Presentation “End-to-End Citation Discovery and Management”

On June 27th, 2015 Darren Shaw presented at LocalU Advanced in Minneapolis, MN about “End to End Citation Discovery and Management”. We combined the recorded audio with the slides so it’s almost as good as being there!

In this presentation Darren covers the following topics:

  • Why Citations?
  • Auditing your Existing Citations
  • Best Practices
  • Duplicate Discovery and Cleanup
  • General Cleanup Process
  • Prioritizing Beyond the Basics
  • Identifying and Obtaining Niche Citations

Watch the video below:

Why Citations?

So today we’re talking about citations, just like Aaron said. Why are citations important? Well, back in the early days when Google was constructing its’ database of local businesses a lot of them didn’t have websites. They had hardly any presence whatsoever but they did have all these yellow pages listings.

Google built its local database based off business listings that they were pulling off the web. David Mihm put this really great sort of whiteboard Friday together, where he talked about how Google generates its’ business listings. They come from so many different sources. They come from government sources, they come from primary data aggregators. They come from user inputs like a business himself, google street view, map maker, just out on the web.

Basically Google is compiling all of this different business information and has to map it and it’s like “Okay, well is this that business or is it a different business?” It’s trying to map it all into one canonical listing at Google. Here’s the data that comes on this one, and this one and they’re matching on the name, address and phone number to put all of this together.

Now, you can see the same thing with InfoGroup. How InfoGroup’s getting all of its data from all of these sources, they put it together. They sanitize the data, they duplicate and then eventually it ends up in their database.

Another thing is that local search experts agree that citations are important. It’s number three and number four on the important local pack ranking factors. The competitive difference makers, it’s number two and four are… so citations play a big role in your local search rankings. So you probably want to deal with that.

So this is the Local Search Ecosystem. It is a complicated mess. It’s basically being fed by InfoGroup. So InfoGroup distributes to all of these sites. Acxiom is distributing to these sites. We’ve got Localeze distributing all over the place. So all of this data is being fed around the web and Google is picking it all up.

On average, 20%-40% of your data out there is wrong. It’s a big mess, there are so many different sources, so many different places that data is coming from that it’s very typical for it to be wrong.

Auditing your Existing Citations

So let’s talk about auditing those citations. Step one, you want to gather your NAP data. We have a nice template for this, so you can download it here. That will be on the slide decks. And it looks like this, we’ll just ask our clients. We’ll give this to our clients and say “Hey, give me all the past business names. Like your current and your past business names. Your current and past addresses, current and past phone numbers.”

And there’s more to it. It also has any websites, a lot of clients will have multiple websites. So we collect all this data and then other businesses collect all that. So once you get that from the clients, often they forget that they “oh, yeah, we used to have this old fax phone number or we used to have this old… When we started the business we used the company owner’s mobile number.”

You can actually search in Google to find some of these variations. So if you take the business name and remove the phone number that you know of and all the phone numbers that you know of by putting a minus, you’ll often find variations. And so this is a little tip, you can use this thing called a Linkclump. This is plugged in the chrome [SP], you just right-click and drag down, it’ll open them all up in one shot. It helps you to do this research.

Here’s the phone variation I found. I did not know that this phone number existed. I found it by doing the search. As you discover them… so now that I found another number, I can throw that into there and exclude that one too to see if I find another one. “Oh, look at that.”

I’ll run this query again. Now, I’m on to addresses. The same thing you do with addresses, you got a portion of the business name, your phone number and then exclude the address that you already know just to see if you can find another address. And look at that, I found one. This is a different address that that business exists at.

Just like you did with phone numbers. As you find more addresses, you can remove them from your queries. You can also do it with business names, to find different various in business, take the phone number subtract the business name let’s see what you get. Oh, look. This is the same address and the same phone number but a different business name, Sound Health Management.

So you can use this strategy with google to dig up all of these different NAP variations. Now, you can remove that. Keep track of everything in a spreadsheet that’s also in the template I gave you. These are the NAP variations. Once you have all of these, you know what you’re looking for on an ecosystem when you’re doing your audit.

It’s really important to start with these offline data sources.

