A Google Map citation is data about your business location that’s published across the web consisting of your business name, street address, city, state, zip code, and website URL. Your business citations typically appear in directories and other website resources that search engines use to determine the accuracy and relevance of your business location.
What are Google Map Citations for Local SEO?
The most authoritative Google Map citations for local SEO are those that are consistent with your Google business page.
The way you publish your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) on external websites and directories should be an exact match to the NAP on your Google business page.
Listen to our recent podcasts on citation distribution
For example, if my Google business page is published with the following NAP:
Then every published Google Map citation on external websites and directories should be an exact match to that NAP.
If there were citations that spelled out the word “Suite” where my Google business page used the abbreviation “Ste”, then I would be creating inconsistencies with my citations, which would dilute the authoritative and impact of that particular citation source.
The businesses with the most authoritative citation portfolios are those who pay attention to these seemingly minor details.
By creating consistent Google Map citations across multiple sites, you’ll be creating a highly authoritative citation portfolio that will help you compete at the highest level in local search results.
What is a local citation?
A local citation is a data set made up of seven data points that collectively make up a local citations. Those seven data points are:
Your business name
Your business street address
Your zip code
Your business phone number
Your website URL
These seven data points make up what we call a local citation.
What are local SEO citations?
Local SEO citations are citations (local business data) published across the web with the goal of ultimately increasing the rankings and visibility of a business in Google local search results, or Google Maps. Local SEO citations also contribute to reinforcing the validity of the exact location of a local business.
One of the most common questions I get as it relates to Google Maps citations is what are local SEO citations?
In a lot of ways, the two terms are one and same.
Meaning, a local business builds Google Map citations in order to build consistency and authority of their business data across the web.
And if you are building Google Maps citations for the purpose of increasing your rankings and visibility in local search, then you are in essence engaging in local SEO citation building.
What is citation link building?
Citation link building is when you include your website URL as part of your citation. When you build a citation for your business that includes a website URL, you are engaging in the process of citation link building.
Some people argue that citation link building is not a truly link building strategy.
However, I would argue that citation link building is not only legitimate, but it can be a powerful way to build massive amounts of authority back to your website, which is typically referred to as domain authority.
For example, let’s say you are doing local SEO for lawyers and you add include your law firm in the Findlaw directory.
Your citation (business data) on Findlaw would naturally include your law firm’s website URL.
Findlaw.com carries a DA91 (domain authority of 91) the last time I checked.
This means, including your website URL as part of your Findlaw citation means you just built a link back to your website from a DA 91 level site.
That’s a super strong and contextually relevant link to have pointing back to your website, regardless of whether you consider that link building or not.
What is a citation portfolio?
I’ve mentioned the term “citation portfolio” a couple of times already, so let me quickly explain what this means.
A citation portfolio is the collection of all citations for your business published on the web.
If you have 150 citations published for your business across 150 different websites and directories, then these citations collectively make up your citation portfolio.
This is similar to a stock portfolio that’s made up of shares from 150 different companies.
Google Map Citations for Local SEO Are Similar To Backlinks
Citations for local SEO purposes are similar to backlinks to your website. Google uses citation analysis when determining the rankings for local search results, just like they use backlink analysis when determining the rankings in organic search results.
When it comes to citations for local SEO rankings, it’s important to remember that not all citations are created equal. Google will consider many different variables in their citation analysis such as:
The relevance and authority of the citation source.
The volume of citations for your business.
NAP consistency in your citations.
The relevance and authority of the citation source.
When building out your citation portfolio, it’s important to consider the relevance and authority of the sites where your NAP is published. There are two characteristics of authoritative citation sources for your business.
#1: The relevance of your citation sources.
The relevance of your citation source depends on location and category of your business. For example, if you are a florist in Atlanta, Georgia, the most relevant citations (NAP’s) for your business would be in a directory specifically for florists in Atlanta. Finding hyper local directories like this can be challenging, so it may require some research to dig them up. But putting in the time and effort is worth it because highly relevant citation sources can give your local rankings a substantial boost.
#2: The authority of your citation sources.
The authority of your local SEO citations refers to the domain authority of the websites or directories where your citations are published. For example, Yelp.com is a highly authoritative site for citations because it carries a PR7 (PageRank of 7) on their homepage.
However, it’s important to remember that that mainstream directories like Yelp are where all of your competitors are more than likely listed as well. Which means having a citation on this site, although authoritative, doesn’t necessarily differentiate your local business from your competitors.
This is where hyper local directories can give your local rankings a substantial boost. Having citations published on the mainstream (authoritative) directories is almost a given, but the hyper local directories will give you relevance that can far exceed that of your competitors.
#3: The volume of Google Map citations for your business.
The volume of citations for your business refers to the total number of times your NAP is published on the website. Each unique domain represents one instance of your local business citation. For example, if you have a citation published on Yelp, YP.com, and Best of the Web, this would equal three total citations within your citation portfolio.
There are many different tools you can use to increase the volume of citations for your business such as Moz Local and Yext. However, as I mentioned previously, these tools will get you into the mainstream directories in a relatively automated fashion, but they won’t help you getting into hyper local directories. For the purposes of achieving citation volume distribution, using one of these automated solutions is definitely the easiest path to go.
When it comes to local SEO, citations are almost the equivalent to backlinks in organic SEO. Improving the authority and volume of your citation portfolio (the total makeup of your citations) is one of the best ways to improving your rankings in Google local search results (Google Maps).
One of the most common questions I hear is how do I improve the citations to my local business?
And hopefully this article will help to answer that question and put you on the path to higher rankings in Google local search.
NAP Consistency of Google Map Citations
Finally, the consistency of your local citations are critically important, as I mentioned at the opening of this article.
Ultimately, Google grades citations based on the quality of the overall portfolio. And when you have a citation portfolio full of inconsistent NAP’s, this dramatically dilutes the authority of your portfolio.
The more consistent your citations are across your portfolio, the more power you’ll be feeding into your local search rankings.
Schema Language For Your Onsite NAP’s
Schema language is a structural protocol adopted by Google, Yahoo, & Bing with the purpose of making it easier to determine certain datasets within web pages. I like to refer to Schema language as direct data that enhances key data sets within web pages. Direct data is particularly relevant when it comes to local SEO.
You can view the full hierarchy of Schemas, or direct data sets, here. There’s even a new paradigm of Schemas called autosthat are designed specifically for modes of transportation.
The point in leveraging Schema language, or direct data sets, is they dramatically enhance the authority of your webpages within your local market. Sticking with the 80/20 rule described above, the majority of local businesses (the 80th percentile or more) have no idea what Schema language means. And to be honest, based on my own conversations, most have never even heard of the term. This means, if your business website leverages Schema language for key direct data sets, you would be in the minority (the 20th percentile) and your website would be exponentially more authoritative in your local market. And since Google considers both yourbusiness website and your Google business page in determining local search results, this is a key strategy to understand.
How Google Map Citations Improve Your Local Search Rankings
I’ll conclude with talking about how Google Map citations can improve your rankings in local search results.
Citations are really just one piece in the overall puzzle of the local search algorithm. Because you are able to control the creation and distribution of your citations, any local SEO consultant worth their weight will advise you to focus on building out an authoritative citation portfolio.
The more citations you have in your portfolio, and the more relevant that are to your location and business category, the more authority you’ll be adding your Google business page compared to your competitors. And the more authority your Google business page has comparatively, the higher your local business will rank for targeted keyword phrases.
It’s important to know that citations alone will not give you a top ranking in the local search results. There are many other factors to focus on while engaging in your local SEO strategy.