What Are Local Citations?

The development and maintenance of local citations, frequently utilizing a local citation service, is a crucial component of an effective local SEO plan. As a business owner not yet leveraging the benefits of citations, it’s essential to explore these straightforward assets that can significantly enhance your SEO efforts.

What are local citations?

Local citations refer to the online publication of a business’s details. For local business owners, creating these citations is a fundamental step in increasing your online presence and credibility.

The information included in a local citation is primarily the business name, address, and phone number—also known as NAP data. A link to your website can also often be included, and this link naturally has SEO benefits.

Adding your business information to directories and other third-party websites will help consumers to find your business online. Doing so also serves to boost how authoritative and trustworthy Google considers your business to be—more on this later!

Below you can see a typical example of a local citation. 

What Local Citation

Types of local citations

There are two different types of local citations—structured and unstructured structured citations

Structured Citations

Structured citations are a primary form of local citation, involving your business’s listings on relevant business directories and third-party websites. These sites are significant, already-established databases of business information that are trusted by search engines like Google.

For structured citations, it’s crucial to be listed on directories that are most pertinent to your industry. In more general directories and on various websites, selecting the most fitting category for your business is vital. This aids in helping search engines, like Google, comprehend what your business offers, thereby directing the right customers to you.

Unstructured Citations

On the other hand, unstructured citations refer to instances where your business’s key details are mentioned on a webpage, but the information isn’t systematically organized together. This often occurs when your business is referenced in an online news article or a blog post. An example of this could be a mention of your business in a piece published by Westgate Resorts. These unstructured citations, while less formal, still contribute significantly to enhancing your business’s online visibility and credibility.

In the example provided, the name of the bar is mentioned several times within the text, with its address and phone number being featured towards the end.

While unstructured citations may not be as readily identifiable to search engines compared to structured citations, they hold significant value in local SEO.

The effectiveness of unstructured citations is determined by three key factors:

  1. Location: The geographical relevance of the citation to your business.
  2. Industry Relevance: How pertinent the citing source or content is to your business sector.
  3. Website Authority: The credibility and influence of the website where your business is mentioned.

These elements collectively enhance the impact of unstructured citations on your business’s online presence and search engine optimization.


When your business is mentioned on a website with a strong connection to your local area, it tends to be more valuable than a mention on a site lacking this local link. This is not only in terms of potential SEO value but also in the likelihood of local residents discovering your business through this mention.

Industry Relevance

Being featured on websites relevant to your industry or niche is beneficial for SEO. It also ensures that your message reaches an audience that is already interested in your sector. For instance, if you own a bakery and a nearby café mentions your products on its website, this is likely more advantageous than a mention on a textile company’s site, as the former is more relevant to your field.

Website Authority

The authority of the website where your unstructured citation appears, often referred to as domain authority, is a critical factor in determining the citation’s value. A citation on a website with high domain authority is generally more beneficial than one on a website with lower authority. This is because domain authority is a recognized indicator of a website’s potential to rank well in search engine results, particularly in Google’s algorithm.

Core components of local citations

Indeed, NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information is the cornerstone of local citations, essential for ensuring consistency and accuracy across various listings. Beyond NAP, local SEO citations can include a range of other features:

  1. Company Website: The URL of your business’s website, providing a direct link for more information.
  2. Opening Hours: Details about when your business is open, crucial for customers planning visits.
  3. Business Description/Category: A brief overview of what your business does and the industry category it falls under.
  4. Driving Directions: Instructions or a map link to help customers find your physical location.
  5. Images: Visuals that represent your business, such as photos of the location, products, or services.
  6. Social Media Profiles: Links to your business’s social media accounts for enhanced engagement.
  7. Email Address: Contact information for email inquiries or communications.

Additional features might be available depending on the platform or directory. For instance, Manta allows businesses to include all the aforementioned elements along with separate tabs for extra contact details, further business specifics, and customer reviews. This comprehensive approach aids in presenting a more complete picture of your business to potential customers and search engines, enhancing both visibility and credibility.

Similarities and differences of Links & Citations

Citations and links are indeed influential factors in both local and organic search rankings, but they serve different purposes and functions in SEO.

  1. Citations: A citation is any mention of your business on the web that typically includes the NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information. Citations can be structured (like in business directories) or unstructured (like in a blog post). They are crucial for local SEO because they help establish the presence and legitimacy of your business in specific geographic locations. Citations tell search engines where your business is located and what it does, which is essential for appearing in local search results.
  2. Links: Links, on the other hand, are hyperlinks from other websites that lead to your site. They are a key component of organic SEO. Links from high-quality and relevant websites act as endorsements, signaling to search engines that your site is a valuable source of information. This can improve your site’s authority and ranking in organic search results.

