Value of Citations? Citations had little to no impact?

HoosierBuff

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Joined
Dec 12, 2013
Messages
277
I don't have any data to back up anything, so, I'm more with "feeling" on this one. (I have seen a few pretty interesting research, I can't remember them all but, I think Dan Liebson had a very cool presentation about it that influenced my thinking).

My feeling is, I can't imagine that Google cares what merchantcircle.com has in their database about your business. You can convince me that the top 10-15 sites are probably important both for users (and voice search, and navigation), and maybe for SEO, but, after that, it's a waste of time.

Part of the issue is, if so many people are doing it, how could it be a valuable signal to google?
 

JoyHawkins

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Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
3,004
Greg Sterling is actually in the process of writing a piece on this where he's going to get a bunch of people to chime in. Here is what I sent him.

I often find that people are are surprised to hear that my agency doesn't focus much on citation building or "maintaining" as a strategy. We've found that time is better spent on other high-impact tactics. We only bother with citation work if the client has recently moved locations. Even then, we notice that it doesn't make a huge difference. We had a client move last summer and after we updated the website and Google My Business listing we actually saw an increase in rankings due to their new location being closer to the center of the zip code (that's where we were scanning ranking from). Additionally, their leads continued to rise month-over-month even though we hadn't updated a single citation. We don't ignore it completely, it's just labelled here as a low-impact tactic so it's not what we tackle first.
 
Joined
Sep 22, 2017
Messages
15
My view is kind of like Hoosier said, it is a "feeling".
Everything I do comes from "if it is there, we should". I always update citations. I always build the ones I like, that add value, especially if it allows for certain things like a map or clickable phone number.
In my opinion, there is no reason not to. I look at my methods as holistic in that, SEO and digital marketing should include everything.
Again, only my opinion and feelings :)
 

Srinath

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Joined
Jun 14, 2019
Messages
9
It's the same as backlinks, a good local/hyper-local citation is worth a 100 generic national ones. I run the existing citations through my own Top100 list which my team prepares at the start of any project and then focus on getting the balance over the duration of the project ( 3 or 4-month Local SEO campaign). This saves money and provides better value to my clients.
 

Mindquest

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Joined
Jul 10, 2013
Messages
42
Greg Sterling is actually in the process of writing a piece on this where he's going to get a bunch of people to chime in. Here is what I sent him.

I often find that people are are surprised to hear that my agency doesn't focus much on citation building or "maintaining" as a strategy. We've found that time is better spent on other high-impact tactics. We only bother with citation work if the client has recently moved locations. Even then, we notice that it doesn't make a huge difference. We had a client move last summer and after we updated the website and Google My Business listing we actually saw an increase in rankings due to their new location being closer to the center of the zip code (that's where we were scanning ranking from). Additionally, their leads continued to rise month-over-month even though we hadn't updated a single citation. We don't ignore it completely, it's just labelled here as a low-impact tactic so it's not what we tackle first.
Here is the article Joy mentioned: Do local citations matter anymore? Five local SEOs sound off - Search Engine Land
 

BipperMedia

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Joined
Jan 13, 2019
Messages
128
I can't imagine how anyone would plan to move the needle of productivity, at least at a measurable and substantial increase, without citation distribution... at least applicable to locations that are in hyper competitive markets or large metro areas (or both).

Citation distribution, when done properly, also includes the URL that you use as the landing page URL in your GMB... so it's sort of like a combination of local and organic SEO, but both of which contribute directly to fueling your rankings and productivity in search (both local and organic).

I think there's two main reasons people are turned off by, or find no value in, citation distribution:

1) they use API platforms like Yext, Synup, or Moz Local. The truth with these "automated content production and automated distribution platforms" is that you end up with citations never make it, or make it properly, to the partner end point.. this is a problem that we've seen at a pretty large scale with Moz Local and their so called "aggregator" distribution service.

2) 20% or less of the citations that are actually distributed never get indexed by Google... a combination of the automated function but also a combination of people never taking the additional steps necessary to increase indexation.

There's other factors, of course, that influence local rankings and productivity... but I do not believe any of these "other" factors are sufficient without a properly executed citation distribution strategy.

And let me just lay out a few components that I see as a proper citation distribution strategy:
  • manual citations -- so you don't lose them ever (again, if you cancel with API platforms, your citations typically disappear along with your cancellation)
  • manual aggregator distribution
  • high DA sites / global directories
  • high DA sites that are niche to your business / industry
  • locally / contextually / geographically targeted citations that are relevant to your proximity
  • manual strategy for increasing your indexation rate of citations
I may be missing a couple (I'm typing through this fast...) but this is definitely a good start.
 

Raph2805

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Joined
Jun 23, 2019
Messages
7
I can't imagine how anyone would plan to move the needle of productivity, at least at a measurable and substantial increase, without citation distribution... at least applicable to locations that are in hyper competitive markets or large metro areas (or both).

