The Ultimate Guide to Citation Building and Consistency

This is your ultimate guide to citations for local SEO.

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • What citations are
  • A brief history of citation building for SEO
  • The essentials for local citation building
  • How to identify & assess valuable citations
  • How to correct & update citations
  • How to build new citations

Chapter 1 - What is a Citation

Increasing your online presence becomes more important every day, for everyone. Whether you run a business, a charity, a school or a museum, customers need to find it easily when searching for your services. Building citations is one of the primary ways to make sure that happens.

One of our specialties at Nimbus Marketing is staying ahead of the curve of what makes a ‘perfect’ citation.

While the techniques will continue to evolve, which makes it fun for us, the fundamental approach is the same.

We’d like to share what we’ve learned over the years so you can get started and make sure that this crucial practice is as effective as possible for you. It just takes time, some initiative and maybe a little caffeine. But it's worth it. Citations are great for Local SEO. If you want to boost your local rankings, get your citations in order.

If you can read this, you can do this. Ready? Let’s go!

It’s actually pretty simple: a “Citation” (or “Listing”) is any place online, such as a web page or blog, that mentions your business. That’s it!

A citation doesn’t have to be fancy - although some listings can be. But it should be complete. A complete citation will contain five main elements about your business:

  • The Name
  • The Address
  • The Phone Number
  • The Email Address
  • The Webpage

Together, these bits of information form a Business “NAP”, lovingly named after the first letters of the 3 main citation elements. Here is a simple business citation- it contains only a Business Name, Address, and Phone Number

In addition to citations, a few other terms to get comfortable with are: Directories, Structured and Unstructured.

Directories are places online where citations have been collected. We will explore several different types of these in just a moment.

Structured or Unstructured refer to how a citation is presented. Structured means that a citation is presented with a directory, and that each citation is presented in the same way. Unstructured usually means that a citation is incorporated within another type of web page, such as an article or blog post, and it will feel more organic.

Both are incredibly powerful and it’s important to make sure that your citations are presented both ways.

Now let’s take a look at some different citations that would appear in Structured as well as Unstructured directories. See if you can tell which of these directories are which.

A simple citation will contain only a Name, Address, and Phone Number. Here’s an example:


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Here is another, much more detailed citation. Notice the fancy logo, plenty of captioned business images, a good business description, and lots of other extra information.

The previous two examples were structured citations. An unstructured citation can be a simple nod to your business in an article, like below:

Here is one last example. Can you find the citation cozily nestled amongst several others? Does this list remind you of something? Hint: it was used in the 70s and 80s to find businesses.

Now that you’ve seen a few examples of different types of citations, let’s explore the variety of Online Directories across the internet.

Online Directories contain listings for thousands, or even millions, of businesses and other organizations.

These online directories are very similar to the telephone books of old, and are considered the next evolution of those telephone books.

However, being online, these directories are meant to be easily searchable, and usually contain much more information about a business than the old telephone directory would.

Plus, it’s almost impossible to use an online directory as a TV stand so it’s much more convenient to use it to look things up with!

Because there are literally thousands of online directories throughout the internet, they often vary wildly in the information they display about a business. However, they mostly fall into a few different types:

  • General: Most online directories are considered general in that they display information about all types of businesses in many different areas
  • Aggregators: Special online listings whose data is used to create other “automated” online listings on thousands of other sites
  • Social: social media pages such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc., where people share information and experiences
  • Local: online directories specific to a particular county/region
  • Hyper-local: online directories specific to a particular city (or street!)
  • Industry-specific: Online listings targeting a specific industry, i.e. Dentistry, Auto repair, Realtors (Can also be local/hyper-local)

The great thing about the internet is that there is no limit to the amount of directories you can create citations on. The not-so-great thing about the internet is that there is no limit to the amount of directories you can create citations on.

To make sure that an internet search finds your organization as easily and early as possible, you will need to make sure that every citation is not only included in as many directories as possible, but is correct and optimized.

Now that you know enough to be dangerous, let’s dig a little deeper into citations, starting with a history of Online Citations...

Chapter 2 - History of Citation Building

Long, long ago, in ancient Hyrule, a wizened old man gave a young elf in a green cap a golden yellow book and said… “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”

Well, maybe not. However, citation building does have a long history - from telephone books of old, to modern social media pages. Today, businesses can be more visible than ever before.

In the beginning: Ye Olde Telephone Directory

Very soon after telephone use was “off the hook”, people soon found that there were way too many phone ‘connections’ to remember (they didn’t use ‘numbers’ per se back then). So a business partner of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell came up with a bright idea. Why not list all connections together and distribute this list to everyone. And thus was born the first “directory”.

However, the first telephone directory wasn't even a book- it was nothing more than a piece of cardboard. Funny enough- those first directories also contained instructions on how to use the telephone.

It didn’t take long before entrepreneurs decided to take advantage of these lists to promote their own businesses. And it’s easy to see why. With so many people trying to find services, standing out in a telephone directory became a big priority. And of course, money from advertising helped pay for printing and distributing the phone books (for free!) to millions of customers and pay phone locations. It was a win-win for all sides!

Just as the invention of the telephone revolutionized the way people connected to each other, it didn’t take long after it was invented for the internet to become a staple of households across the world.

Businesses immediately began to take advantage of the emerging technology. As such, people needed a way to find what they needed amidst the exponentially growing number of webpages.

Enter the web directory.

From 1992 to the mid 2000s, online web directories became the top dogs of the internet, starting with yellowpages.com and whitepages.com. And just like the telephone directories of old, businesses vied for the attention of potential customers going through these directories. Having your business listed in online directories (or paying for premium listings and/or ad space) was becoming ever more important as people opted to search online for what they needed, instead of leafing through a huge telephone book.

But people, of course, wanted more. Manual directories (where people add each listing one by one) were slow to add listings. And with an ever-increasing number of online directories popping up, which one should a business turn to first? There simply needed to be a better way to go through them all. So a handful of upstarts started indexing all of this information to create a single, easy-to-use webpage to search all of those online directories (and the millions of other webpages) from one place. And from these small upstarts came the foundations of our modern search engines. As these indexes grew, people gravitated to the convenience of search engines like Yahoo, Lycos, and later on, Google, to find what they were looking for.

Soon enough, these automated search engines became the ‘de facto’ standard for finding information across an ever-expanding internet. However, web directories never left the internet scene - they have remained as trusted resources that these search engines use to find and verify business information.

Some search engines still operate online directories of their own!

When the information for a business appears in many online directories, those directories “vouch” for the business and search engines ‘trust’ that business more. Enough ‘trust’, and they will rank that business closer to that sweet #1 search result spot everyone’s fighting for. Let’s go into that ‘trust’ in more detail in our next chapter.

Chapter 3 - Why Citations are Vital for Puppies! Businesses

Now that we know a little bit more about what citations are, and how they came about, more questions appear. If you’re like an eager puppy and just want to run on ahead, some of the big questions you’re probably thinking are “What’s the big deal about these citations?” and “Why do I need citations for my business?”

Well, from our little history lesson in the last chapter, we know that search engines collect links to web pages. With that list, they return results based on what the search engine thinks the user is looking for. The search engines, in and of themselves, do not contain any webpages of their own, other than their own interface, but instead refer customers to web pages across the internet.

Of course, they may refer customers to an online directory the company behind the search engine owns - Google maps for example - but the search engine itself is not an online directory.

