Citation Optimization: How Does Your Data Get Messy?

local citations for local seo | seo without borders

As your business’s reach continues to expand, incorrect citations will inevitably start to appear over time,
and in some cases, they may not even be a result of your own mistakes or those of your employees.

For this reason, it is wise to conduct a local citation optimization audit every few months to ensure that your information is correct in as many listings as possible so that the vast majority of the information being fed into search engines is consistent with your listing in your Google My Business account.

Google & Citations for Local SEO

Google’s search ranking signals are becoming more and more reliant on listings in non-Google directories for search engine placement for local keywords. The sites in which on-site geographical information most correctly matches the information found on the various directories are being rewarded with favorable search placement.

In a nutshell, the information on your site has to match what’s on the directories as exactly as possible.

While some directories are more important than others, and directories related to your business’s industry and location are especially influential, your information must be consistent across them all to get maximum local SEO value.

You have an advantage if your business is new, so you need to take the time and effort to ensure that you submit to as many high quality and niche directories as possible, especially those that are related to your business. If you are able to submit fresh listings that do not yet exist, you can control what the listings say and ensure that they include accurate information and are uniform in appearance.

However, if your listings are already active on the various directories across the web, there’s a significant chance discrepancies exist.

Common Mistakes with Local Citations

Discrepancies and errors can be defined as:

  • Misspelled words
  • Variations in the business name (i.e. ‘West Michigan Transmissions’ vs ‘West MI Trans’)
  • Variations in address listings (i.e. spelling out terms vs. using abbreviations)
  • Variations in phone numbers
  • Varying links to URLs
  • Wrong phone numbers and addresses

So how does this happen? Directory listings were likely submitted by different individuals at different times, resulting in a lack of continuity between the listings. Or perhaps your business moved, changed phone numbers, or has multiple phone numbers depending on the department.

Or, perhaps in the past you subscribed to the services of a web marketing company who as part of the contract set up landing pages that they own, on domains that they own, with phone numbers that they own – and adjusted the directory listings to point to all of this information. Quite frankly, this happens a lot.

This becomes a big problem because now that you’ve cancelled your subscription to their services, all of these directory listings now point to a domain that you don’t own – a domain that no longer has a website (or worse yet, hosts a website for a different business now), displays a phone number that is either disconnected or forwards to another business, etc.

In some cases, incorrect listings were submitted to the data aggregators or scraped from other websites,
corporate records and online directories to the extent that they have become extremely widespread.

After all, a single incorrect citation, particularly on a popular website, can multiply very quickly if not dealt with quickly.

Let’s look at how Infogroup, for example, gathers data:

Let’s also not forget that maintaining clean data is not all about SEO. You’ll also be turning away a lot of potential customers if they find that the phone number or address provided in the listings they see leads them elsewhere.

Not only that, but if Google sees too much conflicting data, they may create a duplicate listing.

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Julian ConnorsCitation Optimization: How Does Your Data Get Messy?