Understanding the distinction between these two is crucial:

  • Citations primarily boost local SEO by validating your business’s location and existence, enhancing visibility in local search queries.
  • Links contribute to organic SEO by improving your website’s authority and relevance, aiding in ranking for broader search queries.

Focusing solely on one and neglecting the other can limit your online visibility. For optimal results, a balanced approach that prioritizes both building high-quality citations for local SEO and acquiring reputable links for organic SEO is essential. This comprehensive strategy ensures better visibility not just locally but also in the wider online landscape, significantly enhancing your chances of appearing on the first page of search results.

Both citations and links are online references to your business and share several characteristics:

  1. Online References: Citations and links serve as references to your business on the internet. They help in establishing your business’s presence and credibility online.
  2. Third-Party Sites: Generally, both citations and links are found on third-party websites. This includes business directories, blogs, news sites, and other external platforms.
  3. Coexistence on the Same Page: It’s possible for both citations and links to appear together on the same webpage. For example, a blog post might mention your business name and address (citation) and also include a hyperlink to your website (link).
  4. Potential Negative Impact if Done Incorrectly: Both citations and links need to be managed carefully. Poor practices in creating citations or acquiring links can negatively impact your search rankings, especially if they violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Examples of such practices include inconsistent NAP information for citations and acquiring low-quality or spammy backlinks for links.

In summary, while citations and links serve different purposes in SEO, they are similar in that they both are third-party online references that can coexist on the same page and can either positively or negatively affect your search engine rankings, depending on how they are managed. Ensuring accuracy and quality in both citations and backlinks is vital for adhering to best SEO practices and achieving optimal results in search rankings.

Differences between Links and citations

  1. NAP Requirement for Citations vs. Links:
  • Citations: Must include your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP). This consistency in NAP across various listings is crucial for local SEO as it helps search engines verify the legitimacy and location of your business.
  • Links: Do not require NAP information. A link is essentially a clickable hyperlink that directs the user to your website. It serves as an online endorsement or vote of confidence from one site to another.
  1. Clickability and Function:
  • Links: Must be clickable. The primary function of a link is to allow users to navigate directly from the source page to your website, thereby increasing your site’s traffic and improving its authority.
  • Citations: Do not need to be clickable. Their main purpose is to list your business’s NAP information for local search engine optimization, rather than direct website traffic.
  1. Consistency in Citations vs. Variety in Links:
  • Citations: Should be consistent across all platforms. Inconsistent citations can confuse search engines and potentially harm your local SEO efforts.
  • Links: Should be varied. A diverse backlink profile (different sites linking to your website) is beneficial. It indicates to search engines that multiple sources find your content valuable, which can improve your site’s organic and local search rankings.
  1. Impact on Rankings:
  • Citations: Primarily improve rankings in local search results. They are vital for businesses targeting a local customer base.
  • Links: Improve rankings in both organic and local search results. High-quality backlinks from authoritative sites can significantly boost your site’s visibility and credibility in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Understanding these differences is key to implementing an effective SEO strategy that leverages both citations and links to enhance your online presence and visibility.

What do links and citations look like?

Links and citations can indeed appear in various forms, and their presentation often depends on the context and the website they are on. Here are some typical examples of how links can manifest:

  1. Links within Text: Often, links are embedded in phrases or text, providing a contextual background or additional information related to the linked content. For example, a blog post might include a phrase like “For more details, visit our homepage.”
  2. Generic Anchors: Links might be presented using generic anchor text like “click here” or “read more”, which prompts users to click to access further content.
  3. Bare URLs: Sometimes, links appear as the complete URL, such as “http://www.example.com” or “example.com”. These are direct, unformatted web addresses.
  4. Images and Widgets: Links can also be embedded within images or graphical elements. When a user clicks on the image, they are directed to the specified URL. Widgets, which are interactive elements on a website, can also contain links.

Each of these types of links serves the purpose of directing users to additional content or resources, but the way they are integrated into the content can vary based on the design and usability considerations of the website. It’s important for these links to be relevant and add value to the user’s experience to be effective in driving traffic and improving SEO.

There are many different directory sites that you can create listings on. Some of the best platforms for local businesses to build citations are:

What about sites like Google, Facebook, Apple Maps, and Yelp?

These are all technically places where local citations exist. However, as people are engaging with them far more regularly, they require much more management than standard citations sites, which is what we’re exploring here. 

The high level of engagement these giant sites and services receive means that we refer to them instead as part of the ‘engagement layer’ of listings management. Citation sites, on the other hand, make up the ‘authority layer’, as accurate data on these sites helps boost authority with search engines.

