Even if you know more than a little about the basics of search engine optimisation (SEO), it can be easy to get caught up in the idea that off-site SEO is basically just about backlinks – that is, links back to your site from other parts of the web.
But of course, that’s not quite true, as there’s another pillar of off-site SEO – and a key Google ranking factor – that you shouldn’t overlook: citation building.
What’s The Difference Between Citations & Backlinks?
While both backlinks and citations can be very powerful components of your brand’s off-site SEO, the key difference between them is that backlinks are – of course – links, whereas citations don’t need to include a hyperlink at all. Yes, that’s right; even the mere mention of your company name online can be considered to be a citation.
More specifically, a ‘full’ or ‘proper’ citation is generally considered to be a reference online to a business’s name, address and phone number (NAP). By comparison, a ‘partial’ citation might include just some of these details – perhaps omitting the complete address or phone number, for instance.
To potentially add further to the confusion, there are also different kinds of links. These are three categories of link to be aware of – links pointing to your site, links from your site to another site, and links within your site.
It’s the links that point to your site from other parts of the web that are typically referred to as ‘SEO backlinks’, although such terms as ‘incoming links’ and ‘inbound links’ are also sometimes used. These are the type of links that are commonly referred to when SEO professionals – like ours here at Success Local – talk about link building.
As for links from your site to other sites, these are sometimes called ‘outbound links’, while the links within your site – in other words, between pages of the same domain – are usually referred to as ‘internal links’.
Which is More Important – SEO Backlinks or Citations?
Now, there’s a question for getting search engine marketing experts tearing chunks out of each other… but in truth, both are absolutely vital to your firm’s off-site SEO.
Any business ultimately needs to have a strategy in place to try to earn high-quality backlinks and citations. Indeed, it may be arguable that citations are more important than backlinks for small local companies, particularly as far as citations from local sources are concerned.
Remember, after all, that any relevant directories or other parts of the web where your own business isn’t cited, may cite competitors of yours – thereby helping to put those companies one step ahead of your brand.
So, Where To List Your Business?
This is the next big question for those looking to build both SEO backlinks and citations for their site. But first, it’s important to appreciate the difference between paid and unpaid directory listings.
As the different terms suggest, a paid directory listing is one that your business pays for, whereas an unpaid listing is one that your firm can have created for free.
While it is – naturally – up to you whether you pay to have your brand listed in certain directories to build SEO citations, we would also urge a healthy level of scepticism about what you’re getting for your money.
After all, while some directories can be very frequently used and it might seem worth paying to have a listing on them, there are others that represent rather poor value.
So, from this point on, we’ll be keeping our focus in this article firmly on unpaid directory listings. Below, then, are four types of directories that your local business should seek to be featured on.
These are the especially popular nationwide, worldwide and non-industry-specific directories that continue to have value for small businesses seeking to build SEO citations and backlinks – think the likes of Scoot, Foursquare, Yell, Yelp, TripAdvisor and so on. They’re household-name directories that great numbers of people continue to use and trust when in need of all manner of products or services.
Location-specific directories also exist, and can be useful for brands wishing to build location-specific citations. Birmingham-based firms may look to get listed in Birmingham-centric directories like Biz Midlands, for example, although there are many similar such directories serving other parts of the UK, and which have strong regional reputations and name recognition.
You might also look into giving your business a listing on directories that are specific to its industry – Checkatrade and TrustATrader being obvious examples for tradespeople who wish to boost the trust that both search engines and human users place in them. These are portals that ordinary people frequently use when the service they’re seeking needs to be an absolutely dependable and high-quality one.
Google My Business
It’s amazing how easy it can be to overlook Google as a directory in and of itself. Indeed, if there’s any online directory listing of your business that you should take the time to keep updated and develop thoroughly, it’s your Google My Business one. After all, Google utterly dominates local search, being the first port of call for huge numbers of searchers in need of a given business or service.
Finally… Don’t Forget Your NAP Consistency!
Yep, we’re going back to that acronym we mentioned near the top of this article, referring to your business’s name, address and phone number. It’s really vital that across all of the SEO citations that you accumulate, your firm’s NAP information remains consistent.
The reason for this is basically the reason search engines like Google exist in the first place: to assist the human user. Google wishes to provide its searchers with the most accurate possible information, including about any local businesses that they may be searching for.
If then, Google finds more than 50 citations of your business online with the NAP information being the same for all of them, it can be sure that this information is accurate. That won’t be so much the case if there are two or three different addresses used for your business in various parts of the web, or if the same location is worded differently across the many places where your firm is cited.
Google will, therefore, be fairly confident in showing your business’s NAP information to searchers if your citations are consistent in this regard, but not to anything like the same extent if such information is inconsistent.
Allow Us To Show You The Way With Citations
Whether it’s SEO backlinks, citations or any other aspect of your brand’s optimisation for the search engines that you would like to improve, you could hardly choose a better partner agency than Success Local.
Give our team a call today on 01455 367 100, and we’d be delighted to talk you through our areas of SEO and web marketing expertise that could make all of the difference to your business’s prospects online.