Whether you’re bracing yourself against big-budget rivals or trying to get a brand new business started, brand awareness is key. You can’t gain customers if no one can find you, and it’s very easy to get drowned out by the amount of noise already being made by others in your market. One way you can begin to improve your exposure is by upping your authority ranking with some fresh citations and high-quality links.
Think of a citation as any mention of your name, address and phone number. You can submit that information to big directories like Yelp! or Yahoo! Local, or you can just add it all to a YouTube video of your products or services in action. Your citation may or may not include a link to your site, but links are also important — that’s why we recommend you build both.
Here are some tips about how to do that right.
1. Make accuracy the highest priority
Before going any further, it’s important to understand the consequences of inaccurate information when building citations. Some directories feed all their new information into dozens or hundreds of other directories. When bad information shoots out into to the ether, it can be a serious headache to track down again. Save yourself some worry by creating triple-checked copy-paste segments for all the information you need to fill in.
2. Check for duplicates before you build a citation
Before you build any citations, make sure that you do an exhaustive search for existing citations on that platform. Duplicate citations can undo all of your hard work by splitting the authority you should be getting from your new citations between the correct one and the duplicate one. If you find older versions of you citations, it is always more beneficial to update and correct the old one than to try to just replace it with a new one.
3. Provide as much information as you can when building out your citations
Providing as much information as possible is key if you want all your hard work to pay off, but not all directories will allow you to submit the same kind of information. You should be ready to submit a huge variety of details about your business — not just name, address and phone number, but also opening and closing hours, general descriptions of the business, and any relevant images, such as your logo or featured products.
4. Start with directory submissions
Make sure you create profiles for your business on all of the biggest directories in your area. If you’re in the US, that would include the two options listed in the last section plus others like Citysearch. Any site that points visitors to a list of businesses in that area may be considered a directory. Create accounts on the top 20 or so directories in your area.
5. Find smaller directories that are a perfect match for you
Trying to build as many citations as you can is no longer the best strategy. Search engines care about the quality and relevance of the directories that are pointing back to you. After you get the top 20 for your country or region, restrict your search to smaller directories that are highly relevant to your audience.
For example, if you offer home services, you can find city and even town-level directories that are focused on these services alone. Though they are smaller, they are more likely to result in leads and make your link profile credible, which is an important metric for improving search engine results.
6. Look for opportunities for unstructured citations
After you’ve built out all the best citations you can on directories big and small, it’s time to start going for opportunities for unstructured citations. An unstructured citation is one that you can’t claim by building out a profile. Some examples would be an offhand mention of your business in an article, or in the description of a YouTube video. You can build out these types of citations almost anywhere if you’re respectful of your hosts.
7. Offer value to get better responses from link requests
If you want to build links, you’ll likely have to do so by appealing to people who have websites like yours. The best way to build links is to provide some incentive for another website to post content that links back to your website. These requests aren’t always accepted, which is why it’s important to send requests in the right way if you care about getting timely responses.
When you send out requests to build links, wrap the offer in a value proposition for the website owner. For example, send them a great piece of content for their own audience that has your citation embedded into it.
Keep your eyes open for high-quality opportunities
Creating good links back to your website isn’t difficult, but it does need to be done carefully. Though search engines no longer reward massive link collecting of random sources, high-quality citations and backlinks that are relevant will pay dividends for years.