A decade ago there were numerous consumer sites that people used to find local business information. Now the landscape is dramatically different with only a few sites (and apps) capturing the bulk of local consumer eyeballs. As I have said previously, Google/GMB is increasingly the alpha and omega of local search.
This raises the question of the value of citations and whether SEOs and local marketers should continue to invest energy in identifying and cleaning them up. Local linkbuilding clearly matters; what I’m talking about here is name, address and phone number consistency and directory profile optimization.
The key ‘horizontal’ sites
In my informal poll of local SEOs (Myles Anderson, Mary Bowling, Miriam Ellis, Adam Dorfman, Dan Leibson, David Mihm, Phil Rozek, Conrad Saam, Darren Shaw and Andrew Shotland), the sites below were consistently mentioned as important local citation sources. Some people don’t consider GMB, Bing or Apple Maps to be local directories/citations in the traditional sense, but I’ve included them in this list (U.S. only).
Consensus general local citation sources
After these horizontal sites, SEOs said it’s important to address vertical directories relevant to the specific industry of the business in question. Key examples here include TripAdvisor, HealthGrades, Avvo, Zillow, Thumbtack, Houzz and WebMD, among others.
Phil Rozek said, “To the extent you spend time researching citation sources, I suggest focusing on industry (niche) sites.” BrightLocal’s Myles Anderson added, “A well maintained, review-rich listing on these types of sites have value beyond purely Google ranking. They’ll drive high intent customers direct to a business.”
Finding your verticals
Many SEOs recommended a specific methodology to determine which sites beyond those in the table to invest in. Andrew Shotland says, “It’s pretty straightforward. The highest priority directories besides GMB and Apple Maps are those that you know your customers use and those that appear in Google results for your target keywords.”
May Bowling, however, said businesses and agencies should optimize listings for any directories that:
- Show on the first page for searches for my brand name.
- Show on the first page for my brand name+reviews.
- Show on the first page for searches for my category(s).
- Show on the first page for my top non-branded search terms.
- Show on the first page for searches for my location.
- Show on the first page for the brands most important to my business.
Miriam Ellis agreed: “Whatever ranks on the first 3-5 pages of Google for a business across a particular geographic market … is what matters to that business.” Darren Shaw of Whitespark also recommends looking through the top three pages of Google results to see what directories or sites rank for branded queries. He also suggests searching Google for the company’s top 5 competitors and see what sites appear.
Cost + time vs. ROI
According to Phil Rozek, SEOs should also consider any directories where consumers might write reviews for the business. But he also recommends asking whether “would-be customers would ever use the site.”
Finally, Myles Anderson says, “The budget/time allocated to citations as part of a local marketing campaign is pretty small, unlike the ongoing cost of content creation, link building, on-site optimization, reputation management.” He argues it’s a “one-time spend [without] ongoing cost” and therefore believes that that time/budget invested in citation clean-up is still worth it.