Citations and Google My Business:
Getting On the Map

You have probably noticed, whenever you perform a local search, that one of the first results on the Google SERP is a map with several Google Maps listings. These results are displayed prominently, with business names, phone numbers, and links to websites. How does Google choose which sites get this prime real estate?

It’s important to recognize that these maps only exist because of a Google My Business (GMB) listing. That’s what appears on Google Map results — the GMB listing.

One of the most important steps of local SEO is to make sure that you claim your GMB listing. Just because your GMB listing exists doesn’t mean you have access to it. Someone else could have added your business information to GMB. According to Google, only 56% of businesses have claimed their GMB listings.

If you are one of the 44% of businesses that has not claimed its GMB listing, that should be Priority #1. Claiming your GMB listing opens up a whole world of possibilities for local SEO.

You may already know that the more content your website has, the better your SEO in general. This applies to your GMB listing as well. You should almost treat it as a separate website in its own right, because it is the asset that will appear on the Maps listing.

This means adding content wherever there is content to be added, including maxing out your business description and uploading your photo assets, all with keywords in the text and metatext. Don’t miss an opportunity to look relevant and engaged within the search engine ecosystem.

Claiming your GMB listing also sets the stage for you to build your citation strategy. This strategy can produce results very quickly compared to national SEO.

What is a citation? A citation is a mention of your business somewhere on the web — your business name, address, phone number, and any other details. It could be a directory listing, the contact info on your Facebook or LinkedIn page–anywhere that your business is mentioned on the web.

The more citations you have, the better your local SEO. One of the key jobs of a local SEO specialist is to bulk up your citations, as well as to correct the ones you already have.

Unlike backlinks, you have a lot of control over your citations. After all, businesses can create their own directory listings.

But most businesses don’t get their citations right, at least from a local SEO standpoint, because they miss a crucial detail.

Your GMB listing places your business on Google Maps. So what is your address on Google Maps? Even if you hide the address (as many service and national businesses do), your GMB listing is still anchored to an address.

Let’s say that address is 555 4th St. And that’s exactly what it says on your GMB listing.

Now let’s jump over to your Facebook page. Or your Yelp profile. Or any one of your directory listings. What is your address listed as?

Let’s say it says 555 Fourth St. Or 555 4th Street. Or even 555 4th St without the period after “St.”

If it differs in any way from what is listed on your GMB, Google’s local search algorithm will not count it as a citation!

This applies to other parts of your GMB profile. For example, if your business is “ABC Inc.” on GMB and you list it on a directory entry as “ABC” or “ABC Inc” (no period), it won’t count as a citation in Google’s local search algorithm.

This is how many businesses fail to take advantage of their citations–they often don’t even realize that they are citations and that they have an audience other than search engine users, namely, the local search web crawlers looking for citations to assign a ranking to your GMB.

This could be what is holding your brand back from being the top-ranking choice on the valuable Google “Map Pack.” Your current citation may be good enough for GPS, but it isn’t good enough for local SEO unless your citations match your GMB exactly.

Fixing your current citations and adding new ones with the correct address, phone number, business name, and other identifying information, down to the last period and comma, will enrich your local SEO.

Squaring away your GMB listing and citations are important early steps in improving local SEO, but they are not the only ones. In competitive niches and markets, you need much more to compete in local SEO. Other ways to improve your site’s ranking in local searches include:

  • Acquiring Backlinks from Locally Relevant Sites. Generally speaking, backlinks are worth more when they come from higher-ranking sites. However, a backlink from a lower-ranking site may be even more useful for local SEO, if it is a locally relevant site, like the site for a local newspaper, Chamber of Commerce, or business.
  • Acquiring Backlinks with Locally Relevant Anchor Text. “Anchor text” is the blue underlined text that makes up a text-based backlink, and keyword-rich anchor text makes a big difference in assigning your site relevance for your niche. Anchor text can also assign you local relevance when the anchor text contains the name of the city, state, or other locality you are trying to rank for locally.