Citation distribution, when done properly, also includes the URL that you use as the landing page URL in your GMB... so it's sort of like a combination of local and organic SEO, but both of which contribute directly to fueling your rankings and productivity in search (both local and organic).

I think there's two main reasons people are turned off by, or find no value in, citation distribution:

1) they use API platforms like Yext, Synup, or Moz Local. The truth with these "automated content production and automated distribution platforms" is that you end up with citations never make it, or make it properly, to the partner end point.. this is a problem that we've seen at a pretty large scale with Moz Local and their so called "aggregator" distribution service.

2) 20% or less of the citations that are actually distributed never get indexed by Google... a combination of the automated function but also a combination of people never taking the additional steps necessary to increase indexation.

There's other factors, of course, that influence local rankings and productivity... but I do not believe any of these "other" factors are sufficient without a properly executed citation distribution strategy.

And let me just lay out a few components that I see as a proper citation distribution strategy:
  • manual citations -- so you don't lose them ever (again, if you cancel with API platforms, your citations typically disappear along with your cancellation)
  • manual aggregator distribution
  • high DA sites / global directories
  • high DA sites that are niche to your business / industry
  • locally / contextually / geographically targeted citations that are relevant to your proximity
  • manual strategy for increasing your indexation rate of citations
I may be missing a couple (I'm typing through this fast...) but this is definitely a good start.
Great post here Bipper. Completly agree on the low indexation comment, what would you recommend to get a bigger percentage indexed? I personally, manually create my citations so would hope the unique descriptions would help with indexing, along with adding the citation urls to the websites about us pages.
 

BipperMedia

Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2019
Messages
128
Thank you @Raph2805 - I recommend the following to take control of your indexation:

How to increase citation indexation

1)
create a sitemap (basically just a page on the client's site)

2) list our the most authoritative URL's in a clean, organized fashion on this sitemap page

3) publish the new sitemap page

4) create a link to your new sitemap page somewhere in a global element on your site (footer, drop down nav, etc...)

5) submit your sitemap URL to be recrawled via Google Search Console (critically important step)

Also, here's how I recommend going about prioritizing the citation URL's that get added to your sitemap:

How to identify / prioritize citation URL's for indexation

1)
copy and paste the huge long list of citation profile URL's into "Batch Analysis" tool in AHREFS

2) download the resulting analysis into a sheet... (we use gsheets)

3) sort the batch of URL's by DR (Domain Rating) from highest to lowest

4) start with the top 10% - 20% of the most authoritative citation URL's

The reason I recommend starting with / keeping it at around the top 20th percentile may or may not be warranted...

Some people may go all out and put every citation URL's on something like a sitemap.

However, I think this might be careless at best, and irrelevant at most.

Careless because all of a sudden you have a surge outbound links pouring from your site - this could look spammy... very spammy!

And irrelevant (to a degree... I'm slightly torn on this particular point) because the top 20th percentile of your citation portfolio will carry more influence on your location authority than all other citations combined... basically the power law distribution of citations.

5) use those top tier DR url's as the starting point to add to your sitemap

6) include niche citation URL's in your sitemap -- niche as in both business category and metro specific citations

I hope this was helpful... let me know if you have any questions!

Thank you again,

Bobby
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 3, 2018
Messages
19
Adding two cents from the view of multi-location businesses.

Bobby, you correctly point out the limitations of API based citation effectiveness. But when you are talking about a brand with 20-50-500 locations, the API approach is the only one that would be practical.

Joy (and others) reinforce the point that citation building/maintenance simply isn't a high-impact optimization item anymore. There are so many more tools available to drive exposure and engagement in local search directly supported by Google - most of which can be managed at scale.

Even Yext understands that they can no longer lead with Citations. The headline from their site today is "Perfect Answers Everywhere. Today’s customer journey starts with a question and consumers expect answers."
 

BipperMedia

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Joined
Jan 13, 2019
Messages
128
Adding two cents from the view of multi-location businesses.

Bobby, you correctly point out the limitations of API based citation effectiveness. But when you are talking about a brand with 20-50-500 locations, the API approach is the only one that would be practical.

Joy (and others) reinforce the point that citation building/maintenance simply isn't a high-impact optimization item anymore. There are so many more tools available to drive exposure and engagement in local search directly supported by Google - most of which can be managed at scale.

Even Yext understands that they can no longer lead with Citations. The headline from their site today is "Perfect Answers Everywhere. Today’s customer journey starts with a question and consumers expect answers."

Hi @Henry LocalClarity -- Respectively, I could not emphatically disagree with you more...

I count 5 key points that you alluded to in your comment:

1) you agree with me on the limitations of API platforms (I appreciate the confirmation)

2) the API approach is the only one that's practical at 20-50-500 locations -- that is false

3) you mentioned certain people reinforce the point that citation building isn't a high impact optimization item -- not only do I believe this is false, but I'm also confused as to how anyone / any agency who claims to be doing "local SEO" work on behalf of a client or their own business can have such a position.