The main thing these giant search engines do is refer people to webpages (albeit many thousands of times per second). If you look at search engines this way, it seems these search engines are nothing more than a referral business! This means that your goal should

be to encourage those search engines to refer users seeking your product or service to pages that mention your business. Sounds simple, right?

But there is one problem with this -- a search engine can only show so many links in a single page (unless you want a list so long it will go around the Earth a few times over!). To narrow things down, search engines use an especially complex algorithm to categorize and score each webpage for its relevance in each search, based on the page’s content. Pages that are more highly rated for information someone is looking for will move closer to the top of the search results list. A website’s place on the search results list is known as their rank.

So all you need to do is convince those search engines that pages of your business website should be highly rated for your products or services or physical location, right?

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. These search engine algorithms take into consideration a lot more

than just webpage content when ranking web pages. Industry research has shown that there are several hundred variables affecting how web pages ‘rank’ in search engine results. These variables can be as broad as products and services or as specific as physical location and service area.

Some factors, like how the search engine interprets a user’s input, are beyond your control. For instance, a simple search for “pizza” might be interpreted many ways. Search returns could be pizza recipes, or the history of pizza, or restaurant locations near the user.

But you can control several elements of content that will positively affect how highly ranked your main web page is. And, you guessed it, one of those factors is the number and quality of online citations for your business.

Why is this?

First of all, when other web pages mention your business, at its most basic, it means that there are more places online to find your business. Your business page is not floating dead and alone in cyber-space. It’s like having lots of little signs for both users and search engines that say “Hey! Here I am! I’m alive!” Each citation basically acts like a new endorsement of your business.

Secondly, citations can affect ranking when they also allow people to leave reviews and ratings. Positive reviews can boost trust in your business in the evaluation of search engines and your potential customers.

For search engines, good reviews are a good thing.

Having lots of mentions of a business means that it’s probably a legit business. And when the business information is the same on all these other pages as it is on the main webpage of the business, the engine knows the information is more trustworthy when it gives it out to users searching online. This trust is very important because it greatly contributes to a business’ receiving higher rankings in search page results than other businesses. Consistent information just makes a business look more like they have their @#*% together.

Search engines don’t want to give people bad information or send them to the wrong place. Search engine companies do not like to send users to defunct businesses, or to a business after operating hours. So the more they trust your business information, the more likely they are to show it to a user.

On the other side of the coin, having listings that are not consistent with each other can be bad for business. First of all, listings that are incorrect create a lot of confusion for search engines. How can a search engine trust a business when its information is not the same from citation to citation? Which version of the information is correct? The search engine really doesn’t like being wrong, as it reduces people’s trust in the search engine.

And what about your potential customers? If they see conflicting information about your business, they may not trust your business either. How are the users to know which citation has the correct and current information? If your online presence doesn’t know which way is up, the user is likely to think your business itself has the same problem.

One good example of this problem is an incorrect business address. Search engines don’t want to send their customers to the wrong location. And customers who use map listings like Google Maps, Waze, and Apple Maps, often click on “get directions.” If a particular business has citations with the wrong address and contact information, the search engines might not be able to determine which address is correct. The last thing they want is a customer showing up at the wrong location and saying “Darn that search engine, they sent me to the wrong place!”

Another example of information glitches is with business hours. How many times have you relied on the business hours of a listing to ensure that a business is open, only to find that they’re closed when you arrive?

For well over half of the people who search for local businesses at least once a week, this timing error can happen more often that you might think -- especially if you have citations with incorrect business information.

But how could this happen, you ask? You haven’t even done any citation work for your business, so where did this plague of bad citations come from, and why are they wrong? We’ll look at this later on in this guide.

Chapter 4 - Citation Building Essentials

OK! You’ve learned what citations are, where they came from, and why they’re important. You’re probably excited to delve into some citation building of your own, and build your company's brand awareness and its search engine rankings!

Thankfully, citation building isn’t especially difficult. However, this important work can be very time consuming. Some online directories require a bit more coaxing than others to create or correct a listing,

and sometimes the process needs to be repeated several times before the citation is completed and live. As John Heywood said, “Rome wasn't built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour”.

There are a number of ways to speed up the citation building process, but most of these methods will make you pay money for the time you save. It’s perfectly feasible to do it yourself, if you’re willing to take the time and effort. Moreover, you are much more likely to get better results.

This guide focuses on the manual citation building process for several reasons:

  1. Even if you use a citation building service like BrightLocal, their "Citation Bursts", while being real time-savers, only take care of the basics. They won't add unique business descriptions and pictures. They are also prone to occasional mistakes. Understanding the manual citation building process is crucial for the best results.
  2. If you outsource the citation-building process, you may still need to review the work of a team member or virtual assistant. Understanding how to create and edit citation manually is an important skill.
  3. Some citations can only be built manually. Directories such as Acxiom, one of the top citations in the world, require official business documents to validate your listing. Its important to understand the manual citation building process even if you delegate the task.

Since preparation is key, there are several things to get in order before you begin citation building. These are the essential pieces of information you will need as you begin your journey through the vast world of online directories.

There are several items necessary to properly prepare for citation building. Here we’ll describe each one in detail.

Business Information

The first and most important piece of information you'll need is your correct business information. We talked a little bit about this in chapter 1, where we discussed your NAP, but now we’re going to take that a step further. Your complete NAP includes not only your business name, address, and phone number, but also your business email address and website URL. Once you have gathered your information, you should take a few moments to ensure the information is accurate. This even includes proper formatting. For example, does your address have a suite? Is it “Ste. 1234”, or “Suite #1234” or just "#1234"? Do you have an “&” in the company name (like Johnson & Johnson). Is it “&”, or “and”? Whichever it is, make sure the formatting is exactly the same everywhere your business is listed.

You should also make sure you have the correct business hours, the date the business started, and all payment methods you accept (cash, check, invoice, insurance, credit card, Paypal, Maestro, Cryptocurrency, Apple Pay, etc.).

Although these pieces of information are not as critical as “The Big 5”, but they are still important to building you citations properly.

Business Descriptions

Business descriptions are a critical element of citations. Directories require business descriptions of different types. What do you do, why do you do it, and how do you do it better or differently, are important elements of a great business description

Besides accurately describing your business, a description has another hidden function within the world of SEO. Adding specific keywords related to your business sends Google and other search engines important relevance signals. By using keywords that relate to your business, you’re confirming to search engines that the products and services you offer are relevant to what your potential customers are searching for. It may be wise to only add a sprinkling of keywords in a naturally worded manner. Too many and your citations may be considered “keyword stuffing”, which search engines tend to frown upon.

How long should you create a description? Here are a few recommendations:

  • A 100-150 character "slogan". This is generally 1-2 sentences, describing your business, services, and products.
  • A 500-character "short description". This roughly translates to one paragraph.
  • A "long" piecemeal business description consisting of at least 1,500 characters. 2,000 characters or more is better.
  • One or more "product/service descriptions" usually about 500 characters long (one paragraph). Some directories allow for much longer descriptions.

When you use these descriptions in online directories, be aware that every directory's description fields will be different. Some may have a 100, 250 or 1000-character limit. Others may have no limits. Still others may accomodate multiple descriptions, allowing you to add services and products to your listing. Some directories, like Yelp, may ask for specific information, like the owner’s bio or a history of the business. That's why writing multiple descriptions is crucial for a smooth citation-building process.

