What Is A Local SEO Citation?

A local SEO citation is a fundamental factor in local SEO optimization. Here's how it works, why it is beneficial to your business, and how to improve local search rankings.

In local search engine optimization (SEO), local SEO citations are mentions of your business name, address, and phone number (commonly known as NAPs) on a website that is not your own. Google's local algorithm views NAP information as a signal of relevancy and proof that you are a legitimate local business and that you are actually located at the address listed in your Google My Business profile.  

What Is A Local SEO Citation?

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Why Local SEO Citation Matter

Local SEO citations play an important fundamental role in local SEO optimization (read this article What is Local SEO? to learn the basics). When you're just starting out, you need citations to show up in local search results, and therefore citation building, as well as citation management, are key activities that search marketers include in managing a local SEO process.

Google's local algorithm always tries to return the best local businesses for each local query. Websites are displayed based on relevance and importance, and citations are a key factor in relevance.

Your citations help Google verify that you are actually located where your website says you are. When Google scours the Internet and sees that a number of reputable websites list the same information about your business, including your NAP contact information (name, address, and phone number), it learns to consider you a legitimate local business. This increased trust increases the likelihood that Google will show your business in its local search results.

Similarly, when the algorithm sees that your NAP details are listed on more local websites, it begins to equate the number of listings with the importance and popularity of your business. This can also lead to an increase in local rankings

Here's Why Citations Are Important

What Is A Local SEO Citation?

Improve Local Search Rankings

Citations are considered a ranking factor for local SEO optimization. Having your business listed in trusted online directories sends signals to Google to improve its confidence that your business exists.

The number of listings, the accuracy of your listings, and the quality of online directories can affect how Google perceives your online presence.

That's why it's important to choose your citations wisely. 

Page 1 Results From Piggy Back

Another underrated benefit of creating citations is that some online business directories dominate page 1 of local searches. Sites like Yelp and YellowPages tend to consistently rank high for most local searches.

So if you can't beat them, join them! These online directories offer other opportunities to gain space on page 1.

Gain Referral Traffic

Many people are loyal to different citations, such as Yelp for restaurants. Many foodies are trained to check Yelp when looking for a new restaurant before going to Google. 

Listing in as many potential directories as possible can gain valuable referral traffic. 

Which Local SEO Citations Do You Need?   

There is no definitive list of must-have referral sources for businesses, as each vertical - and each city - often has its own important referral websites, which may include your local chamber of commerce, reputable online directories, yellow pages websites, or an industry-specific business directory. Sites like Facebook, Google, Yelp, Apple Maps, and Foursquare are well-known referral sources for all businesses, but you'll need to do some research to identify the referrals that will be most visible to your audience.

Not sure where to start? Use a local citation search tool. Check out Whitespark, a company that offers local SEO and citation creation services. On their website, you'll find the best local SEO websites by country and the best local SEO websites by industry. Do a quick Google search for your location and industry and rate the top three results. These are the citations that will be most beneficial to your business. 

What Is A Local SEO Citation?

How To Choose The Right Local SEO Citations

With all the citations out there, you may not be able to get your company into every citation. Whether it's time or cost constraints, you may find it difficult to narrow down your list.

Even if the amount of citations is large, you shouldn't stress out because you can't get your business into every citation. Guess what, that's probably a good thing!

If you are using a tool, there may be a limit to the number of directories it syncs with.

When deciding which citations to list your business in, a good rule of thumb is to start with the most relevant online business directories for your industry.

There are several online listings of top industry citations by business category:  

Moz Local Citations By Category

WhiteSpark Best Local Citations by Category

After you've built your list of online business directories specific to your industry, you'll want to get a list of general citations. BrightLocal has a great list of some of the most popular directories.

The best online business directories are the ones that potential customers actually use.

For example, many people use directories like HealthGrades to actively search for a doctor. This directory not only establishes the relevance of healthcare businesses but also generates referral traffic.  

How To Get A List Of  Your Local SEO Citations

Citations can be present on websites even if you don't add them manually. Many relevant and authoritative local directories or sites accept each other's data feeds when they get listings, so your information will automatically be passed downstream. If you have a new business and need to be listed on citation sites, there are 3 methods you can use to get citation opportunities:

Manual submission (do it yourself): You or a member of your team manually enter the data into the listing sites one by one. This is a time-consuming process, but it ensures that your information is absolutely correct on each site.

Manual submission (pay someone): There are several services that can handle the manual submission of NAP data for you. If you don't have the bandwidth to add your information to citation sites yourself, you can pay a service to do the process for you.

Aggregator submission: You can work with a service like Whitespark or BrightLocal to submit your NAP data to major data aggregators, which will feed your information to hundreds of other sites.  

Provide As Much Information As Possible

In addition to the basic NAP information, citations can also include other details about your business. Whenever possible, be sure to include things like your hours of operation, a detailed description of your business, your logo, and a professional email address that people can use to contact you.  

Consistency Is Key

Since citations are the foundation of your SEO, it's important to make sure they are correct. Make sure your business name is always spelled correctly and does not include additional keywords. Your physical address and phone number should also be consistent across all sites. Incorrect, incomplete, or duplicate NAP data on different citation sites can be a red flag to Google's algorithm.

If you think you have consistency issues with your NAP data (due to a move or change in call tracking provider, for example), you should clean up your citations by updating incorrect information. This can be done manually using citation auditing tools such as those offered by Whitespark or BrightLocal, or you can pay one of these services to handle the entire process for you.  

How To Optimize Local SEO Citations

There's more to citation management than just getting your business online. To truly optimize your online presence, there are a few factors to keep in mind.

NAP Consistency

NAP consistency is having a consistent name, address, and phone number across all listings. Several independent studies have shown that NAP consistency can be a factor in local SEO optimization.


Business descriptions can help improve local search rankings by adding your local keyword research. They can also help search engines better understand your business.

Link to Website

What Is A Local SEO Citation?

Many businesses simply link to their homepage. However, a better approach is to link directly to the location page. This reduces the steps users have to take to get the information they are looking for and has the same effect on search engine optimization.

Business Category

What Is A Local SEO Citation?

Some citations, like Google My Business, allow you to select secondary categories. This can help you rank for targeted secondary keywords.


Adding photos of your business can help improve customer conversion rates and help you rank for image searches if you optimize them properly.

My advice for optimizing images is to optimize the image file name and alt text if the directory gives you the option.


What Is A Local SEO Citation?

Having great reviews not only helps you gain new customers but also improves your search ranking. Google looks at reviews on third-party sites to assess the quality of businesses.  


Neglecting local SEO citations is a business risk as it can hurt online search rankings and lead to business stagnation. As this is the core data of the business, accurate citations will have a positive impact not only on the web but also in terms of revenue and customer trust.

FAQs About Local SEO Citation

How do you make a citation for SEO?  

A local SEO citation is any mention of your company's name, address, and phone number online. Many SEOs believe this is a critical ranking factor for local SEO optimization. Citations appear in many different places: business directories, social networks - anywhere someone might look for information about local businesses.  

What are citations in Google my business? 

Citations are any mention of your business name on the web, even if those mentions are not directly related to your website. Citations can include local listings, review websites, and your Google listing.  

What are local citation services? 

Local citations are any online mentions of your business name, address, and phone number. These can include local business directories, social media, and mapping apps. 

What is NAP in local SEO? 

This is where the NAP (name, address, phone number) comes in. According to Moz, NAP consistency is one of the most important factors in local SEO optimization.

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