What are Citations?
Citations are mentions of your business name and address on other websites. An example of citations are directory listings such as the online yellow pages. Your listing on review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor and CitySearch are all citations. And certainly your business listing on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or LinkedIn are all citations.
Some citations are not as obvious. For example your business may be listed on a local chamber page. Your domain registration page typically includes your business address.
How Citations Relate to Search?
To search engines a business only “exists” based on the information they find as they crawl the web. The more listings there are for a specific business and the more consistent the listing information is, the more confident the search engine can be that the listing represents a real business.
More and more businesses understand the importance of accurate citations and have worked to claim their listing on the top sites and then used services that will distribute the information across the tens of listing services.
Are Citations Important to Search?
A couple of years ago making sure your citations were accurate and consistent across listings would definitely improve search results and many times get page one results in organic search results. With the most recent Google algorithm change in August 2014 (“Penguin update”) experts were unsure about the impact citations would continue to have.
While Google will never disclose their search algorithm, search experts did some recent testing that indicates that citations are still important. (See the article Search Engine Land if you are curious about what the experts have to say. http://searchengineland.com/local-experts-say-relevance-citations-important-authority-216537)
The Importance of Information beyond Name, Address and Phone
Just because the business exists does not mean that it will show up when people are searching for a business in a particular category. For example, if a customer searches “pizza nearby”, search engines only know if your business is a pizza business by the information they find from your website or from online listings.
Now you can begin to see why additional information about your business such as the category your business is in becomes even more important. Certainly the information from your website needs to accurately define the types of food your restaurant offers and passes that information to the search engine in a search understandable format.
What Should You Do?
First we would recommend claiming your restaurant listings on the top sites such as, Google+, Bing, Yahoo Local, Yelp, and Facebook. Some sites will require you to be available for a phone call at the business to verify and claim the listing. Even with the paid listing services the owner of the location will need to be involved at the location in order for the business to be verified by some of the most important listings.
Second, review your website and make sure that you are passing the location information in a format that search engines will accept. This can get complicated for multiple locations owners trying to pass each locations information to the search engines. Most web development firms understand the importance of proper coding to make sure your locations will show up in local search. Make sure they know how to pass individual location information to search if your website represents multiple locations.
If you do the first two items correctly it is highly likely that you will address the most important listings that will show up on page one of search results. The simplest test is to Google your restaurant name and the city. If you have updated your listings and website data correctly, all of the listing information for the top sites should be accurate and include your website listing in the search results.
Should You Use a Paid Listing Service?
To ensure that your listings are consistent across all of the directory listings you may consider using a service that will update multiple listings for you. Most services will provide a snapshot report showing you the inconsistencies across all of the directories and listings. The snapshot report can be a good place to start to see what type of problems you may have with your listings. If you do pay to have your listings updated be sure to ask for the same report to show that the listings have been updated.
Pricing for these listing services can vary widely. Some will bundle additional services such as the coordination of uploading pictures of your restaurants onto some of the top sites. For single locations expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $500 for the update service. Pricing can drop significantly for multiple locations.
Please contact us for you are looking for a listing service or if you would like a snapshot report. We work with one of the top listing service providers that offers us their listing service at great pricing.