Because of various description requirements, “piecemeal” descriptions come in handy. With a piecemeal description, you’re going to write just one business description. However, you’re going to combine all of the pieces above into that single business description. From that one description you write, you can pull out certain sentences and paragraphs, and “piece” them together as needed.

How to create a “piecemeal description”

  • Create a first paragraph as “short description” that you can use alone, or in combination with other types of descriptions listed below.
  • Create a one paragraph each about the history of the business and the owner. You can use this alone, where required, or add it to the paragraphs above and/or below.
  • Create a paragraph each about the products and services your business offers. You can use this alone, where required, or add it to the paragraphs above and/or below
  • Create a closing paragraph. This paragraph should explain what sets your company apart. You may or may not have space to include this paragraph, but if you do, always finish this paragraph with a call to action.

Business Documents

There is one more piece of business information you’ll need for certain online directories. For these, you will need a business document that shows your physical location. In other words, it needs to be a document from a “trusted” source that has your business NAP on it. This can be anything from a utility bill, to a business licence, or a D.B.A..

Scan or take a picture of the above-mentioned documents and keep them handy. It’s a small step, but very important for certain online directories. It is especially important for an incredibly valuable citation at Acxiom, which we will discuss in more detail later on in this guide.

Logos

Most businesses have a logo. But one version of your logo is not enough. You will need multiple shapes an files sizes if you want your citation to display it correctly. Make sure to give your logo an appropriate file name. For added SEO mojo, rename the logo file to include your business name and add your top-rated business keyword to that file name. Search engines read the names of files to determine your company's website rankings. Its a small detail, but in the world of SEO, every little bit helps.

Start with a logo that is at least 300×300 pixels in size.

If your logo is not square shaped. Some directories prohibit logos that are too large. If your logo is more than 1000 x 1000 pixels, you may need to resize the logo before you can upload it.

Sometimes when you upload your logo, it will become stretched or distorted. One trick to prevent this from happening is to add white space around your logo to make it square. You can learn more about how to reshape your logo at Classy's helpful site: https://support.classy.org/s/article/how-to-format-a-logo

Images and Photos

Collect as many other business images as you can. This is where you can and should be as creative as possible. You can use pictures of your storefront or office building, both inside and outside. Gather pictures of your staff, customers, products, hero shots (link hero shots to https://unbounce.com/conversion-glossary/definition/hero-shot/) and more. Bonus points if you have pictures of your happy customers with your staff.

What makes for a good business image? Having a business logo somewhere in the picture makes a great representation of the business. If the business has a vehicle with the company logo on it, take a picture of that vehicle. Even better, get a picture of the business owner or team members inside of it or standing next to the vehicle(s). If there is a storefront or sign with the company logo on it, take a picture of that. If there isnt a logo nearby, print one on a piece of paper and take a picture with it.

Another good idea is to use images of your products and services. Show the fabulous results of your services. Before and after photos are great for this.

If you have products, take great pictures of them and use as many of them as possible when creating your citations. If you don't have the ability to take great pictures, search the internet for photos of your products. Chances are that somebody already did the hard work.

Smiling people, and people enjoying your product or service are also a great to feature on your directory listings.

Research has shown that images with people who are smiling and making eye contact with the reader have far higher engagement than people looking away or are not smiling. That’s why every advertisement you see has people grinning from ear to ear. It helps position their products and services in a favorable light. Your pictures should convey the same feelings. Featuring people with your product or service enhances the image more than just having the product or service on its own. These are called "Hero Shots".

Adding humor to your pictures is a great way to increase the engagement of your listings and make them unique. Show off your products in interesting ways. Show off the services you provide in an unusual manner. For example, if you own a shoe company, place your shoe next to a hungry dog. As long as the image is relevant to your business and shows it is a positive fashion, it’s all good! Just make sure that the images you post align with your company image. The more different pictures you post, the better. You want every single citation to be unique. Posting a wide variety of pictures is a simple way to ensure that consumers and search engines alike see your business as unique and "alive".

In fact, according to a recent study by BrightLocal (link to https://searchengineland.com/new-research-shows-strong-link-between-google-my-business-photo-quantity-and-search-performance-320199), businesses with more than 100 photos on their GMB profile had dramatically higher search rankings than business with less than 100 photos. Granted, GMB is not your standard directory listing. But you can bet that many photos on any citation is better than a few.

Pro Tip:

To add extra SEO “punch” to your picture, edit the EXIF image data before uploading it to a website. By adding things like a geotag to your EXIF data, your image gets even more “trust” from Google. In fact, if you add a geotag, Google will verify (and sometimes even link) the geotag data. An easy way to do this is to take pictures on your phone with your GPS turned on.

Then, open your camera settings and make sure that location-tagging is enabled. This article from imore.com tells you how to disable geotagging on iPhone, just do the opposite to turn it on. This article from chron.com will help Android users turn on their geotagging.

Remember to create descriptions of the pictures. Some listings automatically name images based on the uploaded image name. So be sure to name your pictures properly before uploading them. A great image description contains the keywords you are targeting. Use a different keyword for each image. If possible, try to use an image name that is descriptive, and not just randomly stuffed with a keyword.

Not every online directory will accept large numbers of photos. Some directories may only accept a few, and others will only permit a single logo image. Others will permit more images only if you pay for a “premium listing”. We’ll discuss premium listings later on, but some directories absolutely love pictures, and will gladly accept as many as you choose!

Limit the use of stock photos for your business listings. It’s not that stock images are a bad thing. Its that they are even worse, they’re terrible! When people see your listing, and notice the same generic picture they've seen in 20 other business listings, you might considered as just another “meh” business.

By using images unique to your business, your listings will stand out from the rest of the pack and help your business to be seen as unique.

Dedicated Email

You will also need a dedicated email address to use for your citation work. Many directories send out advertisements and newsletters and other forms of email, and using a dedicated email keeps those out of your main inbox. This dedicated email is good to use when signing up for directories and contacting directories. This helps you keep your citation work separate.

If possible, use an email address @yourdomain such as "marketing@yourdomain.com". This way, you're not at the whims of a 3rd party email provider who might delete your email account if you're not using it enough. If this happens, you may never be able to edit your citation in the future.

A custom domain email is important for another critical reason. When you contact a directory using an email address with your custom domain, it proves your relationship to the business. Some websites, like Express Update, will only approve submissions or changes if you have a custom domain email address. Free email addresses from Gmail simply won't work.

Before we dive into the actual citation work, lets divert a bit and talk about business descriptions. We also need to discuss the keywords used in these descriptions, since they’re so important to a “perfect” citation.

Chapter 5 - An In-Depth Look:
Keyword Research & Descriptions

In the previous chapters we discussed using keywords on your citations to add extra SEO power to them. But what exactly are keywords? Simply put, keywords are words and short phrases users typically use to search online for whatever they’re looking for. The more relevant keywords search engines "see" on the internet as a whole, the more likely a particular business is to get top search rankings.

Whether people are looking for products, services, articles, or anything else, they will use certain words and phrases in a search engine to find them. Adding the right keywords to citations sends search engines like Google a clear message that your company should be associated with the meaning behind those keywords.

By associating a business' online content with keywords, search engines learn to associate a particular business with them. That way when people use a search engine to search for those particular keywords, the search engine will remember this association and (ideally) display that business as the most relevant result. The more keywords associated with a business, the more the search engines will consider it for top search result rankings.

