In simple terms, citations are mentions of a company around the web.
These mentions are not link based by any means. They are purely textual mentions of a company along with its physical address and telephone number.
A great example are the Yellow Pages and the local Chamber of Commerce listings which only mention a company without any links
Citations are of particular importance to local businesses.
Why? Well, for one, citations are hard to fake. Think about a business trying to rank in a city where it is not physically located. With link building, you could easily manipulate search engines to make a business rank in a city like Dallas when, in fact, the business is located in Irving (about 15 miles outside Dallas).
With citations a business is listed with its address and phone number. This is much harder to fake as no-one want to misrepresent your business address.
That's why citations make it harder to manipulate the search results for local businesses.
Through citations search engines look for mentions of your business, telephone number and physical address. The more citations a company has, the better the chances of ranking in a particular city.
How Do I Get Citations Or Mentions?
Hera are some ways to acquire some for your business:
- Free tool: Getlisted.org (recently acquired by Moz) which is a great starting point. The tool tells you where your business is currently listed or not. Find out which directories you need to get listed in and sign up.
- Paid tool: Universal Business Listing takes your listing and circulates it among other directories for a small fee.
- Manual: Find relevant directories yourself. You can use Google Advanced Operators and just search for relevant directories. More technical internet marketers can use a tool like Scrapebox to automate those searches.
Which Method Is The Most Effective?
Personally, I find Method 3 to be the most beneficial to a local business. The directories will almost always be much more relevant to your specific business. Search engines always give preference to relevant links and citations so if you are are a lawyer in San Francisco receiving a citation from the local San Francisco Law Fraternity will always be more valuable than a general citation from the Yellow Pages.
Methods 1 and 2 will certainly benefit your on-line marketing campaign but you should not stop there. To kick-off a campaign start with methods 1 and 2 but down the road,certainly look for citations specific to your geographic location and industry. These are truly the gold nuggets you want to look for. As is the general rule with SEO and internet marketing the harder it is to acquire something (whether links or citations), the more valuable it is in the long run.