Google Places Optimization – Citations

April 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm 14 comments


I will not start the Google Places optimization topic with the preliminary stage, setting up the Places page and choosing the right categories, because on this topic there is enough information both at the Google Places Help Center and around the Web. 

The difficult part, and the harder one to achieve is to get a decent number of citations, outlining at least the basic business information – business name, business physical address, business land line number. What are the citations? When your business information is mentioned somewhere around the Web, Google notices that, scrapes it down and adds it to its relevant place – in your Google Places listing. It goes to your “More about this place” section, which is located in the bottom part of your Places page.

To get your citations there, the information for your business must be consistent all over the Internet. One letter in the business name, one number in the address or one dash in the phone number may cause Google to think this is not the same business, and pass by this vital source of information.

Citation building is a time taking, but very important process. Sometimes, even if you have done everything perfectly, you will not see any results for months. This is not your fault. Google crawls more rarely websites and directories with lower authority and ones that get their content not changed frequently. That is why, the fastest results can be seen coming from generic and famous directories, such as City Search, Yahoo! Local, Insider Pages, Judy’s Book, Yelp, Hot Frog.

The value of the citations.

Different citations have different value and citations from the mentioned generic directories in the majority of the cases would have lesser value, than citations from locally-oriented and niche oriented directories. If a roofing contractor from Richmond, VA gets a citation from a directory, which is mainly oriented towards serving the people in the area of Richmond, and is mainly about contractors, this citation will have much higher value than one from a generic, nationwide business directory. Unfortunately, citations from the specific and local directories generally come slower and not frequently. The highest value citation would come from the company’s own website, as it would be the most relevant one.

How many citations do I need?

As many as possible. The final goal is to overcome the all the competition and appear on position A. Sometimes all you would need is to verify your ownership over the Google Places listing, but sometimes a hundred citations will not be enough. It depends on the strength of the competition and the competitiveness of the keywords you want to rank for. A restaurant in New York City will definitely have more troubles getting to page 1, then a pet groomer from West Liberty, Ohio.

Where do I get the citations from?

There are literally thousands of business directories, where any business could post their information. However, getting a citation from a directory, specialized in auto repair in the area of Washington DC, would have close to zero value if you are a landscaper in Las Vegas, Nevada. What you need to do is type your targeted keyword in the Google search and start checking one by one your competitors’ profiles. Go to the bottom of their Places pages and see all the directories where they have citations from, then do everything possible to get your business information on all of these. Check all the businesses on page 1 and page 2 of the Google Places. After you have done this with all your targeted keywords, go to the Google search again and type your keyword + the nearby big city. Then repeat the same process with all the businesses listed there.

There is an easier way to find all this information. Two very useful free tools are the Local Citation Finder and the Local Search Toolkit. They are time-saving and will provide you with all the results you need. However, the Local Citation Finder provides only the top 30 citation sources per keyword for the free subscribers, and the Local Search Toolkit shows information only for the business on page 1, but they both are definitely helpful and useful, especially for the smaller size businesses.

Final thoughts and insights

Although I have mentioned that citations to your place that matter for your business listing ranking are the ones shown in the “more about this place” section, many Google Places gurus state that these are not the only ones that matter, but Google counts some more citations that are hidden. A vigorous supporter of this statement is the creator of the Local Citation Finder as well as Mike Blumenthal – the top expert for local search.

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Entry filed under: Google Places. Tags: , .

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14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jeff  |  April 19, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Really appreciate the detailed Google Places Optimization info. It’s great to have such an awesome resource with such up-to-date information. Truly appreciate your efforts! Wishing success to you for your too! Keep up the great work. Thanks!

    Reply
  • 2. Wayne  |  May 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    NYAGOSLAV,
    Excellent article! Very informative! Thank you so much. I am actually working on my citations as I type this. LOL
    Thank you!

    Reply
  • 3. Nyagoslav  |  May 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you, Wayne.

    I really hope it would help you. As you can see this is just the basics, so I hope you’ve put good use to the tools that I have mentioned. They are really helpful and save a lot of time.

    Also you might want to check this article, that I also find useful:
    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/google-places-citations-5-tactics-to-earn-links-for-your-local-business

    Reply
  • 4. Justin Sanderfer  |  May 12, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Hello and thank you for the well-written information. So if I understand this correctly, you can’t actually add citations to your listing yourself…you have to get your self listed a bunch of different places and just hope Google eventually adds them on it’s own, is that right?

    My listing does not come up in any search results in Google Places or Google Maps. Even when I type the name of the company and the small city where it’s located (Chamblee). I know it’s because it’s a new listing and has no reviews yet, or citations. Well, I’m guessing that’s the issue anyway–I would think it would at least show up eventually, even on page 20, but I never see it at all–I have never been able to search for it and find it as a result 😦

    I’m not great with SEO in general, but I had really thought adding myself as a bonafide google place would drive some business to my site. Instead, it’s been sort of a time-consuming process that has yet to function as I had hoped. Even when I type in no business and bring up a google map of the exact area my business located, it shows every other business but not mine. And yes it’s a verified listing:
    http://maps.google.com/maps/place?hl=en-US&gl=US&cid=4010879577556301660

    Heck, I don’t even have a “more info” section at the bottom of my google places listing. In fact, it doesn’t even show my hours of operation or email address, or several other factors I have filled out in my company info. I am sure I am screwing this up somehow, but it is what it is.

