Citation Building and Cleanup for Local SEO’s Can Be a Lot of Work.
This Guide Will Help You Make Sure They Count With Google.
The Dilemma Many Local SEO’s Face When It Comes To Citations
We have all been there…
You and your team work hard to get the foundational work for your local SEO clients right.
This includes creating local business citations on a number of highly relevant or high-quality business listing sites.
Maybe you pay a citation building company to do this tedious but important work.
Perhaps you simply grab the top 15-20 main citation sites and a few industry-specific sites and call it a day.
But now what?
The listing is done and it looks great!
Name. Check! Address. Check! Phone number. Check! Website. Check!
You give it a couple weeks and then you check to see if Google has added the new business listing to their index.
You could just sit back and wait, and hope, and pray. In reality, you may never see your beloved citations show up in Google’s index.
I don’t know. The internet is a big place and maybe they can’t crawl it all.
It could be some of these citation locations have bad technical SEO or lame site architecture that limits how much Google crawls.
No matter what the reason, what can be done to fix the problem?
That’s where this guide comes in.
Some of the ideas and suggestions seem simple, but they work. I will show you how and why (in detail).
This post is a product of a test that was done on the Local Search Forum and I thank all who helped and provided feedback along the way.
Why Does Getting Your Citation Indexed In Google Matter?
There are many more qualified experts on this subject than I am, but one look at the Local Search Ecosystem makes it clear that business listing data flows like a river towards the great ocean of Google.
Yes, the river of data goes to a lot more places than just Google, but for the sake of this discussion, we are focused on that destination.
This quote from Nyagoslav Zhekov of Whitespark puts it in perspective:
“Search Engines manage their own databases, however, they utilize the information provided to them through the above-mentioned sources (the four Primary Data Aggregators, and Other Key Sites). If the business data on any of these primary sources is incorrect it can override the information that is already available in the Search Engine’s database, this can lead to either new listings being created or changing existing listing data.”
So the point is, if Google has bad information that is already in the index, then it is probably in their database used for Local Search and newer more accurate data may not be overriding that data.
If they haven’t crawled and/or indexed the listings from the four primary data aggregators and the other key sites, they probably aren’t using that updated info to manage their own databases.
If Google doesn’t have up-to-date and accurate information via your accurate citations, that could affect your rankings.
Before we dive into how to get your local SEO citations indexed, let’s look at an example that shows that it may indeed be an effective method to improve rankings.
How This Test Began
On October 22th, 2018, I was searching for information on this very topic while working on my own business citations.
I had moved Inbound Authority three times in five years and there were bad NAP inconsistencies and I knew it was time to clean things up.
I had BrightLocal submit a data aggregator update a few months prior and so I started to check those listings to see how they looked.
After I realized that there were a lot of duplicates, I started doing a site:search in Google for each listing to see if I could find my citations in Google’s index.
I moved on to using the info:search operator in Google and found that 20-30 of my citations from top sites were not in their index.
I was bummed out that I had paid for these updates to the data aggregators and had gotten the top 20 or so good citations fixed but they weren’t even in Google.
I stumbled upon this nice article by Casey Meraz from Juris Digital citing some work that Darren Shaw had done back at MozCon in 2016 which was similar to what I was trying to accomplish. In addition Darren had suggested this more specific hack.
I loved Casey’s suggestion on how to go about getting these citations indexed and so I set out to try it.
It had some nice ideas and suggestions to Thomas MyLocal’s question in the post and I wanted to take it a bit further and try to get some conclusive results.
The Citation Indexing Test Begins
I started by creating on my site a “Places to View Us on The Web” page as was suggested.
This page was nothing fancy and still isn’t.
I then fetched it as Google in Search Console and waited.
Nothing amazing after a few days happened.
So, I added the link to my footer and had Google fetch the homepage and crawl all links. A couple days later, 9 out of the 20 citations on my new page had been added to the index.
The ones that made it in were:
- Best of the Web
- City Search
- City Squares
Some of these were Data Aggregators so that was a good thing.
A week or two goes by and I check it again. By this time I had added 12 more citations to the initial 20 on my page of links, bringing the total to 32.
21 of those 32 were now indexed!
So long story short, this idea certainly worked to get these citations indexed, but the bigger question as posed by Joy Hawkins was, “Does this improve rankings or traffic on the actual GMB listing?”
Does Getting Citations Indexed Improve Rankings?
I will let you be the judge of that yourself.
A couple of days after this experiment began, I took a screenshot of my rankings for the keyword “local SEO” using a new local rank tracker tool called Local Falcon.
This tool is awesome and I highly recommend you stop reading this post (just don’t forget to come back) and go try it on your business/clients because it gives you accurate Google Maps tracking to visualize how you rank in different parts of a city.
This was the result for my business around the time the test began on October 30, 2018.
My rankings are pretty bad as I haven’t done much work for my own site. That being said, what happened after getting these existing citations indexed?
Well on November 19, 2018, I used Local Falcon again to see if things had improved in any way.
There was an increase, especially in the outer bands of the results.
