Citations, directories, local listings, review sites, and social media platforms are considered “off-site” signals. (Also referred to as “off-page” signals for SEO.) These signals are where customers and potential clients determine the credibility and relevance of a business. Search engines like Google also pay attention to them.
An off-site citation signal refers to a business name, address, and phone reference. (N.A.P. or N.A.P.W. to include “website.”) A local listing is a citation for brick-and-mortar businesses. But, it offers a lot more information such as events, updates, posts, and reviews. A directory is a citation that lists MANY businesses. It best serves a niche industry or business purpose. (Think about the paper Yellow Books of our ancestors, those were directories.) For businesses with physical locations, directories can add online visibility to local listings such as Google Business and Bing Business Profiles.
Search engines refer to online business information that helps people find what they’re looking for. High-impact local listings demonstrate experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. (E.E.A.T) Based on many factors, some are more influential than others. Determining how much effort to put into off-site signals, including which ones to acknowledge will vary between businesses. Here are the most common, essential, and free “high-impact” listings and platforms for local businesses:
1. Google Business Profile
Key for any local business with at least one physical location is Google Business Places. (Formerly known as Google My Business.) This is a “must-have” in order to appear in local search results including Google Maps. Add and verify your business listing. Complete your listing with keyword-rich information and be sure to link back to your website. Google likes fresh content, so add updates and events on a daily or weekly basis. Ask for customer reviews. Respond to reviews. After while, you’ll gain important referrals and backlinks as well.
2. Bing Places For Business
Many businesses find that it’s easier to achieve top ranking spots on Bing. Although Bing doesn’t have the search volume of Google, it DOES have search volume worth investigating. Many search optimization signals are similar to Google. One of the key differences is that it weighs more heavily on social signals. It also pulls reviews from third party sources such as Yelp & Facebook. Lastly, Bing is a big part of Microsoft, which isn’t going away any time soon. For these reasons and more, it’s worthwhile to add this local listing to your local search strategy.
Not all signals are ranking factors. Some just do a darn good job of getting attention and influencing potential customers. Here are some citations and directories that are most widely used and often appear on page one of branded search results:
1. Better Business Bureau
The BBB is a directory that receives a massive amount of traffic. It builds trust, (or distrust), immediately. It doesn’t matter if your a paid member or not. You can get listed for free. Or, you may be listed and not even realize it. Claim your business listing on this directory because it often appears in search results after your local listing and website information. (On page one of branded search results.)
2. Social Platforms
Social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are important for reputation and online visibility. (Some consider LinkedIn a social platform as well, although it is more of a “professional networking” site.) In any capacity, these are all places to interact with your customer, influence, and to gain important insights. Although they are not a ranking factor, they do often appear on page one of branded search results.
3. Industry Niche Directories
Vertical niche directories serve industries well. They have a defined target audience. What comes to mind is YELP for restaurants, or AVVO for law firms. Although they often require a fee to be listed, niche directories allow reviews and can provide a nice source of lead generation. If you’re in business, you’ll know off the top of your head which niche websites are important. If not, do a competitor search to learn more about what’s out there.
Done correctly, incorporating high-value review sites, local listings, social sites, and niche-industry directories will support your professional expertise and affiliation. They refer back to your business website which aids in link-building efforts. They help build authority, and accentuate local search engine results. There are a lot of spaces on page one of search results, and your goal should be to fill up that first page with your business information. Do a test of your own to see if you dominate page one, or if your competitors are stealing your space.
If you’re looking to improve how your business performs in Local SEO everything on this page is important to acknowledge and address. You’re goal is to be visible online so that your products or services may be found. Beyond that, it’s essential to ensure that your found in a positive light. Internet visibility is your image. Use a variety of citations, niche directories and local listings to get the job done.
Before you set off to build your online business signals, here are some last words of advice:
- Stick to the places that are most relevant to your industry, city/state, etc. Spend the most time on those that will have the most impact on local search results. One way to do this is by searching for your biggest competitor. What shows up on their page one? That’s a good place to begin.
- When building business signals to your website, try not to duplicate efforts. All too often, I see outdated or incorrect citations (It can become very messy) Google will get confused. Searchers will lose faith in your expertise.
- Take ownership by claiming everything online that has your business name associated with it. By owning it, you can take control of your image and positively impact SEO efforts.
- Get organized with credentials. (It can also become very messy!) There are listing management software out there such as SEMrush or Bright Local that require a fee. Or, put your own system in place to manage information. This will ensure that you have quick accessibility to make changes, update, and to stay current.
- Avoid companies like Yellow Pages and Yellow Book or Yext who offer to create a bunch of citations for you. It’s never a good idea. Guaranteed a headache to come!
- Hire a professional help for this task, contact Leaning Tree Marketing.