So that is your IRS records, Secretary of State that’s your like business registration, City County Records, Bank Accounts, Phone Company, Utility Accounts, Professional Licensing Bodies. All of these have your data, your business data. And sometimes they are wrong, and when they were wrong here they end up getting out into the ecosystem. So this is really your first line of defense. You want to start here and clean this up.

Next, you want to find online sources of business data. Moz Local is great for this. So you’ll just put in your business information, it will find these variations for you and then it will give you this really awesome report and it will show you your listings on some of the most important sites and these ones are all missing the web URL, so that’s good to know. Okay, I’m missing the web URL I can update those. And this one has a wrong phone number down here. So you can find all these different listings on Moz Local.

The aggregators are extremely important from the local ecosystem. You saw that they feed all of those other sites. So you really want to make sure you clean up those aggregators. You can also run them through the local citation finder, this is software we have. If you have all that, that spreadsheet of NAP variations you can put them on here. If you put the name in quotes and then the phone number and then the different name in quotes and the phone number. So you can run all of these different variations through the local citation finder and get various citation counts like this. So there’s 105 with that variation and 123 with that. Only 22 with this variation and then you can just view the sources to see where they are.

Map Maker is really important. If you got multiple listings in Map Maker then those will end up in google. So you want to check map maker to see if you have any incorrect listings there.

Best Practices

Let’s talk about Best Practices in general for citation clean up in building.

This is a really important one. Make sure that all of the work that you’re doing with citation building is done with an email address on the domain. Don’t use the gmail or yahoo or something like that. A lot of these sites won’t respond to you. With Google it helps to connect your business and your account with your business the same thing the map maker, Yelp, and all the key industry sites. So it just adds a lot of trust to your requests for updates and when you call Google on phone, they want to see that. Just know that you’re authorized to manage that business.

Prep Work. Gather five photos, logos to put it on the spreadsheet and make sure you have all of the information you need to go out there and update, enhance and build new citations. Plan for phone verification. So a lot of these of sites will call you, how we deal with phone verification at Whitespark is we typically coordinate with the… whoever answers the phone at the business and say “hey, we’re going to be doing these phone verifications on Tuesday morning. So block off half an hour on your schedule” And then we call them and say “okay, we’re going to start sending these things through” and then we get on like chat with them. So we’ll use gchat or Skype.

And as the phone verifications come in, they gchat the codes to us and we put them on the website. So we go through, we do them all for them and they send us the codes and we verify the sites.

Prioritize your citation audit clean up work.

  1. Number one, offline sources.
  2. Two, get those primary data aggregators fixed up.
  3. Number three, industry specific sites. So this would be like if you’re a lawyer, it would be Lawyers or Avvo. Those are really important sites to get fixed up.
  4. Number four, I would go to your city specific sites. So those kind of sites, make sure your listings are correct on those.
  5. And then the top 50 other citation sites, so that would be… I’ll show you a picture of what those are.
  6. And then others, and so if you want to go beyond that then there are… I would suggest just sorting your audit file by domain authority.

We have this document, the top local citation sources by country. So this is compiled by Nyagoslav Zhekov if you know him, he’s really expert on citations and he has analyzed all of these sites and put together this list of the top 50. So these are the top 50 I would recommend you go through.

Best Practices is to track your progress. As you work through everything, make sure you keep track of it and what’s the URL, the business name, address and phone, website URL and what you supposed to do on this one. So this one we need to claim and enhance, this one we need to claim, fix and enhance. This one is a duplicate, we want to delete it. So you basically try to keep this as you build your audit file, just keep track of everything on a spreadsheet. This is also in the template.

Make sure they use the same NAP+W, do you know what the +W is? It’s website. So name, address, phone number and website. Make sure they’re using a consistent name, address, phone everywhere. On your own website, if you’re a small business then you’ll probably make sure that your name, address and phone number is on your homepage. If you are a larger brand with lots of locations, then you’ll want to make sure that it’s all on the individual location pages.

Maximize relevant category usage. So as you are claiming, updating and building citations. Make sure that you add as many possible categories on each site as possible. So Moz has this great sort of guide to the various categories on different sites.

A compelling description is much more important than a keyword indescription. You don’t want to spam it, and make sure that your description is compelling the user to… that you are the business that they want to work with. And you don’t need to worry about duplicate descriptions, so a lot of people think, do I have to have a different description on every site, do a duplicate content is not a issue, you don’t have to worry about that. Just write a really good one description, you can use that on all your citations.

