A citation is an appearance, anywhere on the web, of your business name along with its address or phone number. Google counts both the quality and quality of citations when ranking your business.
To get started with gaining citations, check out my guide to getting your business listed. Once you’ve done that, another option for gaining citations is Whitespark’s awesome (and free, for limited use) local citation finder.
The Local Citation Finder
Ontolo produced an article about finding citation sources about a year ago. It provided a great idea, but was complicated to execute. A short time later, Whitespark created the first version of its citation finder, which automates Ontolo’s process. The finder works in two ways:
- By Keyphrase – You provide a location and search phrase (ie, dentists, denver, co). The citation finder runs that search on Google and finds the top-ranking sites. Then it grabs their phone numbers, and searches for each of these numbers. Finally, it stores a list of sites that have the phone numbers included on-page. In theory, you have a list of websites that are providing citations to companies in your industry.
- By Phone Number – The phone number search is simpler – you provide a phone number, and the citation finder locates sites listing that phone number. You can use it to examine your own citations or those of a particular competitor.
Once the citation finder has its list of webpages, it automatically sorts them, providing you with a list that looks like this:
The domains which provided the most citations are listed first. Clicking “submit your business” will bring you straight to the submission page, if someone has entered the location of that page (usually only works for the most common directories).
ACR and DA are domain importance rankings provided only to pro members. The Got It/Useless columns let you keep track of where you’ve been listed and inform Whitespark if a particular domain is useless (usually meaning it does not allow you to gain a listing).
Using The Local Citation Finder
To get started, you’ll need to visit the citation finder and create a free account. Choose to search by key phrase or phone number, and then prepare to wait. Although Whitespark provides a free version of the tool, free searches take some time – running these examples yesterday took about 6 hours. On the positive side, the tool provides an estimate of the completion time and emails when it’s finished.
Once you’ve got your list, it will be stored in the citation finder for viewing at any time. For free accounts, up to 30 sites are displayed per search. I find the sites fall into 3 categories:
- Easy submission – You’ll find many sites with a simple “submit your business” form. These directories can be completed in a couple minutes each.
- Worthless – These sites provide no entry form, and look suspiciously like spam. I’ll usually just move on to the next.
- Worth pursuing – These sites are less common. Not providing a form, yet looking like a site that would be valuable, I note their address to revisit later. You may be able to personally contact the webmaster and request inclusion on the site.
Use A Free Account or Go Pro?
In addition to the free service, Whitespark offers upgraded pro accounts, starting at $20 per month. This gives you 20 daily searches (instead of 3), unlimited results per search, 5 projects, which make it easier to keep track of where you’ve already listed, and a variety of other features.
The ability to get unlimited results per search increases the number of listings you can find for a business. At $20 per month, this should be worthwhile for marketing consultants working with multiple businesses. For the individual business owner, it’s a closer call – it may be worth signing up for a month or two initially, and perhaps repeating this on an annual basis to keep your listings up-to-date.
Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is a great tool built on a smart idea. It makes it much easier to analyze and match the citations of your top-ranking competitors. As local search becomes more developed and competitive, this is one tool every search marketer should keep in mind.