Imagine if every time we met someone new, we introduced ourselves as a different person: how would anybody ever know who the real “us” is? The answer is: they wouldn’t. So why is it that when we introduce our businesses to someone, that we allow people to call us by the wrong name? As business owners, you should care how your business is being represented across all networks - both online and in the real world.
Let’s step back in time
Before the dawn of the internet, local business owners would rely on physical copies of the Yellow Pages, newspapers, local radio ads, TV commercials and word-of-mouth to distribute all of their business information. Through these channels, we didn’t often see inaccurate business listings because it was extremely costly to fix an error that was already printed and/or previously distributed.
A look in today’s world
Fortunately, the internet has made it a lot easier for people to find their favorite businesses and gather the information that they need to make contact with that business. The downside though, is because there are so many online directories, it makes it far more difficult for business owners to keep track of all their citations and make sure their business information is being displayed properly.
What are citations and why are they so important?
Local business citations are mentions of your company’s name and address on any site other than your own. Today, there are thousands of online directories that allow you to create your own business listings. Not only are these citations crucial for prospective customers who are trying to find you, but they also play a major role in ranking algorithms used by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.
So how does this affect your business?
Put it this way, companies with more citations often rank higher than those without. This means you have a better chance of jumping ahead of your competitor across the street just by having your business information listed correctly on multiple directory sites. Pay close attention to the word “correctly” though.
Quality over quantity
Google and other major search engines are built on providing accurate results to their users. So before you think it’s a good idea to go and list your business on all of these previously mentioned sites, make sure you’ve identified exactly how your business information needs to be presented. Having a site display your business name/address one way and another directory display it in a different way will raise problems for search engines. How will they know which is the correct result to provide to their users? They don’t.
For this reason, it’s extremely important to match the business information listed on your website to the listings found on these local directories. This allows search engines to connect the dots, thus allowing searchers to find your business. Bingo!
“This seems like a lot of work” - that’s because it is
Creating, monitoring and correcting your business citations is definitely no easy task. In fact, because there are so many directories (some easier to fix/submit than others) it’s nearly impossible to manually manage them all. Though it can be done manually and it does take a lot of work, there are some sites such as: BrightLocal, Moz Local, and Social Local that can handle this process for you.
Time to create your business listings
Before you either attempt this on your own or have somebody else manage the process for you, there are a few things you must establish first:
- You must have a business name;
- You must have a local phone number that matches your city of location (no toll free numbers, tracking numbers or shared phone numbers);
- You must have a dedicated physical street address (no shared office space, P.O boxes or virtual offices);
- You must be able to make face-to-face contact with your customers.
If your business satisfies all of these requirements, then you’re ready to get started. Just remember, consistency is everything when it comes to local citations. Your Name, Address, Phone number, and Website should all be the same both online and offline. Always give search engines and new customers a chance to find you and recognize you as an established local business.