4) Yext understands they can no longer lead with citations -- not only is this a false representation of Yext, but I also believe it is a misunderstanding of their core business model and objectives

Unfortunately I have to get with our team and we have client work to attend to at the moment...

But I definitely want to come back and elaborate - or at least state my position on some of these points that you made.

More than anything, I appreciate and I'm also excited for the opportunity to dialogue and respectively debate these issues -- I think it makes all of us better who are working in this industry.

Again, I say all of the above out of respect to you, this forum, and the team behind this forum... and also out of the respect for this platform and its purpose.

Thank you again

Bobby
 

JoyHawkins

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Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
3,004
3) you mentioned certain people reinforce the point that citation building isn't a high impact optimization item -- not only do I believe this is false, but I'm also confused as to how anyone / any agency who claims to be doing "local SEO" work on behalf of a client or their own business can have such a position
We classify it as low impact at my agency so this is definitely not a false statement.


 

BipperMedia

Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2019
Messages
128
Hi Bobby,
Yes, this forum is an excellent, and safe, place to emphatically disagree :).
sorry... "emphatically" was probably not necessary to make a point that I disagree :)

@JoyHawkins -- fair enough... I certainly would never claim to have the inside hook to Google's secret sauce and I would never claim to know the 'absolute' truth to peak optimization -- I speak solely from my own unique experiences over the years!

Which is why I leave it at either agreeing or disagreeing with certain statements here on the forum.

Which is also why this is such an amazing forum!

Thank you again

Bobby
 

JoyHawkins

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Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
3,004
@JoyHawkins -- just out of curiosity, what technique or strategy do you consider high priority at your agency? very curious now... :)
Our approach is super custom so we do an audit to determine what is high, medium, and low priority. Our monthly reporting looks at the number of leads (phone calls, chats or website form fills) so we prioritize items that are most likely to increase that.

For example, if you were a personal injury lawyer or HVAC company, finding and removing spam would likely be at the top of the list. Onsite optimization is also usually very high on the list (we don't necessarily do the same things here that everyone else does). Also, we have a PR guy on staff that gets clients featured in various online publications when journalists need quotes from professionals - this is usually classified as high impact as well.
 

BipperMedia

Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2019
Messages
128
Our approach is super custom so we do an audit to determine what is high, medium, and low priority. Our monthly reporting looks at the number of leads (phone calls, chats or website form fills) so we prioritize items that are most likely to increase that.

For example, if you were a personal injury lawyer or HVAC company, finding and removing spam would likely be at the top of the list. Onsite optimization is also usually very high on the list (we don't necessarily do the same things here that everyone else does). Also, we have a PR guy on staff that gets clients featured in various online publications when journalists need quotes from professionals - this is usually classified as high impact as well.
Hi Joy... those all sound like actionable and valuable techniques to optimizing a location.

I especially like the idea - and 100% agree with the use of PR to get mentions from various publications.

When you pursue mentions in publications, are you also pursuing links and brand mentions... or just the quote?
 

Raph2805

Member
Joined
Jun 23, 2019
Messages
7
Thank you @Raph2805 - I recommend the following to take control of your indexation:

How to increase citation indexation

1)
create a sitemap (basically just a page on the client's site)

2) list our the most authoritative URL's in a clean, organized fashion on this sitemap page

3) publish the new sitemap page

4) create a link to your new sitemap page somewhere in a global element on your site (footer, drop down nav, etc...)

5) submit your sitemap URL to be recrawled via Google Search Console (critically important step)

Also, here's how I recommend going about prioritizing the citation URL's that get added to your sitemap:

How to identify / prioritize citation URL's for indexation

1)
copy and paste the huge long list of citation profile URL's into "Batch Analysis" tool in AHREFS

2) download the resulting analysis into a sheet... (we use gsheets)

3) sort the batch of URL's by DR (Domain Rating) from highest to lowest

4) start with the top 10% - 20% of the most authoritative citation URL's

The reason I recommend starting with / keeping it at around the top 20th percentile may or may not be warranted...

Some people may go all out and put every citation URL's on something like a sitemap.

However, I think this might be careless at best, and irrelevant at most.

Careless because all of a sudden you have a surge outbound links pouring from your site - this could look spammy... very spammy!

And irrelevant (to a degree... I'm slightly torn on this particular point) because the top 20th percentile of your citation portfolio will carry more influence on your location authority than all other citations combined... basically the power law distribution of citations.

5) use those top tier DR url's as the starting point to add to your sitemap

6) include niche citation URL's in your sitemap -- niche as in both business category and metro specific citations

I hope this was helpful... let me know if you have any questions!

Thank you again,

Bobby
Thanks Bobby, really appreciate the response.
 

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