The Internet has completely changed the way people do business. There was once a time when people wanted to have the name of their business first in the Yellow Pages. This would greatly increase the chances of people contacting them first when searching for a particular service. Not a lot of people still rely on the Yellow Pages anymore. Instead, people enter the type of business they’re looking for into a search engine like Google. Some of the same principles that apply to the yellow page searches of days gone by also apply to search engine results.
If someone was to enter “plumber in Wyoming” into a search engine, they would probably only look at the first few companies listed before they decided to call one; just like companies in the past would be more successful if they had their name first in the Yellow Pages, companies today increase their chances of success by having their company come up first in search engine results. It was simple to get a company’s name first in the Yellow Pages because it was all in alphabetical order. Some companies would even pay more for conspicuous ads that would move their company closer to the front of the book. Unfortunately, this rule doesn’t apply to search engines, as results are displayed by relevancy. So how does a company get their name first in search engine results? Through a process known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO used to be based on the number of keywords actually on the site. For instance, a website about bicycles with the word “bicycle” in the content 100 times would come up first when someone was to search for bicycles online. This eventually lead to content that made absolutely no sense because webmasters would use the word bicycle 100 times in a 500 word article. This is known as keyword stuffing which caused Google to develop a program called Penguin. Penguin not only keeps keyword stuffers from the top of the search results, it removes violators from the Google Rolodex altogether. Penguin now rates search results based on which sight has the most links to other sights and which sites have the most quality content. This stopped keyword stuffers and lead to the rise of citations for local results.
Local SEO citations provide local business owners with a great way to build their local search engine rankings. Local search engine rankings occur any time a location is mentioned in Google or Bing’s search results. These local searches consist of slightly different criteria than general searches. Citations are one of the largest factors when trying to improve a business’s local search engine rankings.
Citations are references to a business’s name, address, and phone number on another website. These are also known as back links. Citations may also include a link to the website as well as information like pictures, products and a list of services. The fastest way to get ranked higher in local search listings is by building citations. When combined with several other local SEO tactics, citations can propel a site to the top of the search engine map rankings. Websites such as Yelp, City search, Google places, Yahoo Places and Bing Maps, are all prime examples of websites to add a business’s listing.
Results can come in as little as a few weeks. It may also take as long as a few months so it’s best to act immediately. Much of the down time is spent waiting for Google’s spiders to “crawl” the revised business citations; Google then includes these citations into their local search index. How much improvement will there be in the rankings? This varies depending on how competitive a business’s niche is. For some businesses, a citation package may propel them to the top of the search engine’s results. For some of the more competitive niches of business, the results may be less fruitful. For the more competitive niches it’s often recommended for them to use additional link building. This strategy may be combined with more extensive local SEO strategies to achieve better search engine location.
Some companies have so completely mastered the use of citations and SEO that their website may show up in the results twice or even three times before another company that doesn’t utilize SEO and citations. If someone is searching for “sandwich shops in Phoenix” they’re probably not going to go through three pages of search results before they choose where to eat lunch. This is why SEO and citations are so important and they can mean the difference between success and bankruptcy.
Citation building is the future of local business and local companies that fail to adapt will no longer be able to stay in business. It matters little how professional a company’s employees are or how stellar there product may be if nobody knows they exist. Even putting a commercial on television isn’t as effective as it once was because so many people of this technical generation would rather stream movies on the Internet than watch television. SEO is the wave of the future and citation building is key for local companies. There is still a substantial portion of the population that rely on more traditional means of locating goods and services but they are becoming more and more rare as they discover the ease with which the Internet allows them to locate businesses.
It’s getting to a point where it’s virtually impossible to do business without a website. The digital revolution has altered the landscape of business, giving people access to resources that would have otherwise gone untapped. Think of the website like the traditional white pages in the phone book. When people know the name of a particular business, they can look it up and get some information about it. A company can have a website and people who regularly patronize the business can log on and find out certain information or even make purchases in some instances. Unfortunately this does little to generate new business. A person knows the nature of the business that they want but not the name of the business. This is where SEO and citation building become more important. Websites can be incredibly expensive to have built, costing thousands of dollars in some instances; yet in still many people don’t utilize their sites full potential because they don’t know about SEO and the importance of citation building. A pizza company could have the most tasty recipe in their city but it does them no good if nobody knows they existent.
Having a local website without the proper SEO and citations to go along with it is like locking the car doors and leaving the windows rolled down; it defeats the purpose of having a site if it’s not included within the first page of a search engine’s results. People who regularly patronize a business will know it’s location and even the web address. Unfortunately, the website will do little to bring in new customers. So many small-business owners have websites and no idea what Citation building is. When they enter the URL of their company into the window and click enter, it sends them the site. They don’t realize they’re site may be on the fourth page of the search engine’s result list. Citation increases the chance of a company’s name coming up first in the search results which can generate substantially more revenue.