According to Whitespark:
A citation is any mention of your business out on the web, with or without a link. It can come in various forms:
- Company name, by itself.
- Company name & phone number.
- Company name, phone number, & address.
- Company name, phone number, address, & link.
- Even just the phone number by itself can be a citation.
Are there different types of citations?
There are two types of citations:
Structured citations which are found on business directory sites like Yellowpages, TrueLocal, StartLocal etc.
A local structured citation will look something like this:
Unstructured citations are all other mentions of your business NAP either in full or even partly. For example if your business is mentioned in an online newspaper article or blog post or linked to as a sponsor for some event, then that all counts as an unstructured citation.
This is an example of an unstructured citation (from weekendnotes.com):
Are they important?
Without access to Google’s super secret search algorithms it is impossible to tell exactly how important citations are, but most Local SEO experts agree that they are definitely one of the higher ranking factors in local search.
In the most recent Moz Local Search Ranking Factors survey citations were the 3rd most important factor overall.
But it goes beyond simple ranking.
Citations can bring people to your website outside of Google’s local search pack. Consider them to be like virtual referrals or digital word-of-mouth. These mentions, particularly unstructured citations, tell people about your business within the context of something else.
So maybe they weren’t even searching for your business specifically but having seen it displayed as a sponsor of an event they’re attending; linked to by a blogger whose advice in all things foodie they trust; or mentioned in an article about how to plan the perfect wedding, they’re more inclined to check it out.
Remember, Google is great but don’t rely on her for all your traffic!
Are some citations better than others?
Quality matters with citations, just as with most (all?) things in life. One mention on a .gov.au or .edu.au website is worth a dozen spammy, low-quality directories and websites.
Inconsistent citations confuse humans (are these two similar sounding businesses the same or different?) and prevent Google from trusting the data about a particular business.
Examples of inconsistent citations are:
- A difference in the business name (i.e. Smile Dentistry vs. Smile Dental Clinic)
- A wrong street address, a typo in street address numbers, or a missing suite number
- A wrong or different phone number
Google is pretty smart though and can pick up the differences between St / Street so don’t get hung up too much about those!
I’ve found the easiest way to prevent inconsistencies is to stay organised and write everything down from the start.