A citation is any mention of your business out on the web (other than your own website), with or without a link to your website. As long as the citation can be recognized as connected to your business it has value. Keep in mind that accuracy and consistency of the information is vitally important and has an impact on the value search engines award it.
Citations can come in various forms:
- Company name.
- Company name & phone number.
- Company name, phone number, & address.
- Company name, phone number, address, & link to website.
Even just your phone number can be considered a citation by search engines as it is unique to your business.
A complete citation should include your company name, full address (street address, city, state, postal code), and phone number (NAP). A citation that does not include all three of these elements is referred to as a partial citation.
Why Do Citations Matter?
Citations are a key factor in local search rankings. According to David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors report, citation related factors make up 25% of the top twenty ranking factors. Citations have a huge impact on your website's search position ranking! and of all the SEO actions that can be taken, citations are one of the easiest and quickest ways to improve your local search rankings.
Commonly accepted Local Search Ranking Factors are:
- Citations: 25% (your company NAP on other websites)
- Reviews: 25% (customer reviews on other websites)
- Links: 25% (links pointing to your website)
- Website: 20% (your own website)
- Miscellaneous: 5% (factors only search engines know...)
Priority of SEO work should be:
- you need an optimized website;
- then clean and build number of citations;
- then get customer reviews;
- then build Links to your website.
But even without a company website, citations are a major priority and will improve your local search ranking.
The most common citations are found on business listing sites like yellowpages.com, yelp.com, insiderpages.com, etc. Citations on these websites are referred to as structured citations.
Citations can also often be found on blogs, newspaper websites, event listing websites, job websites, supplier websites, etc. These are referred to as unstructured citations and can be extremely valuable to your local rankings.
Not All Citations Are Created Equal
There is huge variation in the SEO value of citation websites. A mention of your business' name, address, and phone number on a website like wikipedia.org is worth far more than a mention of your business on some spam loaded website that was created solely for low quality link building. Citation quality is directly related to the quality and ranking of the website your citation is found on. A great example of selecting your friends carefully...
If you have any questions about citations, please leave them in the comments. We'll answer them publicly which adds to the conversation and information.