For example, if you owned a bowling alley, “bowling” would probably be a great keyword for you to use when creating content. The keywords “bowling alley”, “bowling near me”, "bowling ball" and other similar phrases are also good keywords since people are probably using them to look for bowling alleys too.

You don't have to guess what keywords to use. There are tools to help make researching these keywords much simpler.

The free "Google Keyword Planner" is a great place to start. A simple way to find related keywords is to search for something on your favorite search engine and scroll to the bottom of the search results page. Look for the "searches related to..." section and use those keyword phrases. Then, search for another related keyword and repeat the process. Using this method you can find dozens or hundreds of related keywords that you know will be good choices. They are good choices because Google and other search engines are literally telling you that people are searching for them.

If you can afford it, professional keyword research is the best way to go. A great online marketing company will find keywords based on competition, search volume and other important factors. They will use this important information to generate a list of keywords that are optimal for a particular business. Great keyword research is one of the best investments a business can ever make.

When using keywords in listing descriptions, be sure to use them in a natural way. It is perhaps a bad idea cram a bunch of keywords in your description just to have them there. Business descriptions are for users first and search engines second. Overuse of keywords is called “keyword stuffing” and it can really hurt your online business. So only use keywords when they make sense in the description.

Business Descriptions

A good business description helps customers and search engines understand a business and what it does. It opens up new relationships with potential customers and helps sow the seeds of trust in your brand. Great descriptions simultaneously establish what your business does with search engines. Business descriptions with the right keywords help build crucial “relevance” with search engine indexes.

The first description you need is a business slogan or tagline. This should only be one or two sentences at most, or around 100-150 characters. A slogan is something people will most remember your business by, and should help to distinguish business from other competing businesses.

If possible, a slogan should contain the business' most valuable keyword. With just over 100 characters, that doesn’t leave much space. The reason its important to get the best keyword into a slogan is because some directories will only allow for a slogan or tagline and nothing else. in these cases, the slogan or tagline must serve as the entire business description.

Next up is a short business description. Short business descriptions are no more than a paragraph long. Keep the word count down to no more than 500 characters, which is about 4-6 sentences. Try to structure the short description in such a way that you can reduce the size of the short description by removing a sentence or two, and it will still make enough sense to very briefly describe the business. This will help you squeeze the short business description in when you have less room. This is important because some directories only allow for 250 characters.

After you write the short business description, it's time for the long business description. A long business description will take you the most time to prepare. It should be several paragraphs in length. There isn’t an upper limit to how many characters you should use for a long business description. Make it as long as you like. A goal of 2,000 characters is a good minimum goal.

Describe your business in detail, covering several aspects of your business, one at a time. Start with a basic description of your business, and what it does. Continue by describing various details of your business. At a minimum it should explain to potential customers what a business does, why they do it, what problems the business solves and the benefits customers will receive.

Feel free to also include pricing, timelines, company history, owner biography and anything else that would help a customer understand the nature of the business. For long descriptions, the sky is the limit. But be sure to break the description into sections. This is important in case there is a character limit of say 2,500 characters. Breaking the description into logical sections allows for easy copying and pasting of the different elements to fit the constraints of the particular directory description requirements.

Here is some optional information you can use in long descriptions:
  • Case Studies
  • Guarantees
  • Awards
  • Certifications
  • Review Counts
  • Testimonials

Use the long description as an outlet to be as creative and thoughtful as possible. And of course, use your keywords generously in as many sections as possible.

Finally, you will need a description of one or more of the business' products and services. These should be about a paragraph in length. Generally, 3-4 product or service descriptions will be enough.

The Piecemeal Description

Having separate descriptions is great, but it’s also important to create more specific business descriptions that will fit any character size requirements. These are called "piecemeal” descriptions can be used in their entirety. They can be partially used via copy and paste to make a new business descriptions.

To do this, combine all of the elements from above and paste them into one long description. Then combine different sections from the piecemeal description into descriptions of varying lengths. This can be done beforehand, or on the fly, depending on the character limitations of the description fields of a particular directory.

This is important because duplicate content is less desirable than original content. Search engines prefer “unique” business descriptions. Creating unique business descriptions for each direction listing, each citation, should help your search engine rankings.

Next chapter, we’ll learn how to find citations that are already out there for my business – and there probably are.

Chapter 6 - How to Identify & Assess Citations

Now that you have the business information discussed in chapter 5, its time to start identifying and assessing existing citations. Its important to understand that even if you haven't created a single citation yet, there may be several or dozens of citations already created. This is because aggregators automatically scan the internet for businesses and automatically add them to many different directories. We'll discuss aggregators in depth in chapter 10.

Its also worth answering a potential question: why are we identifying and assessing citations instead of building them? The answer is: because citation consistency is more important. Its important to make sure that any existing citations are exactly the same before building any new ones. There are many reasons for this, which we will discuss in later chapters. Here are the top 3 reasons:

  1. You need to know which citations already exist to know which citations need to be created.
  2. You need to evaluate the quality and consistency of the citation.
  3. You need to assess whether all the information presented in the citation is correct

It’s also a good idea to reassess citations once every 6 months. This is because some directory aggregators automatically add or update business listings to directories without your knowledge. Additionally, sometimes they get information wrong. Citation consistency is an ongoing battle!

Before starting to search for business citations, spend some time checking to see if the business had different business information in the past. This could be things like an old address, a previously used phone number, an old logo, new ownership, a new website domain, etc. There's a good chance you'll find a citation listed with this old information, so it’s a good idea to have old information on-hand when searching for citations.

As you can see in the chart below, there are many ways to discover citations. If you want to be thorough, you should use all methods.

METHOD 1: Use the search engines!

Your first stop when looking for citations will be Google, Bing and Yahoo, the top-3 search engines on the internet in the U.S. Using these 3 search engines, you can cover the vast majority of the internet.

Do a search for each piece of your business NAP info. Just in case you skipped the past few chapters, you should do a search for:

  • Name - Your business name including any previous names or variations
  • Address - Your business address, including all past addresses
  • Phone - Your phone number, including all previous phone numbers
  • Email - Your email address, including all variations that may have been used. You may even wish to search for old employee email addresses who may have done any online work for you
  • Website -Your company website. Search for it and any previous domains.

When reviewing the search results, go at least 5 pages back and closely inspect the information you find. Remember that even one mispelled word can cause citation inconsistency. Check each page carefully to make find any possible variations of your business information. If an inconsistency is found, take a note of the website URL, and any potential issues with your business information that will need later correction.

Be meticulous when identifying possible issues needing correction. This will ensure you will know exactly what to do to correct each bad citation. We made a useful Google Sheet template for you to track your citations and their status.

While you are searching for existing business citations, you may stumble into directories that your business is not listed on but might make a great citation. Make a separate list of these directories to revisit later. If there’s another business listed on a given website, there’s at least a chance you can list yours there, too. Check it out, reach out to the webmaster if you need to, and see if you might be able to use it later to add your business to it. Keep track of these sites on a separate document as potential citations.

3 Common Sources for Citations

Online Directories

Online directories will be your primary source for business citations. There are hundreds of online directories on the internet. Some are specialized for certain industries, others are made for specific regions. Many offer paid citations, although most also offer free options.

Blogs

Blogs are powerful tools for increasing your business' awareness. Much like online directories, there are untold numbers of blogs out there, and if you can convince a blog owner that your business is worth featuring, these unstructured citations can be quite valuable both for SEO and getting your business in front of the blog's readers.

