By Megan Totka
Ask an Olympic archer sometime what the sport would be like if they kept moving the target. A moving target would make it impossible to score a bullseye.
That must be the way some conscientious small business owners feel about the relationship between search engine optimization (SEO) and Google. Just when they think they have a good aim on the target, Google moves it with major changes to its algorithm.
I’m inclined to chuckle a little because as much as I’d like to blame Google, it’s really not totally the search behemoth’s fault. If I can go back to my Olympic archery analogy for a moment, the target needs to be moved because poor archers have found ways to nail the target without really improving their skills.
I’ll explain. So many webmasters have gamed Google with keyword stuffing, bogus backlinks, and other blackhat SEO tactics that Google has been forced to change its algorithm. Well, at least that has been one of the major reasons for the changes over the years.
Play Fair and Stay in the Game
Therefore, it becomes very cost-effective for small business owners to invest in SEO strategies today that won’t be blacklisted by Google tomorrow, and one of these is good local citations.
Local citations are listings in directories and on review sites. In the old analog world, your small business ad or phone number listing in the Yellow Pages would be an example of a local citation. These have become increasingly important in SEO for two reasons. First, as Google has become more discerning in the evaluation of backlinks, a local citation in a legitimate website – such as Yelp and many others – has increased in value. Second, over the last few years review sites have gained in both number and stature.
There are two ways to establish strong local citations: You can do a little research on the Internet and find the places where your site can be listed or you can use a third party to place – and perhaps keep current – your local citations.
Claiming Your Own Listings
Getting your business name, phone number, hours, and location correct in the major search engines is the absolute bare minimum you should do. I write on this topic often and I always urge owners to check the information Google has on their business. It seems like such a basic thing, but almost every week I’m out navigating via Google maps and I get steered wrong because of an incorrect listing – either the location or the business hours are wrong.
Google makes it easy to get the correct information about your business posted in its database. The process will lead you through creating a Google+ account for your local business, which is also a good thing.
As you search local directories, you’ll find that many offer both free and paid listings.
Using Third Parties
There are a number of third party sites and apps that will get you in various local listings. They start at free and then go up to as much as you’re willing to pay. The most common ones are:
However you decide to approach the project of establishing your local citations, I urge you to get started now. Also, be sure you keep your listings up to date and if you list in places that allow for reviews, be sure you regularly check to see if there are any issues you need to take care of.
Do these things and you’ll score a bullseye with your local citations.
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Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
Image: Archery Target, by Algotruneman, public domain.