Benefits of citations for Local SEO

  1. Trust and Authenticity: Local citations help search engines like Google verify the authenticity of your business. When your business’s NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information is consistently listed across various trusted websites, it helps build credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of the search engines. This trust is then extended to your business, which can positively influence your search engine rankings.
  2. NAP Consistency: Consistency in your NAP information across all listings is critical. Discrepancies or inaccuracies in your business’s name, address, or phone number can lead to confusion for both search engines and potential customers. Ensuring that your NAP information is uniform and accurate across all platforms is essential for maximizing the SEO benefits of local citations.
  3. SEO Benefits Without Direct Links: Unlike backlinks, local citations do not need to include a direct link to your business website to be beneficial for SEO. The mere mention of your business with accurate NAP information is enough for Google to recognize and acknowledge your business’s presence. These mentions help in boosting the trust signals towards your brand, thereby influencing your local search engine rankings.

In summary, local citation building plays a pivotal role in local SEO by enhancing the credibility and visibility of your business. It’s a crucial component of a well-rounded SEO strategy, especially for businesses targeting a local customer base. Ensuring NAP consistency across all citations is key to reaping the full SEO benefits of this practice.

The problem with inaccurate business listings

Let’s delve into the reasons why they can be detrimental:

  1. Decreased Trust from Search Engines: When there are inconsistencies in your business’s citations, it can lead to decreased trust from search engines like Google. Even minor discrepancies, such as differences in spellings, abbreviations, or variations in the business name, can be problematic. These inconsistencies may lead Google to perceive these as separate businesses, thereby diluting the authority and trust that might otherwise be attributed to your website. This misunderstanding can negatively impact your search engine rankings.
  2. Confusion for Potential Customers: Inaccurate listings are not just an issue for search engine algorithms; they also directly affect potential customers. If a customer encounters incorrect contact information or addresses, it can create confusion and frustration. This barrier in communication and accessibility can prompt customers to turn to your competitors instead. Accurate and consistent citations are essential for ensuring a seamless and positive customer experience, which is crucial in today’s competitive market.
  3. Perception of Misleading Information: Google and other search engines aim to provide the most reliable and accurate information to users. If your business information is inconsistent across various platforms, it might be perceived as misleading or unreliable. This perception can affect your business’s online reputation and search visibility.

Therefore, regularly auditing and updating your local citations across all platforms is vital. Ensuring that your business’s name, address, phone number, and other details are consistent and accurate helps maintain trust with both search engines and customers, which is key to a successful online presence.

Did you know? 63% of consumers say that finding incorrect information would actively stop them from choosing your business. Research shows which inaccurate elements cause consumers the most frustration. Unsurprisingly name, address and phone number make up the top three.

Business benefits of building citations

Indeed, listing your business on directories and third-party websites is an efficient and cost-effective strategy for enhancing brand awareness and online visibility:

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Many business directories offer free listings, providing an accessible way for businesses to increase their online presence without incurring additional costs. This aspect makes it an attractive option, especially for small businesses or those with limited marketing budgets.
  2. Visibility in Search Results: When consumers use search engines like Google to find specific services, business directories often appear in the search results. By ensuring your business is listed on these directories, you increase the chances of being found by potential customers. This enhanced visibility can lead to more traffic to your website and potentially more business.
  3. Opportunity for Customer Reviews: Many local business directories allow customers to leave reviews. Positive customer reviews are incredibly valuable; they not only bolster your business’s reputation but also influence other potential customers. High ratings and good reviews can significantly impact consumer decision-making.
  4. Building a Reputation Across Multiple Platforms: The more platforms where your business is positively reviewed and listed, the stronger your online reputation becomes. This widespread presence can lead to increased trust and credibility in the eyes of both search engines and potential customers.

Overall, leveraging free listings on business directories and third-party websites is a smart move for any business looking to enhance its local SEO, improve its online reputation, and reach a broader audience without a substantial financial investment.

Ready to build citations?

Understanding the advantages of building local citations is the first step. To effectively manage this process, utilizing third-party listings management tools can be extremely beneficial. Here’s how these tools can assist you:

  1. Streamlining the Building Process: These tools often provide a centralized platform for creating and managing listings across multiple directories. This can significantly simplify the process of getting your business listed, especially on numerous sites.
  2. Consistency and Accuracy: One of the key challenges with local citations is maintaining consistency in your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information across all platforms. Listings management tools can help ensure that your business information is uniform and accurate everywhere it’s listed, reducing the risk of discrepancies that could harm your SEO efforts.
  3. Time Efficiency: Manually managing citations across multiple platforms can be time-consuming. A management tool automates much of this process, saving you time and effort, which can be better spent on other aspects of your business.
  4. Tracking and Monitoring: These tools often include features that allow you to track and monitor your listings, providing insights into how your citations are performing. This can include information on user engagement, the accuracy of listings, and more.
  5. Managing Reviews: Some listings management tools also offer functionalities for managing customer reviews, which is an essential part of local SEO and online reputation management.
  6. Alerts and Updates: Get notified about any changes or updates required in your listings, ensuring that your business information is always current and accurate.
Franco Breciano

Tech entrepreneur, writes about startups, management, company culture and product design.