    Thanks for letting me ramble–and for the help you’ve given people in the forums!

    Reply
  • 5. Nyagoslav  |  May 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Justin,

    Yes, unfortunately there is not much you could do to make Google pick the citations. However I would offer you when you create listings on particular business directories to fill out ALL the information, so that it becomes 100% complete. This helps immensely. The other thing I am sure about that helps in picking up the citations is if you are advertising on the directory, but this is already if you really need citations very urgently + they will be coming only from one directory, which will not have too many more positives than just getting a citation from your website (which is the fastest to be picked up usually). You just have to put the right signals on your website for Google to pick them.

    Your listing comes up when you are searching it by phone number. This means it is already live, up and running on Google, but your competitors are stronger and more “relevant” for the queries.

    The more info section will appear eventually when Google picks the citations for your business, so don’t worry about it. The hours of operation and email address not showing up for American listings is a known problem and I saw many people reporting it on the GP help forum.

    But there’s something you could start up with right now, while waiting for the citations to be picked up. Ask your customers for reviews! Not only on your Place page directly, but on third-party websites like citysearch.com, too. Just try to avoid Yelp 😉

    Cheers,
    Nyagoslav

    Reply
    • 6. Justin Sanderfer  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      Thank you–you’re awesome! Can you elaborate on the “avoid Yelp”? I just listed there yesterday. Was that a mistake? And thanks for reminding me about Citysearch–I had forgotten that one.

      Reply
      • 7. Nyagoslav  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm

        No, you did very well by getting listed on Yelp. However, Yelp has some weird rules regarding reviews. If the review poster is not a regular Yelp reviewer, they will filter out the review. A lot of people had problems with that unfortunately. Citysearch and the whole Citygrid network is much more secure.

    • 8. Justin Sanderfer  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm

      When you look up by phone number (good idea) it sure does come up in the listings…thanks! But the actual map just drops a marker, and there is no little gray title where my business is located. Is that normal–or don’t you usually get words on the map when you have a business? And perhaps an itty-nitty icon?

      Reply
      • 9. Nyagoslav  |  May 12, 2011 at 9:49 pm

        Oops, I lost you here. You’ll have to provide some screenshots 🙂

      • 10. Justin Sanderfer  |  May 12, 2011 at 10:25 pm

        Yeah I don’t always make the most sense.

        If you go to http://www.amazingbyamanda.com/bynumber.png you’ll see what I mean.

        There’s my listing on the left…map on the right. On the map, other businesses have their names printed in gray text. Some even have little icons. You can see it when you just bring up a generic google map of the area. You see the businesses, you can click on the names, etc. Mine never has a “name” on the map. The most I get is the little red placemarker that drops on the map. Is there something I can do about this?

        Is there a way to fix that ‘known problem’ of my hours and other info not showing up as well?

  • 11. Nyagoslav  |  May 12, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Hm, these icons and grey text mean that Google has a lot of trust on that business. As your listing is new, it will take some time until these attributes appear. Regarding the hours and additional details not appearing – everyone is wondering the same. From Google say they know about the problem and they are working on it.

    Reply
    • 12. Justin Sanderfer  |  May 12, 2011 at 11:01 pm

      Thank you once again for your advice!

      Reply
  • 13. jeremy widdup  |  May 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Interesting stuff
    – Citations are as you hint at is a ‘Google places’ equivalent – to a back link to your site (for ranking in Google organic) search.

    But the key question I really struggle with is this:

    If you are a local business and you have invested heavily in a web site and you have been driving back links to gain ranking in Google organic (Or indeed you planned to make new investments in a website for this same purpose) – Is there any point in having a website at all – now you are going to be mostly dependent upon Google places?

    The first 7 – 10 results are now Google places for the local search to your business – And bearing in mind that the 1st page placing / rank occupancy gets 42% click through and currently location 10 gets 4% – Doesn’t this mean that any investment in your web site is going to be severely diluted in its ability to get traffic – as it will always have Google places listings in front of the their site even when achieving position one in a Google organic rank placement?

    Reply
    • 14. Nyagoslav  |  May 17, 2011 at 12:09 am

      Hello Jeremy,

      I get your point but there are a few things that are important to bear in mind. Although Google Places is definitely currently extremely important for many local businesses, you have lower flexibility in terms of design, which leads to lessening the ability to work on increasing the conversion rate. Of course there are things that could be done (you could read my article on the importance of pictures for Google Places on my blog), but generally the flexibility is much slimmer than on your website. Two more things:
      1) It actually IS possible to get a website ranking OVER the Place pages, although this is really difficult, especially for very competitive keywords.
      2) In many cases Google brings the so-called O-pack SERP, where the Place page listing and the website are merged. In these cases Google puts tremendous importance on the website SEO.

      Although Google Places are important, they are only part of the picture. Actually Mike Blumenthal created a brilliant infographic covering exactly the topic you mentioned. You can find it here:
      http://blumenthals.com/blog/2011/03/15/infographic-owning-your-local-web-equity/

      It covers pretty much everything that a local business needs.

      Reply

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