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Are Local Citations (NAP) a Google Ranking Factor?

Citations help local consumers get in touch or find their way to your store.But do these citations help you rank higher?Find the answer here.

However, you can add website links, business descriptions, photos, and more, depending on the directory or platform.

The idea here is that each of these optimizations will help you rank higher in local search results:

  • Make NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information displayed on more external sites.
  • Ensure citation accuracy.
  • Refine each field by adding as many supporting details as allowed on the site.

WhiteSpark's industry survey on local ranking factors provides a great framework for the various factors that are considered when we talk about local citation signals.Citations are evaluated based on:

  • consistency.
  • Quality/authority.
  • Quantity.
  • Enhancement/completeness.

Citing evidence as a ranking factor

Citations have long been widely accepted by SEO professionals as a key local ranking factor.

"Consistency of citations" ranked No. 2020 in Moz's 5 Industry Survey and is considered a local ranking factor by SEO professionals.(They also ranked fifth in Local Pack/Finder and Localized Organic search results in the 2018 survey.

However, what citations matter most has been the subject of debate over the years.

When BrightLocal surveyed the industry in 2016, 90 percent of respondents said citation accuracy was “very important” to being “critical” to local search rankings.What's more, 86% said the quality of these citations was more important than the quantity.

In this video, Google confirms that local search results are primarily based on relevance, distance, and prominence.

While you can't control all of these factors, they say:

"First, make sure all business information is complete.It is important to have accurate information, including your phone number, address and business category.

Google also recommends that to ensure the accuracy of your GMB listing and to "help you stand out", you should:

  • Double check that the hours of operation are accurate.
  • Use special times as holidays.
  • Add a photo of your location, service or product.
  • Verify your location to tell Google that you are the correct owner of the business.

In their "Improve Your Local Ranking on Google" help resource, the advice is clear:

"Local results favor the most relevant results for every search.Businesses with complete and accurate information are more likely to be matched with the right searches.

Evidence against using local citations as a ranking factor

You might argue that citations are too difficult to maintain and therefore not a reliable signal.

you are right.

Ensuring that all citations in the local search ecosystem are up to date is very difficult.

With so many aggregators, user suggestions, manual errors, and other elements wreaking havoc with citation information, how can Google trust the information they find about any one business location to be accurate?

This is why local listing management is so important, providing Google with a single source of truth through your GMB profile is key.

It is critical to monitor citation errors so you can correct erroneous information before they are picked up by aggregators and distributed more widely.

Reference inconsistencies can occur for a myriad of reasons:

  • Business moves to new location.
  • Brands open and close stores.
  • Employees and owners create listings without recording them, and as the business grows, they become obsolete.
  • Consumers make spelling mistakes when trying to leave reviews, creating duplicate listings.
  • Google searchers suggest listing edits with the best intentions but misinformation.
  • And more.there are more.

Google recognizes that all of these issues can affect citation accuracy, which is why it relies on such a wide range of sources to determine whether information is credible.

Local Citations as Ranking Factors: Our Verdict

Bottom line: Google has almost officially confirmed that Google uses local citations as a ranking signal in Local Pack/Finder and in localized organic search results.

Google's goal is to provide the best and most trusted answers to every searcher.

Citations are an important signal that key business information is correct, and that location is the best answer to a local searcher's relevant query.

If you're just starting out, check out John McAlpin's Citations and Local SEO: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide.

Ready to get more advanced?Make sure your citations are accurate and complete on as many relevant sources as possible.WhiteSpark's free "Local Citation Sources by Country" finder lets you pull up listings of top directories, networks, websites, and more in 15 countries.

If you really want to beef up your local strategy, you need to download Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improving Your Local Search Rankings.

Extended reading:

Is link stability a Google ranking factor?

Are sitewide links a Google ranking factor?

Inbound Links as a Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

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