When it comes to building a better online presence for your brand, one way you should always be looking to improve is by building a broader presence.
This is simple math: You give yourself more opportunities to be discovered in search, whether that search is taking place in a search engine or on a local business directory.
How can you create a broader presence?
There are lots of ways to broaden your online presence for your business — you can advertise in more places, you can write articles for other websites, you can create content that your customers share through their social networks, or you can add more relevant content to your own website.
But today, I want to focus on one very specific way to broaden your presence: By getting listed in local business directories.
These are called citations. A citation is simply a mention of your business name, usually accompanied by another piece of information about the business, such as the address, phone number, a link to your website, or all three. (You might hear SEO folks talking about your business NAP — this is what they’re referring to: NAP = Name, Address, Phone number.)
Citations are important to getting discovered in local search. (Want to go down this rabbit hole a bit further? Here are all of the local search ranking factors, as compiled by over 30 of the top SEO experts.)
If more quality local sites are correctly categorizing your apartment community, then Google is more likely to rank your business higher in the search results. Plus, you’re giving yourself more chances to be discovered by those prospective customers who don’t start from Google for everything. (Yes, these people exist!)
So it makes sense to create/earn citations for your business. This isn’t hard … there are plenty of local directories that will let you create a business profile for free — I’m referring to sites like Google Local, Bing Places, Yelp, YellowPages.com, etc.
Places to Build Citations
There are lots of options available to you, but I think it’s best to focus your efforts on four main type of citations:
Local Search Engines and Directories
These are probably the best place to start. They’re usually free, and these are often the first places where customers go to look for local businesses.
Start with the local directories that are owned by the search engines — Google Local, Yahoo! Local, and Bing Places. I’m an advocate of feeding them as much information as possible about your property.
Beyond that, look to sites like Yelp, Citysearch, Foursquare, and Superpages. Setting up a business profile on each of these local-focused sites can go a long way toward helping the general search engines feel confident that your business information is accurate and relevant to what their searchers are looking for.
Industry-Specific Directories and Listing Sites
This one might surprise you the most: Your ILS listings can actually help your property’s rank in organic search!
Yes, you read that right.
In fact, the biggest advertising sites for the apartment industry are also some of the best apartment-specific places to list your business. Using data from Whitespark (a company that builds tools for local SEO), we know that these sites are great places for apartment communities to get citations:
Now, I realize every one of these sites wants you to pay to advertise with them. Am I telling you to go advertise with all of them just to help your local SEO? Absolutely not!
But they can help, so make sure your business name and address are accurate and consistent if you choose to advertise on any of these sites.
(Looking for citations for other business categories? Start here.)
Local Sites and Blogs
Depending on where your business is located, your mileage may vary with some of these sites. The best local citations vary by city. For example, Yelp is more popular in some cities than others.
You’ll want to do some homework to determine the sites that make the most sense for your area. You can find a list of the top citation sources for a number of US cities here.
For example, here are the best citation sources here in Columbus:
- Yellow Pages
- Yahoo Local
- Journal Star
- Angie’s List
But you’ll want to go beyond that and find the other local sites that makes the most sense for your area.
Does the local chamber of commerce have a business directory? What about the local newspaper or business journal? Are there local bloggers that feature different businesses or have a blogroll of local links? Are you working with any local charities that could link back to you?
Get creative with this … there are all kinds of possibilities here!
Huge companies like Google, Bing and Apple rely on dozens, if not hundreds of sources to make sure they have the best, most complete picture of the local landscape. All of these companies license data from third-party providers that are in the business of compiling business listings that might not otherwise be online. (Think phone books, business registration databases, banking records, etc.)
These providers are called aggregators, and they’re the last group you should know about for your local citations. In the US, there are four major aggregators collecting data about local businesses:
Do you need to list your business with these aggregators if you have the first three categories covered? Maybe not, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially since we know that Google and Apple put enough trust in these sources to pay for their listings.
Generally speaking, the search engines pay close attention to citations, because they are a good way to get a picture of the local business landscape. All other factors being equal, the more citations you have, the better your website will rank in local searches.
Getting citations isn’t difficult, but it can take time. If you invest the time (or enlist your SEO consultant to help), you’ll definitely see the payoff — more opportunities to be discovered online, as well as more inbound traffic to your site.
Is this something you’re doing for your properties? Are you just claiming your Google Local pages, or are you going beyond that to some of these other sites?
Need help building citations for your properties?
Try Top Line Local! You’ll get full access to our simple dashboard that helps you claim and build listings on over 50 local directories, social media sites, aggregators, mobile navigation apps, and more.
To get started (or get a free 15-minute demo), get in touch with us today!