When I mention this here, same NAP everywhere, don’t stress about the little things. So that would be like… it’s kind of hard to see here but avenue versus ave, or apartment versus apt. There are all of these different possible variations. And what happens is that Google normalizes data that it finds out on the web. So as it encounters an address, different sites will form out addresses differently and so Google needs to be able to say “well, what is this business’s business information?”

And so it normalizes it and runs through a normalizer and then it gets associated with the listing at Google. So there are all these little variations and Nyagoslav put together this great document about the different types of variations, you don’t have to worry about. So refer to this. Phone number for example, some people stress about if it’s in 555- or if has the brackets for the area code, not an issue. One issue with the phone number you do need to worry about on your own website is dots. Don’t put your phone number in dots, with dots separating them. Use dashes or the area code version.

Don’t use call tracking on your citations or on your Google listing. That will create NAP consistency issues all across the ecosystem and be a big big mess, so don’t do that. But don’t stress about call tracking on your own website if you do it properly. You can do call tracking on your website, no problem. You can either obfuscate the tracking number from Google with an image and then put the real number in all text. Or you can use javascript replacement, companies like CallRail they basically.. you have your html that has your regular phone number and then on load CallRail’s javascript will swap it out with the other thing. And CallRail also does a good job of detecting Google bot. So if it’s Google bot, it doesn’t swap out the phone number. That kind of a process is fine too.

Duplicate Discovery and Cleanup

Duplicate Discovery and Cleanup. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tell Google “hey, these are my old phone number. These are the other business names that I’m known as, we can.” Right in here in your Google my business dashboard, you can add a whole bunch of different phone numbers. You can just keep adding as many phone numbers as you need. Just click add more contact information. So what you’re doing is you saying “yeah, we are also known by this phone number and that phone number” so put all that into Google. Whether that solves your citation cleanup problem or not, I don’t think so but might as well do it, it only take two seconds to put all those extra phone numbers in there and you can do the same… and then in Map Maker, right now Map Maker is shutdown because spammers destroyed it.

Once they bring editing back to Map Maker, you should be able to come in here and edit your record and you can add variations of your business name and you can also add variations of your phone number in Map Maker. That helps basically connect all of that extra information. You’re telling Google this is also my business, it really helps a lot.

After you do that, I suggest Moz Local. Because Moz Local will get you into all of the data aggregators and help to clean up all that, really important. Moz Local has this really great alternate thing where you can add all those alternate names, I’m known by these two different names. One with the space and one without. Here’s our address, and we have different phone numbers. You can add them on here and you’ll update alternates and then Moz Local will find all the different variations for you within the sites that they have. And the sites that they have are the most important sites in data aggregators, so this is a really great thing to do.

Then you can do Google searches or local citation finder. So you can search for NAP variations in Google. So you’ll put in business name in quotes with that. You can use the Moz bar to export all the stuff. If you want to just get all the data quickly, throw it in into a CSV using the Moz bar. The free Moz bar will do that for you.

You can also run through the LCF, I showed you that earlier. You can collect all your citations in here. One thing about the LCF, that’s a bit of advantage of doing it through the search results is that the LCF filters out a bunch of garbage. Like reverse phone lookup sites, what is my domain name worth type sites. All of that stuff will get filtered out automatically through the LCF, so it’s handy.

Search directly on the important sites. So sometimes that information doesn’t get pulled from the local citation finder or from Google searches and so sometimes it’s good to go directly to the site and search for your business. You might find variations of your business that you didn’t know existed. In our citation on the cleanup service, we always search directly on the site. And then you can also do that, you can do a site call and search. Site call and Superpages and put in the phone number and you might find those listings as well. So these are actual citations like actual business listings and then these are all just the category pages, this is veterinary clinics in the city, just a list of all the categories. These are the two citations.

Again, what sites are important, these top 50. I would go through and manually check on those top 50 sites.


General Cleanup Process

General Cleanup Process. You found an incorrect listing, what do you do with it? First and foremost, the best the thing you can do is claim that listing, you claim the ownership of that listing and then you update that listing. Perfect. If you have that option, great. But a lot of sites don’t give you update functionality.