Local News Sites

Local news sites are more difficult to get featured on, but these are some of the most valuable unstructured citations. A local news site immediately tells Google that you're very local to the area.

Beware duplicate citations

When searching for the business in an online directory, be on the lookout for duplicate listings. Duplicate citations are two or more entries within the same online directory containing your business information. They may or may not have the same information. You should note all the duplicate pages, along with any info that needs correction. That way, you can make sure any duplicates are deleted and any incorrect information is corrected at the same time.

Beware duplicate citations

If you started with method #1, you should already have an assortment of listings. If so, you should already have discovered most, if not all the citations this method will look for. Nevertheless, it is important to check other popular locations to see if the business has a listing that has not already been found from method #1.

The most obvious places to look for a business are social media channels. Places like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Tumblr, and even MySpace might contain a business listing. Some sites add an automated "placeholder" for a business. In other cases, such as with Yelp, customers can actually write a review for a business that doesn't have a lsiting and Yelp will consider adding the business listing based on the customer request. If this happens, the information could be incorrect or incomplete. So be sure to check all possible social media profiles.

Places like Yelp, Yellowpages.com, bbb.com, foursquare.com and angieslist.com are good to check because they are large business directories that would likely contain the business. You will find plenty of lists of business directories through a quick search. Go through their lists to find at least 20 online directories they recommend, and check them for your business NAP information.

Top 20 Online Directories

  1. Google My Business
  2. Yahoo Local
  3. Bing Places
  4. Yelp
  5. Foursquare
  6. Express Update
  7. Neustar
  8. Acxiom
  9. Chamber of Commerce
  10. CitySearch
  11. Factual
  12. Yellowpages
  13. Merchant Circle
  14. Manta
  15. BBB
  16. Kudzu
  17. Superpages
  18. Mapquest
  19. Yellowbot
  20. Yellowbook

There are a few other sites to check before completing your assessment. Some of these are aggregator sites. These are very specific online directories that other online directories "pull" business information from to create and update their own business directories (we’ll go over aggregator directories later in Chapter 10). If you have any listings that are incorrect on aggregators, they are going to be the first citations to fix. This is because many other online directories are using that exact same business data for their own online directory. Here are a few aggregators to check for business listings:

Most directories have a handy search function. Use it to search for pieces of your NAP. Don't forget to check for old NAP info as well, if you have it! This method makes certain to find every possible citation for the business.

If the website doesn't have a search function - or it doesn't work - you can use Google Search Operators to search the website. Go to google and search for " site:directoryiwanttosearch.com". Google will only give you results from that website. If you don't see your

business when searching for the parts of your NAP, then either there is no listing or Google hasn't found out about the listing yet.

METHOD 3: Use a 3rd party service!

Finding listings can sometimes be a very time-consuming process. To make things easier and faster, you can use a third party service like Brightlocal. For a monthly fee, Brightlocal will not only search the internet for our listings, but they can help you to assess, and organize citations quickly. You can do all of this and more in one convenient interface. They can even help you to set up new listings, and establish you on aggregator listings! Best of all, they will continually monitor a business' citations in case something changes due to an errant aggregator.

Services like BrightLocal are real time-savers. There are many third-party citation building platforms that help to one degree or another. Moz, Yext, and WhiteSpark to name a few. These services also provide a handy dashboard with a wealth of useful citation information. The dashboard can also be sent to clients, so they can see their overall citation profile and other information.

As mentioned in the introduction to this guide, we are not going to get too deep into 3rd party services. The reason is that even if you use a 3rd party services, it is still helpful to understand the manual citation building and correction process. Moreover, these 3rd party services have their own training guides. We don't need to duplicate their work.

It is important to note that what would normally take several hours to do manually, can sometimes be accomplished in 15 minutes with a 3rd party service. That’s the power of a third party tool. But all of the third party tools are not created equally. And even with outstanding tools like BrightLocal, there are still many situations, as we will see later on when we do phone verifications, where 3rd party services are useless.

Now that you have a lovely list of citations to fix, you're most likely just itching to get out and correct the incorrect listings and deal with those dubious duplicate listings. In the next chapter, we’re going to show how to do just that. Hang on, it’s going to be a ride.

Chapter 7 - How to Correct/Update Citations

This chapter focuses on some of the most difficult aspects of citation building. Its not always difficult. Updating citations on the more well-known directories is usually a snap. But sometimes things do not go as expected. Postcards do not arrive (Google), directories fail to reply to change request emails and automated verification phone calls don't happen (no matter how many times you click "call now". We'll try to cover all of the different scenarios, and how to deal with them.

If citations have been discovered with incorrect information, it could be caused by many factors. Business information could be wrong because the company name was changed, the business moved, new phone lines were added, a new website domain was created, or an aggregator pushed out the wrong info. Whatever the reason, they need to be corrected.

Incorrect business listing information NAP reduces trust with search engines, often resulting in reduced rankings. It can also cause confusion with potential customers. By correcting bad citations, a business is more likely to rank higher than a business with inconsistent citations.

To correct and update your business citations, you will need the citation building essentials from the previous chapters in this guide. That means you should have the current business information, logo and business images, descriptions, and SEO email. There are a couple of other things that are handy to have as well.

Pre-written emails come in very handy. These can be used to send to online directories when requesting citation updates. By having a prepared message ready to go, you don’t have to type out the same kind of email over and over. if you have never written this type of email, save the first one you do write so you can recycle it as needed.

Another handy item for citation corrections are some other “high quality” citation links and screenshots that can be referred to when contacting online directories. These are citations that have already been fully optimized beforehand. They will serve as an extra reference to “prove” your business information is correct. Essentially, you’re telling the online directories, “Here is my business information, and these (very popular) sites all corroborate the information I am submitting. The business pages for Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, and Google are perfect for this purpose. They are widely recognized and have a very high trust level.

When correcting listings, you will notice that some are easier to correct than others. Some are automated and all that needs to be done is set up an account, claim the listing, and update it through their web interface. Other times, there will be no way to manually update a listing. In these cases, the only way to update them is to contact the directory. It is often necessary to repeatedly follow up, and hope they respond to your pleas. With these types of follow ups, it is easy to become frustrated. It is not unusual for a directory to take many weeks to reply to update requests. In these cases, its important to maintain ad kind demeanor, no matter how many times you have to follow up.

When attempting to correct a citation, the first thing to look for is some kind of easy access button or link to update the listing. The button or link should have specific call-to-action words like “Update here!”, “Claim your listing here!” or “Submit a Correction”. They’re usually very obvious. Be aware that these links and buttons may lead to a paywall.

Even worse, when you click on an update button or link it may lead to a “partner site” like Yext. By hovering over the link or button, you can see where it will take you. Watch out for the word “Yext” in the URL you are going to. This is a tell-tale sign of a partner site swooping in to “help you“ claim the listing. If you click through and see the Yext page, don’t worry - it’s not the end of the road yet.

Pre-written emails come in very handy. These can be used to send to online directories when requesting citation updates. By having a prepared message ready to go, you don’t have to type out the same kind of email over and over. if you have never written this type of email, save the first one you do write so you can recycle it as needed.

Many of these claims for pages or changes to pages require creating a new account. An email dedicated for citation building is a perfect choice for these accounts. Use a strong password and use a password-protected spreadsheet to log the credentials. Even better, employ a credentials management service Like Lastpass or Passcamp to streamline and store credentials. Credentials services are even more helpful if you are managing a large number of clients.

