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Are Local Citations (NAP) A Google Ranking Factor?

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Are Local Citations (NAP) A Google Ranking Factor?


In local SEO, a citation is a mention of key business information – your name, address, and phone number (NAP) – anywhere else on the web.

Local citations might appear in directories, on social networking or review sites, in apps, and on all kinds of other websites.

Clearly, these are an important part of a searcher’s experience; NAP info is how a local consumer will find their way to your store or give you a call.

But do citations help you rank higher in Google Search results?

The Claim: Local Citations As A Ranking Factor

Some citations allow only for the location’s name, address, and phone number.

However, you may be able to add a website link, business description, 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:

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  • Having your NAP info appear on more external sites.
  • Ensuring the accuracy of your citations.
  • Optimizing each one by adding as much supporting detail as the fields on that site allow.

WhiteSpark’s industry survey on local ranking factors provides a good framework that illustrates the variety of considerations in play when we talk about local citation signals. Citations are evaluated based on:

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

The Evidence For Citations As A Ranking Factor

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

“Consistency of citations” came in at #5 in Moz’s 2020 industry survey of what SEO pros believe are local ranking factors. (They were ranked fifth in the 2018 survey, as well, for both Local Pack/Finder and Localized Organic search results.)

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However, what it is about citations that matter most has been the subject of debate over the years.

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

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

And while you cannot control all of these factors, they say:

“First, make sure all of your business information is complete. It’s important to have accurate information including your phone number, address, and business category.”

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

  • Double-check that hours of operation are accurate.
  • Use special hours for holidays.
  • Add photos of your location, services, or merchandise.
  • Verify your location to tell Google 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 each search. Businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches.”

The Evidence Against Local Citations As A Ranking Factor

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

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And you would be right.

It’s incredibly difficult to ensure that all citations across the local search ecosystem are kept up to date.

With so many aggregators, user suggestions, manual errors, and other elements wreaking havoc with citation information, how can Google trust that the information they’re finding about any one business location is accurate?

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

Monitoring for citation errors is essential so you can correct them before the wrong information is picked up by aggregators and more widely distributed.

Citation inconsistencies can happen for countless reasons:

  • Businesses move to new locations.
  • Brands open and close stores.
  • Staff and owners create listings without documenting them, and they grow outdated as the business evolves.
  • Consumers create duplicate listings by making spelling mistakes when trying to leave a review.
  • Google searchers suggest listing edits with the best of intentions but the wrong information.
  • And more. A lot more.

Google recognizes that all of these issues can impact citation accuracy, which is why it relies on such a wide array of sources to determine whether the information is trustworthy.

Local Citations As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Bottom line: It is all but confirmed officially by Google that Google uses local citations as a ranking signal in Local Pack/Finder and localized organic search results.

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Google’s aim is to provide the best, most trustworthy answers to every searcher.

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

If you’re just getting started, check out John McAlpin’s Citations & 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 Top Local Citation Sources by Country finder enables you to pull a list of the top directories, networks, websites, etc. in 15 countries.

And if you really want to step up your local strategy, you’ll want to download Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings.


Featured Image: Paolo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer’s Landscape

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How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer's Landscape

There is a new data revolution happening, and it’s sweeping across the industry so quickly that many SEO and digital marketers are struggling to make sense of the insights and intelligence at their disposal.

To utilize this opportunity, marketers need to evolve their mindsets and use technology to analyze multiple data formats and understand the new opportunities it can bring.

SEO marketers of today and digital marketers of tomorrow will need to extract, structure quickly, and manipulate data to drive the most critical business outcomes.

Data has always been mission-critical to digital decision-making.

The Economist, back in 2017, declared it the world’s most valuable resource.

Fast forward to today and the future, and we can see that the exponential growth of data fuelling this revolution is staggering.

According to the IDC, the amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data made since the advent of digital storage.

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Think about that for a second!

Flash drives, for example, were introduced in 2000.

This means that in the next five years, marketers will have to analyze and make sense of 2x the data created in the last 22 years!

The Data Revolution Means More Sources & Complexity For SEO

The data revolution has gone on for some time now, and it’s changed our concept of what counts as “data,” rightfully so.

In the past, we thought only numbers mattered.