The next best is they might haven’t an update request form. So if you find that form like “hey, fix my listing” you can send a little request that goes into our process that they’ll have. If they don’t have that then you’ll have to try and find their email or phone number, try to contact them and say “hey, I got this incorrect listing. Can you fix it?” and then then as a last resort if you can’t find any contact information on the site, you can do a who is contact lookup. Your success rate on that is going to be pretty low. A site that has no contact information, that citation is probably not that important. So when you getting down here you’re like.. you’re kind of wasting your time in citation cleanup.

If possible, always claim rather than create new. So if some business like “oh, I got incorrect listing on Superpages. Well, okay I’ll just make a new listing with my correct information” a lot of businesses do that, don’t do that. Way better to claim and update. If you’re too lazy for all this, we do have a service run by Nyagoslav and we can do all that for you.

Prioritizing Beyond the Basics

Prioritizing beyond the basics. This is… a lot of people overlook this. Let’s say you put in your keyword insurance agents Dallas, insurance agent reviews Dallas and Texas insurance directory. It’s really important to pay attention to the sites that come up in here. The sites that come up here are important sites to Google. These are really critical sites that you want to have your information correct on.

You also… for Barnacle purposes, you want to try to improve your listing so if these sites have the ability to add reviews, then send people to these sites to review you all of this can really help. Also look at where your competitors are getting citations. So in Whitespark, you can do a competitive analysis chart and it’ll show you where your citations are versus your competitors like what sites they have that you don’t.

Identifying and Obtaining Niche Citations

Now, identifying and obtaining niche citations. This can be a great ranking booster. What I like to do is I run a number of keyword searches in the local citation finder. And you get a list of all the citations that all your competitors have in one shot. You just control “F” like  so this is for a plumber in Philadelphia. If I do Control F for plumb, I find 35 sites that have plumber in the domain. So these are all sites that I could go get a citation on local plumber,, These are all great niche citations. It’s easy to find these with the LCF. And the same thing with Philadelphia. Now I want to find city specific citations, so I type “Phil” there’s 25 of them in competitor analysis Philadelphia Best Plumbers,,, these are all really good sites for you to get city specific citations on.

And then you can also look for .edu, .gov sort of high authority sites as well. Events can be amazing for citations. Casey Meraz has his really good post on it on The Moz Blog. Let’s say you have a physical location, you can have people come to your location for an education event. Let’s say you’re a real estate agent. So you could have people come in and you’ll talk about current markets and that kind of stuff. Once you have an event planned, you can find places to submit it through something like this. And here are few examples. This is REI, they have events. So put your ideals into practice. Doctors without borders info center. This is at REI, they have free weekly yoga classes at Patagonia District stores. So this is building event citations for a Patagonia store.

This is a great one, this is one of our clients. They do this thing as Halloween candy buy back every year. So basically after Halloween, all the kids come and they sell them or they buy their candies so that doesn’t rot their teeth for like $5 a pound or something and then the kids can take that money and do something better with it. So they buy all the candy back and then so look at this they’re getting citations and they’re getting news mentions as well. This works really well for them.

Sponsorship’s are great for citations. This is Minneapolis Youth Hockey Team and the Den’s Auto Service is getting a nice citation there. Old school design, auto restoration. Look at that, they’re getting a nice citation. So you can get these. This is the South Minneapolis Housing Fair and Buck Brothers Construction. Beautiful citation there because they’ve sponsored this event.

So sponsorship’s are really great for getting citation. You can find those with these search phrases. You can find a whole bunch of opportunities there. Discounts are very good for niche citations. You can… like if you’re offering a student discount or a senior discount or something like that then you can get citations. So here’s one from the Marriott. They have special room rates at the following hotels at edu sites. So this is about probably some events that they have. They have some agreements they have with the university.

This is a student discount at the North Face. So they are getting nice citation there on another edu site at Northwest University. You can find these with these search phrases city inurl, intitle:discounts, city student discounts. I guess that’s it, that’s everything you need to know about citations ever. Thank you.


Eduard de Boer

Eduard started with hand-coding websites in 1993 and became immersed in SEO, reputation management and content marketing in the years thereafter. After almost two decades Eduard is still following his passion: consulting and helping companies to profile themselves better. Eduard is also a certified Google Maps Business Photographer.

Follow Me on Twitter

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *