Citations are one of those words that gets thrown around by marketing agencies and web companies, but most business owners have no clue what it means (and that’s OK!).
One of our goals here at Contractor Dynamics is to provide the construction industry with best in class resources and education so you can make more informed and educated decisions about marketing and growing your business.
There’s a lot that goes into a successful overall or online marketing strategy, and there’s certainly no magic bullet when it comes to really making a difference and moving your business forward. For that reason, we don’t want to give the impression that citations are this magic thing that, once “solved”, will transform your web presence and propel your website to the top of search engines.
After all, there are over 200 factors in Google’s Search Ranking Algorithm. Some are weighted more heavily than others, but all are pieces of the puzzle.
For local contractor SEO, that is, the practice of positioning one’s website where people in your local geographic area are looking for your services, citations can play a very important role.
Here are the quick bullet points you should know about citations:
- A citation is any instance of a business’ name, address, and phone number on the web. Most citations also include a link to the company’s website. Some citations also include photos and even videos.
- When determining which results to display for a local service search (ex: plumber in Atlanta), Google looks for businesses with lots of consistent mentions on external websites. The best local businesses in a given area usually have prominent and consistent listings with lots of high quality reviews, photos, unique content, etc., so citations are an important factor when Google determines rankings.
- Because of this, there’s a strong correlation between businesses that are ranked in the top 3 results and those with a high volume of quality 3rd party mentions
Citation Consistency in Construction SEO
Believe it or not, the format of your citations is extremely important. Google (and other search engines) want to see that your business information, specifically your Name, Address, Phone (NAP) is in a consistent format around the web. If you’ve heard of the term NAP Consistency before, now you know what that means.
For example, if your address is 1234 Main Street, there may be instances of your address online that show as 1234 Main Street, and there may be some others that show 1234 Main St. (street being abbreviated). This alone is not going to make or break your online marketing efficacy, but several dozen citations that are inconsistent can make a difference.
Consider another very typical example. Many times, and for many reasons, contractors will change their business’ mailing address. It might be changed from a PO Box to a physical office, a home to a physical office (or the other way around), or the contractor may have actually moved houses or offices. When this happens, the result will be different mailing addresses showing up for a single business. This produces widely varying citations and confuses Google. As a result, a business that has multiple mailing addresses (or web addresses) online is not going to rank as well in local search as one that has consistent citations across the board.
So how do we fix that?
The ideal situation is that there is one Name, one Address, one Phone Number, and one URL for a local construction business. If that’s not the current situation for your business (which is more common that you would think), the solution is a very manual process called citation clean-up or citation organization.
The process of citation cleanup includes:
- Defining the real NAP of the business
- Making a list of current citations
- Filtering the citations that need to be corrected
- Logging into each citation source to correct the information
- Where login info is not available, the course of action is to email or call the citation sources to inquire about updating your information
- In many cases, email and phone confirmations are necessary in order to update the citation info
As you can imagine, this takes a lot of time and manual work. It can also take days or weeks to get responses from various citation sources. And consider that an established business could have 50-100 citations, or even more, the process can last months. While it may not be possible to achieve 100% citation consistency, 90% is a reasonable goal for an established business.
How Does This Affect Your Business?
If you’re doing any sort of search engine optimization (SEO), citation consistency is something that you definitely don’t want to ignore. Google has a hyper local focus. Their goal is to serve up the most relevant, local search results for any given search. One key way that Google’s bots determine “local” and “relevant” is by looking at the quantity, quality, and consistency of your citations.
If you’re paying for an ongoing SEO service, this is something that your web or marketing company should be doing (among other things). So if you’re not sure it’s being done for you, be sure to ask your web company. Ask them to do a citation audit to ensure that your citations are as consistent as possible.
Citations are one of those things that may seem inconsequential, but for local SEO, when combined with other consistent best practices, they can make difference that is difficult to overestimate.