant. According to Moz, having consistent NAP information is a good 8 percent in maps and 13 percent in organic search results when it comes to determining how well your website ranks in local search. The on page signals of NAP information relating to local search results are a whopping 14 percent for maps and 24 percent for organic search. If you add those up, the ranking factors for consistent NAP information becomes 22 percent importance in your Google Maps ranking and 37 percent importance in determining organic search results! Therefore, it is extremely important to remain consistent with your NAP information if you want to dominate the local search results.
Optimize Your Google My Business Page first
If you want to rank in local search in Google, then you need to optimize your GMB page. Since Google is still the primary search engine used by just about everyone, it is important to optimize your Google My Business Page. Your listing for Google My Business can be claimed by sending a postcard to your business address. Once you've claimed this page, you will use this as your primary directory page. Once you have set up and claimed your Google My Business page, then every other directory site should match the NAP + W information that is your Google My Business page. Google My Business support representatives have also stated that in order to rank better for local search results, you need to optimize your GMB page as well as your website.
Choosing the Right Primary Category for your Google My Business Page
Important for Local Search: Make sure you choose the correct category the first time. If you change your mind and decide on a different category for your business, then you will be forced to re-verify your business listing again. Google does not mess around when it comes to Google My Business pages, so you should not either.
Secondary Categories for Local Search
You can add secondary categories to your Google My Business page, but when you add these, make sure that it makes sense to the customer. Do not add a category just for the sake of thinking that you will get a hit for a specific keyword, because Google does not play like that. I have included some examples below showing what you should and should not do when choosing your Google My Business categories:
Examples of how to implement Google My Business Categories
- "Papa John’s" offers pizza takeout and delivery but does not offer on-premises dining. It should use the category "Pizza Delivery" and additional category "Pizza Takeout" (instead of the less specific "Delivery Restaurant" or "Takeout Restaurant").
- "Navy Federal Credit Union" should use the category "Federal Credit Union" (rather than the less specific "Bank").
- "Super 8" is a motel with an onsite swimming pool. It should use the category "Motel" rather than "Hotel" and should not include "Swimming Pool" as a category.
- "24 Hour Fitness" should choose the category "Health Club" (and not its amenities "Gym" or "Swimming Pool").
- "A1 Check Cashing" should use the category "Check Cashing Service" (rather than the less specific "Banking and Finance").
- "Wendy’s" is a fast food hamburger restaurant that also offers some desserts on its menu. "Wendy’s" should choose the category "Fast Food Restaurant," and the additional category "Hamburger Restaurant," but not use the category "Dessert Restaurant."
It is important to follow the guidelines above. These are specific examples that Google drafted out, so they are not based on opinions, but facts. For more information, please read Google's Guidelines for representing your business by category.
Citation Building for Local SEO
BrightLocal is a powerful local search SEO checkup and citation tracker that we use to monitor and track citations. Here is a list of local search sites that made BrightLocal's Top Citations listings. You can get a directory listing on all of these websites for free. Make sure your NAP + W information is consistent across each directory website. These 50 websites allow you to obtain citations with NAP + W backlink to your website.
To optimize your local search results, we would recommend creating and citation on all of the following BrightLocal recommended websites:
Do you need help managing your NAP + W local search citations? Learn more about our digital marketing services. Do you need a new website? We also offer website design solutions so your business can stay ahead of the game!