Some say citations are no longer important and others say they’re the most important thing since sliced bread.
Neither one is correct.
Citations are still an essential piece of the puzzle to get a better ranking in the place that does matter. It’s true that most business directories are essentially useless for getting direct business. That’s not the goal, though.
The goal with business directories (and more specific citations) is to help boost your business listings in the places where customers will find you. That is typically Google.
Those That Say Citations Are Useless
There are some groups of people online who say that citations are over, caput, absolutely useless for ranking. I’m going to cover some of the most prominent sources saying this and I’m sure there are many more online.
David Mihm (of Tidings) and Mike Blumenthal (of GatherUp) had an in-depth conversation about the importance of citations. Mike specifically mentioned a study from Darren Shaw (of Whitespark) which points to a minor bump in ranking from citations.
You can also catch Mike mentioning Darren’s study in a Local U last week on Local U video at 17:27 about the study. It seems to be clear that his position is solidly against the importance of citations. Dare I say dead?
What The Evidence About Citations Says
The evidence doesn’t say much. In fact, there’s very little evidence against it but there’s also not a ton for it.
You can take a lot from Darren’s study but I’m not sure you can take any solid evidence for anything. It’s a very helpful study, very well put together, but it’s not scientific. The order of things would have dramatically change the effect of each one undoubtedly.
Not only that but the real world is much messier. The study specifically took a new listing with little to no online presence. In reality, that scenario rarely happens. There are duplicates, messed-up citations, several websites, etc.
While it was a great study, it can speak to both for and against citations at ease. It doesn’t speak for services like Yext and Local Reach which do much more than simple citations.
Ease of publishing new content? Check.
Cleaning up duplicates and consolidating information? Check.
The real interesting case study will be what Darren is currently working on.
Hypothesis: cancelling Yext would have no negative impact on rankings whatsoever. Any multi-location brands out there want to run a test with me? I’ll setup all the tracking and do the analysis. You just need to cancel a few locations.— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) July 26, 2019
Several replies seem to say that there has been some change in ranking but it hasn’t been catastrophic. But does that say more about how the service works well while you’re using it and even after leaving? There will be some changes, of course, but not catastrophic.
That means lock-in is much less than some would lead you to believe.
Citations Are Still Vital
No, citations won’t boost you to the moon but citations are still important. They aren’t going to boost you to the first page but you’re also going to have a more difficult time making it to the first page without citations.
I think Darren sums it up perfectly in this quote:
Citations are more of a foundational factor than a rankings booster. You’ll have a hard time ranking without them, but other tactics in local search will be more likely to move the needle.Darren Shaw – Whitespark
Get citations and actively manage your citations to help you in the long term. It’s worth either the time investment or financial investment.
Citations are a foundation. They are important but you’re not going to notice what they do much. Without citations, you would notice that they’re gone similar to not having a foundation on your house.
You’re more vulnerable to changes from outsiders, rankings may be more vulnerable to drops, information is likely to get changed or even lost easier, etc.
Citations aren’t going to make you but they definitely could break you if you never bother beyond Google and Yelp.
You can see the mild increase in ranking citations provide. It’s not huge but it’s still important to the overall foundation of your business rank online.
One thing remains undoubtedly true among all the information. Business listings and citations out there should be accurate and consistency is important among your citations that you do have.
The question remains if you’re better off not creating any citations rather than having inaccurate one’s. If you already have them out there and there’s inaccurate information then that could be harming you.
Just Create The Basics?
Some say that it’s important just to create the basics for listings. That seems to be just a Google My Business listing. I say that’s not enough.
Citations are still an important foundation even though it won’t boost you to the top alone. Nothing will boost your business to the top alone.
Getting your business to float to the top of relevant search terms for your industry is a process. It’s a process that involves a lot of steps and many different strategies.
Even though there are some dissenters from citations, the overall consensus seems to be that they’re still important. Search Engine Land went as far as collecting the opinion (and they are just opinions, all of them) from several local SEO experts. You can check out the results of the local experts sounding off about their thoughts on citations.
Managing your business listings is important and so is having a great review management strategy. The tools that help you do them more effectively can make your life easier and your work more effective. Yes, you can do things without them but you can do almost anything without the tools that make life easier.
I just want to end with this one final thought that wraps things up.
Life isn’t as simple as one statement, it’s a ball of yarn that’s tangled up and nothing is as simple as it seems on the surface, that’s fact.