Local SEO Citations for Google Maps
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).
Listen as I talk about this issue on our latest SEO Secrets Podcast
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.
Two citation distribution platforms for higher Google Maps rankings
We use Moz Local to gain citation distribution for our clients in the four major local business data hubs. The four primary sources for local business data used by all major search engines are: Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual.
These four data sources are used by major mapping applications such as Bing, Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Facebook.
Getting your citations accurately published in these four data sources can help you scale the distribution of your local business data across hundreds, even thousands, of local business end points. And since you can control the accuracy of your local business data in Moz Local, you can control the accuracy of your business data in these four major sources.
The downside to Moz Local is the speed in which distribution is achieved. We’ve seen it take as long as 6 months to achieve 100% distribution in the four major data sources with Moz Local.
But, it’s well worth the wait to achieve the authority of these distribution end points.
We use Yext to achieve speed and efficiency in the distribution of our client’s local business data. With Yext, you get instant access to 55+ local business directories. Your local business data will also be distributed to major mapping applications such as Google Maps, Apple Maps, Facebook, Bing, Yahoo, & Yelp.
When using a combination of both Moz Local and Yext as your local business citation strategy, it’s important to make sure your local business data are exact matches in both systems.
See a full list of our data end point partners for citation distribution.
If you have a discrepency between Moz Local and Yext, you can end up with a large scale of inconsistent data published across the web.
And this inconsistency can cause downward pressure on your local rankings in Google Maps.
The best way to ensure your local business data is accurate in both platforms is to use your Google My Business listing as the starting point.
Make sure your profiles in both Yext and Moz Local are exact matches to your Google My Business listing.
Google Map Citations for Local SEO
Google Map Citations are instances of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) that are published on external websites and directories. Search engines use citations to determine the accuracy and relevance of your business information.
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.
For example, if my Google business page is published with the following NAP:
855 Gaines School Rd, Ste A
Athens, Georgia 30605
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 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.
Comparing Yext and Moz Local
- $499 per year
- Distribution into the 4 major data aggregators: Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, Acxiom, Factual
- Dashboard for updating all listings from one locations
- Once you cancel, your listings are severed from the Yext API and become subject to the standard verification process of each data source.
- $99 per year
- Distribution into the 4 major data aggregators: Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, Acxiom, Factual
- More of a hands on process where you need to fix listings as they are identified as inconsistent
- Your listings will continue to live on in these locations.
Again, these are valuable tools in achieving the goal of volume with your local citations. But I strongly recommend using Google to search for hyper local directories that are relevant to your specific metro area and business category.
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.
Direct data, in the example of local SEO initiatives, would refer to data such as your NAP – your business name, address, and phone number. There are many other Schema or direct data sets that can also be leveraged in your web pages depending on your type of business. For example, if your are a lawyer, your law firm’s website and local SEO strategy can leverage direct data sets specifically for attorneys, which you can view on the Schema website at https://schema.org/Attorney.
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.