If you are a small business or a business focused on your local market then you are already well aware of the importance of your position in Google Places (used to be Google Local). After covering the basics like claiming your profile, completing your profile completely, and obtaining reviews (good or bad) then you need to start looking at the other factors that affect the rankings in Google Places.
Today researching and analyzing the top competition for your local keyword got a lot easier. In a joint effort from Darren Shaw of Whitespark and Garrett French and Ben Wills from Ontolo the Local Citation Finder is now available.
Why are citations important?
In the Local Search Ranking Factors report published by David Mihm, volume of citations is #4 on the list of ranking factors. After the process of claiming your profile, completing it, and having in the correct categories is volume of citations. Citations basically back up and validate your listing. In algorithm’s eyes the more sources that support that that your local profile is your business and that the information is correct the more likely they are to rank your business higher.
How does the tool work?
There is a great break down on the methodology of the local citation finder tool on the Ontolo blog phone number co-citation analysis local link builders and I highly recommend reading it so that you have a full understanding of what the tool is automating for you. Basically what is happening is the by analyzing the top listing of your local keyword you can look for the citations that Google is recognizing and is using in ranking those businesses. The unique piece of the listing used is the phone number, this is because you need a unique identifier for each of the top listings.
The Local Citation Finder works by simply entering the keyword you want to analyze the citations for and choosing the search engine you want to use (Google.com ; Google.ca; Google.co.uk). As the tool points outs you also want to do regular search first to make sure that the keyword returns local results.
After you input your keyword you will receive an email in a few minutes that gives you the top listings for the keyword and a list of citations. In addition to the top listings the report gives you all of the unique domain’s that are being used as citations and a complete list of all the URL’s that were found.
How did I use it?
The Local Citation Finder gave me a list of over 230 unique domains that were potentially great citation sources but you still need to use the data. I took each of the citation sources in the unique domain sections and did some basic research on the domain. If the site only offered a basic listing with the company information including phone number and no link I usually submitted to the site. If the site did offer a more featured profile where I could also include a link to the site I did some research into the authority and rank of the domain. I did not want to get a citation in exchange for listing the company in a low quality directory which could have an affect on regular organic rankings. Most would agree that getting citations from domains that are in your specific vertical or for your specific area will have a greater impact on your local rankings. I could definitely see a better process for filtering the citation sources that are returned (future post) but I thought doing some manual work would help understand the entire process.
There really is no common method for how to submit to these sites, a lot offer a submit listing feature but others don’t, so I sent an email through what they gave as a contact email and crossed my fingers.
If you are search strategy involves local I would highly recommend using the Local Citation Finder, it will give you hours worth results in minutes and give you some insight into how your competitors got to the top.