For example top row, the sixth pushpin from the left went from 13 to 7. The same in the bottom row where the fourth pushpin from the left went from 13 to 9.
Around the business, the rankings went up as well.
So I kept on letting Google do their thing and ran the rankings again on November 27, 2018.
All of the red was totally gone!
There is even a sprout of green in the middle.
I know that correlation isn’t causation. I can’t argue that these results were purely due to getting the citations indexed. I am just not sure.
I didn’t do anything else of note during this time to my website or do anything that should affect my rankings.
The bottom line
While this is not the holy grail of ranking in local SEO, it is certainly something to be added to the arsenal of tools at our disposal.
Jara Moser agrees that this is something she does for her clients and it makes a considerable difference.
She says, “We actively do this and have seen it make considerable improvements for new companies/rebrands. Existing businesses that haven’t changed names or locations this doesn’t have nearly the same level of impact.”
So your mileage may vary.
But imagine that your client is a Personal Injury Lawyer in a competitive city.
In West Palm Beach, FL we are paying $199 a call for a click to call Google Ads campaign for such a law firm. How valuable would it be to move the needle for that clients ranking a spot or two in the maps pack?
What if a tactic like this can help them to rank better in a wider area than they were ranking for, for instance near a hospital?
It would be worth the hour of work to give it a shot.
So, how do you implement this strategy for you or your clients?
The Fastest Way To Get Your Citations Indexed (Step-by-Step)
So when I was running my test originally, it was a very manual process that involved a lot of copy, pasting, and site:searching in Google.
In fact here is what my note looked like when I started this test. I would check back each day to see what had been indexed.
Not Quite the “Quick & Dirty Citation Indexing Tool”
I wanted to build a tool to automate the steps of doing this more quickly but I decided that I probably would never get around to really building it with all the client work I have. However, I decided to streamline the process and automate as much of it as possible.
Here are the three tools you will need:
- BrightLocal – Citation Tracking
- This Google Spreadsheet called the Greenlane Indexation Tester (make a copy in your Google account)
- Text Fixer Website to create the HTML needed to embed on your site
Step 1 – Download a Spreadsheet of Your Top Citations from BrightLocal
If you use Whitespark or another tool to manage your citations that’s fine. The goal is to get a list of your top 30-40 citations into a list or in Excel.
To do this on BrightLocal, follow these instructions:
Download the CSV.
Open the CSV in Excel.
Look for column “T’ called “Citation Link” and copy the top 30-40 rows of URLs. Just make sure they are your top citations. If your not sure what should be your top citations, then check out this article that discusses top citations for your business type.
Step 2 – Find Out Which Citations Are Indexed in Google and Which Ones Are Not
Open the Google Sheet document mentioned earlier.
The document will be pre-filled with some sample data and you can delete that.
Paste your list of urls into the URL field.
Click on the drop-down next to the “Reset” button and choose “Run”. Once the button turns green click it.
This will then scan to see if your citations have been indexed in Google or not.
You will probably be surprised how many of these aren’t indexed at all.
(Disclaimer: I don’t have any affiliation with this tool. I just know it works better than any other one I found so far. Your results may vary. If you are more of a nerd, then maybe this would be an option to use as well.)
Step 3 – Convert List of Non-Indexed URLs to HTML Code
Now that the scan has run, you should see a tab/sheet at the bottom of the Google Sheet called, “Non-indexed URLs”.
Copy the list of URLs on that page to your clipboard.
Head over to the Text Fixer site to convert this list of URLs to HTML code.
These are the settings I used. You may need to tweak them depending on which CMS your website uses.
Click on the big orange button that says, “Convert URL to HTML link”
Here are the results:
Copy them to your clipboard.
Step 4 – Create a New Page of Citation Links on Your Website
At this point, open up whatever you use to create a new page on your site. I use WordPress.
I called my page “Places to View Us On The Web” but you can name it anything you want.
Switch to the “code” editor and paste the code from your clipboard and then save the page.
Since this page may stay on your site for awhile and be linked to internally, you may even want to spiff it up and make it look nice.
Yan Gilbert shares some good advice on this page when he says, “The page will have more chance of being indexed if it is filled out completely with added images etc.”
James Watt shares a similar thought about creating this page, “The only danger I can think of with this strategy is that you’d risk adding a page to the site that’s only for Google, not for humans. If you can frame the page in a way that makes sense for humans that stumble across it too though, then you’re fine.”
So you might as well make it look nice and make it for humans too. Many of these citation sites are good review sites as well. So anyone visiting your site could benefit by finding them and reviewing your business as a bonus.
Step 5 – Internally Link to the Page & Fetch as Google in Search Console (Optional)
Finally, you may want to link to the new page in your footer or from some other page on your site to try and get some authority to it in hopes of getting those links indexed.
If you want to speed things up you can fetch the new page or the parent page linking to it in Google Search Console.
That’s it! You’re done.
Please let me know how this works for you and if it affects your rankings and GMB traffic.
If you have any suggestions for making this process smoother or more efficient, please leave them in the comments below.