If a claim or edit button is nowhere to be found, and create an account anyway. Sometimes, these options to claim or edit a directory listing are not available until you have created an account. Some directories have both “user” accounts, just for browsing, and “business” accounts, for updating listings. Be sure you sign up for the right account. Remember to verify your account if needed via email. If you do need to contact the directory management, having an account lends more credence to your message.

If you've made it to the citation update form screen, then congratulations! Make whatever updates you need in the form boxes. If not, we'll get to that in a bit.

Try to update the citation to the maximum possible extent. If the citation has space for a 2,000 character description, use all 2,000 characters. If it allows numerous pictures, upload as many as possible and use keywords in their descriptions. Business hours? Start date? If you have the info, yes and yes! Social Media Links? Oh, yeah baby! Include as much information about the business possible. Completing a listing to its fullest extent is called “optimizing” a listing. Since you’re already working on the listing, why not make it as good as you can possibly make it?

Thoughtfully including as much information as possible in a business directory listing should be an integral part of any citation building task. A fully optimized listing will send the best possible signals to the search engines. It will also present your business in its best possible light to the people who find you.

Fully optimized listings will set your business apart. This is especially true compared to automated listing services like Yext, unprofessional marketing companies, and inexperienced business owners. Your citations should always be optimized whenever possible for maximum results.

Sometimes it’s not easy to claim or edit a directory. If you are new to citation building, be prepared to encounter ever manner of challenge. Sometimes the claim or edit button just doesn't work. Other time you will enter an endless loop and get nowhere. It can be very frustrating dealing with these types of challenges.

If you can’t figure out how to get into a directory and claim or edit a listing, try using a search engine to search for “how to claim listing on ” or “How to update listing on ”. Review the results and see if another person encountered and solved the same problem. After all, why spin your wheels when someone else might have done the hard work already?

Sometimes there is simply no way to manually update a citation. In some cases, creating an account just doesn’t allow you to claim or update the listing. Maybe the listing was previously claimed by someone else? You may never know. But if you want to ever have a chance at editing the listing, you will need to switch gears.

In these cases, we will need to contact the manager of the online directory website. Look on the page for links like “Contact us!” or “Feedback”. These usually bring you to a message form page. On these form pages, once you add your message, the form will send email to the website administrator. If you are fortunate, they will reply quickly.

If necessary, it may be necessary to look for an email address buried somewhere in the website. If you cant find the obvious "contact us" or contact page, look in an “About us” or “Terms & conditions” pages. If there is no email to be found anywhere on the page, use a “whois” domain tool like https://whois.icann.org to find out “who is” the person in charge of the website, and hopefully get their email address

At the beginning of the chapter we mentioned pre-written email templates for manually reaching out to directories. Here's an example:

Hi,
We are updating our online business information and noticed that has incorrect information. The URL of the listing is:

The incorrect information is:

(list all incorrect information)

The correct information is:

(list corrected info)

You can verify our business information at our Facebook page or our LinkedIn page or our Google My Business Page or our Yelp listing .

Thank you for your assistance,

Always remember to first greet the other party before stating the purpose of the message. Remember that a human being will be answering your email. It is possible that this person is overworked and/or does not like their job. Kindness can go a long way towards expediting change requests. include the URL of the listing to be corrected. Spell out exactly what is wrong with the citation. Then show them what the correct information. Finish by showing “proof” the corrected changes correct and true, with good business listings to back up the provided information.

The message can be modified for any kind of update or correction request. By updating the first paragraph, you can request removal of duplicates or request to add a new listing. By having emails to recycle on hand, you will save time and effort from having to re-create this message from scratch each time.

Once you send your message, you can only wait and hope they respond. If they don't, follow-up in one week. Sometimes, it will take several messages before they finally take action. Sometimes it will seem like you’re beating on a brick wall, but fear not, someone should eventually listen! Be as patient as possible. Whatever you do, dont lose your cool and sent out a nasty email asking what is taking so long. Always remain professional and kind and you will get better results.

In the next chapter, we will discuss creating brand new citations.

Chapter 8 - How to Build New Citations

What do you do if you don’t have any listings? Perhaps you’re a new business, or your old boss was so old school they didn't even bother with "the interwebs" Maybe your new supervisor just crawled out from under a rock and decided "It's time to get online!"? While the last two scenarios are not plausible because aggregators would have still auto-generated citations that need correcting and updating, that's not what we're addressing in this section.

What we're going to talk about now is building and creating new citations from scratch. This is going to be fun (for some)!

As with correcting and editing citations, we'll need a few things to start building new citations. We've already discussed some of these earlier. Things like your business name, address, phone numbers, email, and website. You should also have a business logo, slogan, plenty of images, and descriptions of your business of varying lengths.

Having a "hard document" like a utility bill or DBA with your business name and address will be useful. If possible, also try to have the main business phone available. Some directories like to verify the validity of a new citation by calling the business phone and either asking for, or giving a verification code to or from the webpage on your computer.

It's also a good idea to have a list of online directories to work with. Having a "roadmap" of places in front of you to list the business makes your work a little easier in the long run. Here is a list that will get you off to a great star

If you don't want to use somebody else's roadmap, we're goign to show you how to make your own. You don't need many tools to create one, just your computer, a web browser, a document to record all of hte directories you'll find, and a few hours' time. Fire up that web browser, point it to your favorite search engine, and ask it where all the good online directories are. Here are a few terms you can ask the search engine to help you find many online directories:

With each search query, review the results and take note of hte URL of any site that looks promising. Take note of both the URL, and either a separate (brief) note on how to add a citation, or the direct link to the page to add your business. Some of these searches will take you to articles that have large lists of URLS (such as the Hubspot list from just above). Go ahead and list them all. You can always sort them later. Be sure to go through each listing and note where and/or how to add your business information to that directory.

If you spent a few hours searching, you should have a large list of online directories. Now you'll want to assess them to make sure your business will qualify for a listing. You will also need to know whether these listings are paid (premium) only, or if free listings are offered.

If your directory list is very large, you should cull and sort them by quality. Some directories are more valuable in the eyes of search engines than other ones. Other directories are more popular with users (Yelp is a great example). As a result, most popular directories are also highly valuable. But there are some directories that are invaluable to search engines, that very few real people ever visit such as aggregators.

In chapter 6 we discussed domain authority, and how to use it to find valuable citation sources. This is true for building new citations as well. Something telse to consider that increases the value of a directory is their verification process. If they do not verify directory listings with a phone call, email, postcard, or other means, it's probably not a reputable and thus valuable directory. Generally speaking, the more rigorous a directory listing's verification process, the more reputable and valuable it is for SEO purposes.

If a directory has a low DA value, you may just want to skip adding a listing in that particular directory and focus on directories with a higher value. Low domain authority directories may not add value to your search engine rankings and online visibility. In fact, if a directory has an extremely low DA (less than 5), a listing there may actually lose rank with search engines.

You can check a site's DA a number of ways. You can install the Mozbar browser extension for Google Chrome or Firefox or you can just visit a website that will check it for you too.

Even if a listing is paid, if the directory itself is of low quality, you won't get much value from the listing, and may not be spending time and money wisely.

This raises another point with regards to paid citations. Some online directories offer "premium listings", where for a fee, you can "upgrade" your listing to add all sorts of features and benefits, bells and whistles, and even the #1 search result spot in their driectory. Some directories won't even let you add a citation at all unless you pony up some cash first.

