A citation is any mention of your business out on the web.
Citations are used by search engines to weigh both the accuracy and popularity of businesses for the search results. It can come in various forms and consists of any combination of one or more of the following four items:
- Company name,
- Company address,
- Business phone number,
- Web address.
It does not matter whether the mention provides a link to your website or not. These come in various formats, following are examples:
- Company Name, by itself.
- Company name & phone number.
- Company name, phone number, & address.
- Company name, phone number, address, & link.
- Company name with web address
Citations play a key role in the ranking of a local business page in a local pack and the Local Finder as well as the overall “findability” of a business, when people are looking for a business in their area. When a business wants to be shown in the top 3 or have higher visibility overall, one of the key tasks is to clean up and claim their citations.
A structured citation is the presence of your business on other websites and/or business directories such as Google+, Yelp, Foursquare, Bing, and Yellow Pages.
An unstructured citation is the presence of your business on newspaper websites, other business websites, or blogs.
A citation campaign is the marketing practice of building citations for a local business on a variety of websites.
Generating citations from many sources, especially those within your immediate local, is less of a factor in local SEO than it was just a few years ago. Today the rule of thumb for citations is “quality over quantity”, while still having a healthy number. Remember the quality and authority of a directory linking to your website has an impact on the ranking power of your listing.
Citations are important to your local SEO efforts in two ways:
- Targeted customers perspective – citations from other websites will bring more credibility and attention to your business. This will give your business the opportunity to be contacted by those visitors to that source website.
- Search engine perspective – citations are picked up and matched to your main business website, even if it only includes the name and phone number. Search engines will return information of your business based on the needs of the local search.