A citation is any mention of your business out on the web, with or without a link. It can come in various forms:
- Company Name, by itself.
- Company name & phone number.
- Company name, phone number, & address.
- Company name, phone number, address, & link.
Even just the phone number by itself can be a citation. Hat tip to Nyagoslav Zhekov. See his comment below.
A complete citation should include the company name, address, and phone number. A citation that does not include all three of these is sometimes referred to as a partial citation.
Why Do Citations Matter?
Citations are a key factor in local search rankings. Citation related factors make up 25% of the top twenty factors in David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors.
In a recent presentation at LocalU Advanced in Baltimore, David Mihm presented the following breakdown of local ranking factors. He added a disclaimer that this is based solely on his opinion, but as one of the most prominent thought leaders in Local SEO, we take his opinion seriously around here.
For more information on why citations are important for local search rankings, please see this excellent article on GetListed.org: Why Citations Are Important to Your Local Business Listings.
The most common citations are found on business listing sites like yellowpages.com, yelp.com, superpages.com, etc. These are referred to as structured citations.
Citations can also often be found on blogs, newspaper websites, event listing websites, job websites, government sites, etc. These are referred to as unstructured citations and can be extremely valuable to your local rankings.
Finding Structured AND Unstructured Citations
We occasionally get questions from Local Citation Finder users about how "useful" the results are. They'll ask us why they can't submit to some of the sites returned in the results. The reason is because the Local Citation Finder is a competitive analysis tool for citations. When you run a keyword search, it finds the businesses that are ranking locally, then finds their citations, both structured and unstructured. It doesn't only help you find sites that have a simple "submit your business" option. It also helps you understand the competition's citation building strategy by showing you where they are getting unstructured citations as well.
Not All Citations Are Created Equal
There is huge variation in the value of different citations. A mention of your business' name, address, and phone number on whitehouse.gov is worth far more than a mention of your business on some spammy web directory that was created solely for low quality link building. For some advice on sorting the gold from the sand, take a look at this post on determining citation quality.
If you have any questions about citations, please leave them in the comments. We'll answer them and possibly add more information to the post.