Citations are points of reference that point to a business. For some, it may be easy to remember having to cite resources used in a college report. In the same fashion, search platforms like Google use digital citations to determine accuracy of geographical information.
Search engines are similar to encyclopedias or indices (the plural of index) that contain a number of reference points. In search 4.0, many platforms have moved beyond simply providing a reference into providing the answers themselves. But no matter the method, citations connect real world businesses with online assets; offering digital credibility to brick and mortar locations which extends to the website(s) associated with them.
Citation NAPs and SMBs
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. NAP information makes up the core of any business citations. Secondary details that can and often should be included are:
- Owner(s) names (Authorship connections are a Plus)
- Official email
Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) don’t have the luxury of ignoring the popularity, usefulness, and necessity of online resources. Conversations are happening and users are searching and engaging; whether or not the business they are talking about are online or not.
Local Directories: What Is Yext?!
This is where local directories come in. Local directories have two primary functions, aside from generating revenue from SMB subscriptions. First, they provide a digital version of a business index, similar to the Yellow Pages. Second, the number and consistency of the citations support the local results on several platforms. From a technical standpoint, there are data stacks on servers the maintain the ‘verified’ NAP information where a lot of websites, including search engines, get their information.
A good example of this is Google’s Map system. Business listings within the platform are generated and given value from directories that contain the same NAP details. If you have a business, do you need to be on every known citation resource? No, but you need to be on the ones that matter to your users and matter to the local ecosystem. Based on trust, value, credibility, and usefulness, here are the top 15 citation locations:
|Google Places (aka Google+ Local)||http://www.google.com/+/business/||100|
|AOL Yellow Pages||http://yellowpages.aol.com/||99|
Directory networks often contain over 100 citation websites like those listed above; some even span hundreds of partnered networks meaning that one management tool may have connections to thousands of citations. Names like Yodle, ReachLocal, and Yext are big in this local space. Yext has shown value for many of our clients.
Yext is a directory management tool that operates on a network platform. Yext operates over 100 directory systems. Within the Yext network are a number of directories and citation websites that offer business information to users; the information on these web directories is not always accurate. Managing the information on many of these websites can only be done through Yext. While it is possible to connect social platforms to the tool, it is not recommended.
Directory Management: Is It Worth The Price?
GoDaddy is joining the local business-listing vertical after acquiring Locu data system in August of last year (http://screenwerk.com/2014/01/27/godaddy-launches-get-found-listings-syndication-service/). The price point for GoDaddy starts at $4.49 per month, or $60 annual and can be as high as $330. In comparison, Yext offers packages starting at $16 per month, or $199 annually with a ‘Complete Package’ price of $37 per month ($449 annually).
The difference in the packages is related to the number of citation locations. In each tier, customers gain access to more listings. Meaning that unless a client maxes out the platform, some listings may remain incomplete, inaccurate, or nonexistent. It should also be noted that in many cases the networks’ business listing systems are the only access point for directory entry.
When a SMB considers the cost and the return on the investment, the citation platform cost should be seen as a marketing opportunity. If a business wants a strong online presence and additional organic value, the cost of a service like Yext is well justified.
Some have argued that these platforms are holding businesses hostage by forcing them to purchase services to managing the information related to their business online. Chris Piepho of Small Business Shift, addresses some of the concerns, stating that much of the concerns come from the way the platforms conduct business. The perspective these listing services push is one of necessity built in to the technology they have crafted in their networks.
Organic Search Connection
Where do “paid” local directories fall in a search marketing strategy? Do they count as ‘SEO’ backlinks/signals, paid links, or something else? In search optimization there are several elements at play that impact a website’s ability to show up for key terms as well as for the business to display in map results. In both, citations are at play—heavily.
Mike Blumenthal offers some great examples of his use of Yext and the time it took for citations to show a search impact. Much of the organic industry agrees that citation work is a long-term project; the results of which typically take 12 to 20 weeks to become fully live.
With listing systems that have established partnerships, the results can take less than half that time. With a client we have use the service for, 37 of the 40 advertised listings were completed within 2 weeks of pulling the trigger. With the citations live, branded terms for this client are showing a 50%-225% increase in localized term clickthroughs in Google Webmaster Tools.
The summary: Do it if you can afford the annual price of a subscription; between $200 and $600 dollars. If your business cannot afford this, you have bigger concerns than your digital presence. Also, if you do not operate from a physical location, NAP citations are not a reasonable solution.
It is still worth your time and money to invest in organic and paid search services because many opportunities exist with backlinks, social, content, and more, but citations are a necessary component of any digital strategy. Have questions or thoughts? Share them in the comments below or contact us. Always love hearing about your experiences with these vendors and the impact any marketing avenue has had on your business.