But, in this new digital world where everything is converted into ones and zeros, data is broader and contains text, audio, and visual information – all bits waiting to be processed!

  • Machine-based and human-generated data are growing at a rate of 10x faster than conventional business data.
  • Machine-created data is increasing exponentially at a 50x the growth rate. This data revolution is primarily marketing-driven and consumer-oriented who are “always on.”
  • In just the last 18 months, the volume of site processing data we have been generating at BrightEdge has increased by 11x!
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As a result of these increasingly demanding trends, SEO and digital marketers need to adapt and become more like data analysts and scientists in approaching the extraction of structured data insights and business intelligence – without adding more manual work.

Fortunately, SEO is well-positioned to take advantage of this new data revolution.

  • Increasing your keyword universe – More keywords mean more data points to look at with reporting and fuelling insights. While focusing on conversion rate metrics is very important, it wouldn’t be possible without opening the scope of your audience and getting more people in the door. SEO has drifted away from writing for a primary dedicated keyword and is now way more advanced with advancements in search engines like Google’s understanding of intent of searches through RankBrain and BERT.
  • Increasing your search footprint – will also help you discover unexplored of informing your future content strategy or ideate new keyword ideas. However, sometimes you might miss the boat, like the transition of Content Management Systems slowly turning into “Experience Platforms” as they offer more functionality to meet the needs of today’s webmaster or marketer.

Read More On SEJ

Data Is The Currency Of An Accelerated SEO & Digital Age

By 2025, Worldwide data will reach 175 zettabytes.

But unfortunately, the human brain can’t process, structure, and analyze all that data.

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So technology engines have to help, and digital marketers should be the driver.

There is a massive opportunity for companies that can utilize data to create more engaging experiences.

A recent study showed that 95% of business leaders recognize this as their biggest growth lever over the next three years, which means there’s plenty at stake here!

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Robust data analysis ensures decisions are evidence-based and have more accountability.

Drawing on existing and new data sources to fully integrate business acumen and analytical skills into decision making, sourcing, managing, and analyzing large amounts of unstructured data will ensure continued use and success.

SEO began with data and has evolved.

From the introduction of real-time SEO in 2019 and Page Experience Updates in 2021, SEO’s future lies again with data and the creation of intelligent systems. Here marketers can leverage combined data sources that structures data for them.

As a result, they can achieve business objectives and stay ahead during all data and digital transformation stages.

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Technology & AI Are Helping SEO Evolve

Advancements in technology and, in particular, AI and Natural Language Processing has meant that SEO and digital marketers can become data analysts without having to become an actual data scientist.

This is key to unlocking structured insights from your company’s big data to make more precise predictions about what is coming next based on existing information.

Digital marketers can evolve, understand key trends, and learn in new areas such as:

  • Predictive modeling of future trends and forecasting based on multiple types of data.
  • Real-time identification of opportunities and intelligence.
  • Digital research at scale with both historical and real-time data.
  • Leveraging automated visualizations for various stakeholders.
  • Improved data security and compliance.
  • Market and business intelligence at a macro level.
  • Consumer behavior at the most granular level.

SEO and digital marketers can learn critical skills such as statistics, data analysis, data visualization, and strategy.

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AI, NLP, and machine learning are helping them do this without needing expertise in computer programming and software applications.

What digital marketers must do is combine their communication skills and analytics skills with stakeholders who cannot think outside of the advertising box.

Read More On SEJ

Data Analysis & Intelligence As Competitive Advantage

The application of technology will be the driving force behind the next generation of data analysis technology.

Therefore, SEO and digital marketers of today should learn how to better utilize insights from data analysis.

It’s becoming more apparent that the marketing platforms of tomorrow will require the capabilities of data analysis and science infrastructure at their core.

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The future of marketing will blend technological know-how, business sense, and an understanding of data analysis.

The next generation of SEO will touch all components of marketing, from video, email, and voice, to digital performance of content.

SEO and data science will converge into one evolved discipline that drives omnichannel acquisition and democratizes data.

Marketers who embrace this new era of SEO will be well-positioned to succeed in the years to come.

Data is reconfirming its role as the new competitive advantage, and as SEO and digital marketers, you must evolve if you want to be part of the future.

More resources:


Featured Image: ra2 studio/Shutterstock

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