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3 Ways Inaccurate Local Citations are Killing Your Website’s Rankings and Traffic

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Published: August 6, 2014

Accurate and consistent structured citations of your website are the third most important factor in local search ranking. Without local citations, your business is going to miss out on a lot of traffic and potential profits that are rightfully yours.

A citation is simply any online mention of your businesses’ name, address, and phone number, or NAP for short. When a citation appears in an online local business directory like Best of the Web or YellowPages.com, it’s considered a “structured citation.”

Preparing a simple listing with your NAP information might sound like child’s play but it’s a little more complicated than it appears. The smallest inconsistency in one citation could easily snowball into mass confusion among the search engines as to your business identity, and cost you rankings in the local search results.

Your Business Doesn’t Get Credit for Inaccurate Citations
Citations are a little bit like inbound links; while links confer authority and trust to your website, citations confer validation of your bsiness as a local product or service provider for a given geographic area.

  • When it comes to structured citations, the more the better – especially if the directory is influential and relevant to your business.
  • Inaccurate or missing citations may lower your total citation count to the point that you lose ranking position to competitors who have a greater number of accurate citations.

Inaccurate Citations Hurt Your Local Search Rankings
Inconsistent citation information sends mixed signals about your business and this can have a direct impact on your rankings for local search.

  • Inaccurate citation information could lead to two or more duplicate listing to be created for your business, which means that the authority of that citation is weakened by being split up among the different listings.
  • Whenever Google receives mixed signals about your business citations, it could cause red flags to be raised in other areas of your online presence that might result in lower rankings.

Scraping Inaccurate Citation Data Compounds the Problem
There are literally hundreds of online directories, many of which may be scraping online sources for information about your business for inclusion in their directory without your knowledge.

  • Since these directories have no way of knowing that your information is inaccurate, it gets published just the way it was found.
  • As other directories scrape there inaccurate citations, they in turn will re-publish your inaccurate information, and so on – creating a rank-killing snowball effect.

How to Audit and Cleanup Your Local Citations

  • For starters, create and save a master file of all pertinent citation data that includes your NAP information as well as a brief profile of your business, hours of operation, and so forth. Update and edit your information directly into this file. Whenever you add a new directory or update an existing listing, copy-and-paste directly from your saved master file to ensure that all information you provide is absolutely identical across all directories.
  • Getlisted.org offers a free tool that allows you to check the accuracy of your NAP information across many of the biggest search engines and directories. A paid citation audit tool worth considering is BrightLocal’s Local SEO Checkup Report.
  • Keep a list of inaccurate or duplicate citations that you find. As many of the directories have different requirements for editing an existing listing, be sure to follow their guidelines.