So are these paid directories and citations worth the money? Well, that's a pretty complicated question to ask. There are plenty of pros and cons to adding a paid listing.

Some paid listings such as a paid listing at the Better Business Bureau are widely sonsidered to be the holy grail of paid business listings. Why? Not because they are pretty expensive at around $500 per year, but because of hte way the BBB is organized. They have a rigorous review process and offer free dispute arbitration.

That's why the answer to whether paid directories are worth the money is "it depends". There are no easy answers. Plenty of paid directories will take your money and offer no value in return. This makes it important to review the entire directory's reputation and organization and use uncommon sense when deciding whether to pay for any directory listing. Once you are finished culling your list of directories, its time to actually add your business to the directories.

When adding a new listing in an online directory, the first thing to look for is to see if a citation already exists in the online directory. You don't want any duplicate listings. Duplicate listings are considered spammy and interfere with the overarching goal of perfect citation consistency. Besides, it's never a good feeling when you take the time to create a beautifully fleshed-out directory listing only to discover that one already exists.

Once you have searched a directory and are sure the business doesn't already have a citation, you can proceed to adding the business to the directory and get a valuable citation.

Start by looking for something obvious such as "Add Your Business!", "create a listing HERE!", "Partner with us", or "Advertise with us". Sometimes it's not very obvious where to go to add a business to a particular directory.

Once you find where to add a business, you may need to create an account to get started. Use an email account othre than your main business email address to create an account in the directory, or you'll be getting a lot of email messages from some of these directories. Its probable that they sell their data, so if you don't want to get spammed, create a dedicated email for verification purposes. You can specify a different "contact" email address for the citation.

If you strike out and can't easily find where to add a business to the directory, the nnext place to look is the site index. This is usually located in the footer of every page. The site index gives a list of links to all the major pages on the webpage. If you look carefully, you may see a link to create a business listing among all the other links in the site index.

If you can't find a link on the front page you may have to search around a little more. Check a random listing to see if there are any links to add a business. Check for clues about adding a listing on these types of links:

  • About Us
  • FAQs
  • Contact Us
  • Terms of Use

If all else fails, look for an email address to the site administrator. You can also use the "Contact us" form if htey have one. If you do strike out and have to contact the directory, make a note of it so you can follow up later. Directories are notoriously understaffed and often do not reply to emails or contact forms regarding free listings. Their paying customers always take priority.

You may find that your listing already exists. If that's the case, you may simply need to simply claim this existing listing. Claiming the listing gives you full control to edit the information it contains. This is a good thing, since many online directories auto-magically generate citations for businesses they discover for themselves. These auto-generated citations are usually bare bones when it comes to information, and that information might be incorrect too.

It is very commonplace for directories to create new listings on their own. For example, if a customer uses Facebook to check into a new store that they were previously unaware of, and the listing does not currently exist, Facebook will automatically create a new page for the store.

With this new page, others can also view the location the customer checked into (and may go check it out themselves!). By claiming this page, the new store can not only verify the correct business information, but add images, descriptions, business hours, offers, services, and more.

Before Claiming

After Claiming & Optimizing

Chapter 9 - Verifications

Many directories will simply accept whatever data you provide as the truth and publish it on their public directory page. But not all of them are so trusting. Some directories will require additional verification. Before we get any further, let's go over exactly what a verification is.

A verification is simply an action taken by an online directory to confirm the validity of a business before they accept the business' information and create a live listing.

Besides the obvious reason of ensuring a business is legitimate before publicly displaying their information, verifications build trust with search engines. Search engines like Google tend to value online directories that verify their businesses more than those that do not verify their business information.

Although perhaps just a coincidence, most online directories that do some kind of verification tend to have a higher domain authority than those that do not. Although this is certainly not the rule, for example, Facebook has a very high DA and does no verification of a business' information, this is usually the case.

Email Verifications

Email is by far the most common type of directory listing verification. This type of verification doesn't verify business information. It's just a simple check to ensure that the submitted business information is coming from a human. Almost all online directories require email verification in addition to any other forms of verification just to make sure a robot is not gaming their system. Email verification can also be used for account password recovery.

Most verifications will not be as involved as a phone or postcard verification. Some directory verifications merely require an email address with the same domain as the company website, like robert@nimbusmarketinggroup.com.

There are a number of verification methods. We'll address each one in detail.

When performing an email verification, an online directory will send the account holder an email with a link to click on to verify that the email address is valid, and belongs to the person creating the account. It's usually a pretty simple matter, but sometimes the email may get lost in your spam folder. Most emails will be sent right away, but sometimes they can take hours to show up. In other cases, the email is never received. It is not unusual for directories to have issues with their verification process.

Postcard Verifications

Postcard verifications are used somewhat rarely by online directories, but they ensure that the verification code is received at a real-world physical location. Most notably, big companies like Google, Bing, and Foursquare use postcard verification for their online listings.

Postcard verifications are straightforward. The online directory will physically mail a postcard containing a verification code to the business address. Once the postcard is received, the code is simply entered at the URL provided and the listing is verified.

The downside to postcard verifications is that it takes time for the postal service to deliver the postcard to you. According to Google, postcards should show up between 3-5 business days, but that doesn't always happen. In fact, postcards are frequently not sent or lost in the mail. That might put you on edge, wiating for your letter carrier to arrive with the "golden ticket" that is your verification code.

If a verification postcard is not received within 2 weeks, it's best to request the verification postcard again. Of course, this means you will need to start the waiting game all over again for the postcard. Sometimes this process needs to be repeated multiple times.

Phone Verifications

Phone verifications are by far the most insidious and difficult types of verifications. On the surface, they are relatively straightforward, like postcard verifications. However phone verifications have a tendency to go wrong, and that can get very frustrating.

Phone verifications are simple in concept. You initiate the phone call through the directory's website when prompted, and the directory will dial your main business line with an automated phone call. When you initiate the phone call, make sure the phone is ready to take the call. Once connected, one of two things will happen.

  1. You enter a code that is displayed on the online directory into the phone.
  2. The automated system will give you a code and you enter it on the website.

Simple, right? Not always. All sorts of things can go wrong with phone verifications. If the business uses an automated call service to answer its phones, the online directory may not be able to get through. Unfortunately, the automated call isn't smart enough to "press 0 to speak to an operator". In fact, most automated dialers won't even bother to wait if you have a greeting message. You may have to temporarily disable any PBX or other phone systems to complete the phone verification.

The issue boils down to "a computer talking to another computer" problem. The PBX computers from businesses are usually only trained to understand dial tones or simple voice commands. On the other side, the computers from online directories dialing out are either only trained to understand dial tones, or nothing at all; they'll just give out a verification code and hang up without listening.

When a phone verification requires a code to be entered at a website, a PBX system doesn't know how to dial in a verification code upon answering - that's not what it's programmed to do.

In the opposite case, where the business is receiving the code from the directory, most PBX systems start a call with a standard greeting like "Hello! Thank you for calling XYZ company...". The computer on the online directory's side that's doling out the code isn't smart enough to know it's hearing an automated greeting; they expect a human to answer. It simply gives the verification code to whomever or whatever is on the other end of the line, and then hangs up. By the time the PBX is done with its automated greeting, the online directory has long since hung up, or otherwise already given out the verification code. Oops!

Even if you don't use a PBX or other phone directory system, you can still run into problems. Sometimes, the online directory claims to have called, but they never do. Other times, they do call, but the verification does not register at their website. If you can't get a directory verification call after multiple attempts, you may want to try and find some kind of help such as emailing support, or calling to request assistance. Email is usually the only option since most directories are understaffed and do not answer calls during business hours.

Calling can sometimes result in immediate help, but at the cost of a sometimes lengthy sales pitch while they try to correct your issue. Otherwise, you'll have to leave a message, to which they may or may not respond.

It is not uncommon for online directories to require multiple forms of verification. The most common multiple verification process is an email verification followed by a phone or postcard verification, then further require either a phone or postcard verification.

Some directories are very strict with their verification process. The now defunct Acxiom used to require a copy of a DBA or business license to verify a listing. Google is cracking down with their GMB listings too. It has become quite common for Google to suspend a business listing and require photos of exterior signage to re-verify a business listing.

Directory verification methods don't always work. It's easily the most frustrating part of working on citations. Realize these things happen, and plan accordingly. For example, try to plan at least 30 minutes per phone verification, just because of the potential issues that may arise. Even though, if everything goes as planned, a phone verification should take no more than a few minutes to complete.

In chapter 10, we'll talk about aggregator services, the power they hold, and the danger they pose.

Types of Verification Failures

  • Automated phone systems fail to call
  • Automated systems call and hang up before revealing the complete code
  • Automated systems call, but the verification code they provide is not accepted by the online directory website
  • Postcards never arrive
  • Emails are never received

Chapter 10 - Aggregators

Did you know that with one citation, you can add your business to several online directories at the same time? That is the power of aggregators. Aggregators are special online directoriest hat other online directories "pull" their data from. They use this data to build and update their own online directories.

Note: As of December 2019 Acxiom is no longer providing aggregator services

Aggregators ahve a very important role to play in the citation world. Aggregators feed other directories so they don't have to scrape the internet at large for businesses to include in their own directories. This means that smaller directories can have a large number of listings simply because they are using the same data listed on aggregators.

These aggregator listings are good news for your business as well, as long as your NAP info is correct. When you have a citation on an aggregator directory, the information from the citation will propagate, or feed into other directories. This makes aggregators powerful tools for getting your business information out online for search engines and potential customers to see.

Some online directories use aggregator data exclusively for their directories. This means that you can't add a listing there on your own. You must rely solely on these aggregator directories to provide your business information.

The downside to these aggregator-only directories is that they are often very slow to update their listings. Depending on how frequently they update their information, your business listing may be live in their online directory for weeks, or even months!

There is also a dark side to aggregators. For the same reasons that they can be good for a business, they can also cause plenty of mayhem. If a business has incorrect business information in an aggregator directory. It may become a problem. Because aggregator citation data is so widely used, something like a bad address, or incorrect phone number can easily spread to other directories. This causes bad citation consistency and can hurt search rankings and send potential customers to the wrong location.

Even more confounding is that if you claim and update a citation with correct NAP information, an online directory may still choose to update itself with data from an aggregator. If that happens, and the aggregator data is incorrect, you'll be forced to re-update your listing information, if that's even possible. If bad citation information is like the common cold, bad citation information on an aggregator is like the plague. It can spread quickly to other directories all over the internet.

As you might expect, aggregator directories tend to be more difficult to obtain a business citation than most directory listings. They usually employ one or more verifications to complete. It is not unusual for aggregators to require copies of business licenses. DBAs and more. This makes their data much more valuable and trustworthy in the eyes of the search engines.

Now that you have an understanding of how important these aggregators are, let's introduce you to the main aggregators and how you can add your business to their directories.

Simple, right? Not always. All sorts of things can go wrong with phone verifications. If the business uses an automated call service to answer its phones, the online directory may not be able to get through. Unfortunately, the automated call isn't smart enough to "press 0 to speak to an operator". In fact, most automated dialers won't even bother to wait if you have a greeting message. You may have to temporarily disable any PBX or other phone systems to complete the phone verification.

Express Update:

Express Update is one of the easier aggregator directories to get a citation on. Luckily it's also one of the largest aggregators out there. Creating or claiming a citation is free, but requires a phone verification, albeit, from a notoriously finicky phone verification system, and their support system won't speak to anyone not from the main business phone number or email with anybody not on the email domain, i.e. me@mybusiness.com. This is how to update or claim a listing on Express Update:

  1. Create an account
  2. Search for your business, if your business doesn't appear, click "add it now." Otherwise, skip to step 5.
  3. Enter new business information in the forms provided, if necessary.
  4. You will be sent an email when the information has been approved and the citation is ready to claim.
  5. Once your citation is available and ready to claim, it's necessary to verify the business by phone (this is the fun part!). Express update's automated system will call your business phone number listed in your NAP, and request the entry of a 4 digit verification code. This is displayed on the citation's web page.
  6. Once this verification is done, the listing should be claimed and live. It's a great idea to review the information by clicking on the business name in the upper left of your account dashboard to ensure it doesn't need any further updating.

Neustar/Localeze:

Neustar is a bit of a troublesome aggregator directory especially if a business doesn't yet exist in its database. This is because while claiming a citation at Neustar is free, creating a new one will cost more time or money. Here is how to deal with citation corrections at Neustar:

  1. Create an account
  2. Search for your business by name or phone number.
  3. If you find it
    1. click the button to claim the citation.
    2. Make sure the business information is correct
    3. Complete the phone verification. When you press "call me" Localeze will call the number listed in the NAP and an automated voice will give you a code to enter into the website.
    4. Click "proceed to checkout." and complete the checkout to claim your citation.
  4. If you don't
    1. Click on "Add new business".
    2. Complete the form to enter the business information.
    3. Complete the phone verification just like the above.
    4. Click "proceed to checkout." and complete the checkout to claim your citation. It's going to cost $79 to create this listing, however.

Yasabe:

This aggregator tends to propagate to more latin-based online directories. Many of these directories are in spanish by default. There is nothing wrong with that at all. What is wrong, however, is that it will cost you $80 to claim and update a listing here. Now, there is a “back door” that Yasabe doesn’t (yet) know about, where if you do not yet have a listing on yasabe, you can work to create one:

  1. Create an account
  2. Go to this link and search for your business by name or phone number. If you find it, you can us the "Claim & Update" button.
  3. Enter in your business information in the forms provided, up to "Submit and Start Payment"
  4. Click on the button "Submit and Start Payment", and close the page
  5. The citation should stay in the business database, and will still be reviewed anyway.

If a citation is created in this manner, it will be unclaimed. If you ever need to update it’s information, you will have to claim the listing (which costs $80), or send a support email to beg them to update it for you (out of the goodness of their hearts).

Factual:

Factual is arguably the most difficult aggregator to get a citation on. Why? Simply because they don’t allow for manual listings (anymore). All their updates come from a “Factual Trusted Data Contributor (TDC)”. Since you aren’t one of those, you won’t get very far requesting a listing from them. Instead, focus on getting a listing on one of the other sources. Although almost all of them are citation listing or paid marketing services, EZlocal is a good target to focus on to try and get a citation for to get one in factual. Once you have a listing in EZlocal, all you can do is wait for factual to update its listings (and if you email them to try and speed things along, that’s exactly what they’ll tell you). Without having to pay an outside source, this is the only “free” method to get a citation here.

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