Local citations are one of the most important elements of running a local business. They make up part of the core of your local SEO strategy; building up a presence online is difficult enough, so making sure that you’re being talked about is one of the most effective weapons in your online arsenal. If you’re neglecting the online component of your business, then you’re missing out on a huge potential customer base and an invaluable marketing tool as well.
If you’re not familiar with local citations, here’s our quick definition. Local citations refer to anywhere online that your business’ name, address, or phone number are mentioned. This is also why you’ll sometimes see local citations referred to as “NAP data”, which, as you’ve probably guessed, stands for “name, address, and phone number”. Once you’ve started building local citations, though, how can you check for them? Let’s take a look at how you can track your local citation efforts and how effective they’ve been.
Watch for an uptick in customers
Correlation, as the saying goes, does not equal causation, but one way to check the effectiveness of your local citation building efforts is simply to watch out for an uptick in customers. If you’re seeing a sudden spike in the number of customers or clients who are coming your way and that corresponds to the time when you started ramping up your local citation efforts, then there’s a good chance what you’re doing is working in terms of local SEO strategy.
Monitor search engines and services manually
There are a number of places where you’ll want to see local citations. Primarily, these include search engines like Google or Bing, as well as data aggregator sites like Foursquare and professional trade sites related to your industry. One of the ways that you can check the effectiveness of your local citation approach is simply to monitor these platforms manually, i.e. perform regular searches to see if you’re getting mentioned in the places you want to be mentioned.
Of course, this method is time-consuming; it will require you trawling the internet and looking for places where your business is being talked about. However, the benefit is that if you’re thorough, you likely won’t miss anything important, and you also won’t be wasting your time on citations that might be accidental or in places of little strategic value for your business.
As you’ve probably already guessed, the manual method for checking citations is best for smaller businesses that don’t have a large customer or client base yet. This is because as your business grows, you will start to receive more and more citations, and you won’t be able to keep track of them all manually. Doing so will begin to require more and more resources and manpower, and you simply won’t have the time or inclination to give that manpower to a task that could be outsourced.
Use a citation tool to help you
Luckily, there are lots of tools and software services on the internet that will check local citations for you. As you can imagine, you simply tell the software what you want it to do, and it will then perform that task for you automatically. The best local citation checking tools online will feature other parameters, too, like frequency and more specific search terms, as well as analytics and more.
Smaller businesses may not benefit quite as much from citation tools and software, because although there are free tools available online, they don’t quite have the functionality that more expensive tools offer. As a result, you’re probably going to be paying a reasonable amount for a tool that’s worth your while, so until you’ve built up enough of a client base that you can justify the expense, a manual method might be better for you.
Use a mixture of the two
For medium-sized businesses and those who really want to make sure their citation checking is automated, a mixed approach is probably best. You can mix manual citation searching with a lightweight software tool to assist in your endeavours. You don’t have to leave everything up to the software; instead, you can perform checks yourself regularly, while perhaps telling the software to crawl sites that are too large to crawl yourself or that you might not have encountered before.
Arguably, this approach is best for most smaller businesses, but when your business begins to grow in size, you really will want to abandon the manual approach entirely. This is because there’s just no way you’ll be able to keep up with the volume of citations that are coming your way. A local business of significant size should definitely invest in a citation tool, because without one, your analytics department is going to be utterly swamped in data.
Reach out to an SEO expert
Of course, if you’re contracting an SEO professional to handle the SEO side of your business, then they may well provide a local citation checking service for you. It’s best to let experts handle this kind of thing; while the basic task of searching for citations isn’t a high-risk activity, it can be tedious, and an expert will know the best tools for your industry, so use their expertise, especially if you’re already paying them. This may well be the best option for every business, regardless of size or scope.