The importance of local SEO has increased considerably over the last few years, especially with the rise of mobile devices usage on the go. In fact, a recent report by Google indicates that the use of words like “near me”, “closest”, or “nearby” in search queries has more than doubled in the last year.
One key factor that determines how well you rank in local search results is the quality and quantity of citations and NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistency across your citations. Citations are the occurrences of your business information online or on different websites, including your own website, social accounts, directory sites like Angies List or Yelp, blog posts, newspaper articles, and the likes.
It is, however, unfortunate that citation inconsistency is actually the most prevalent issue with local SEO. It can range from something as harmless as using different forms of names, addresses, or phone numbers (like Company Name vs. Company Name Ltd.) to something extremely misleading like giving the wrong information on different sites (like when you have recently changed your business location).
How citations impact SEO
Citations can be structured, like on foursquare, or unstructured, like a mention on a blog post. Whichever the case, citations offer the following benefits:
• They help customers find you
• They impact local search ranking because search engines rely on the consistency of your business details in online databases
• You don’t need a business website to create citations and share business contact information
Since Google has to manually review business details for millions of companies, it uses data points that it can process programmatically to establish your rankings. To determine your rank in local results, Google scans the internet for mentions of relevant details like your business name, phone number, address, website URL, and a variety of other data points.
Google then compares those details to other data sources, like major data providers, post office records, telephone records, or state business filings. So, your local search rankings are significantly influenced by whether or not Google is able to find details concerning your business on the web and other data sources, as well as whether the information they find is consistent and coincides with that provided on your website of Google+ page.
If this information is not consistent, Google (as well as other search engines) will not have the confidence that your business is real and active, and that the information available is accurate. The result is lower ranking compared to your competitors with more consistent listings – and this is the best case scenario. In the worst case, searchers looking for your business will find contradictory or inaccurate details about your business, leading to confusion and missed opportunities for leads, conversions, and sales.
Cleaning up inconsistent citations
It is important that you clean up and update incorrect citations, build new citations, and enhance your online profile with as much relevant data as possible to improve your local search rankings.
To accomplish this, consider:
• Auditing all your listings
• Removing duplicate and incorrect citations
• Updating all listings
Keep in mind that search engines strive to show the most relevant, accurate, and current results to searchers. You would not like it if you consistently got incorrect business data and locations from searches. So, play your part in making it easier for search engines to trust your citations and for customers to find you.