From Flyers to Online Directories: The Evolution of Citation Building

If you’re a business trying to amp up your online profile through search engine optimization or strengthening your Google Business Profile, you may have heard about “citation building” from someone in the marketing world.

At our agency, we’ve shared this concept with potential clients and current clients. We always try to explain things in different ways to make the concept click. Here’s how we’ve been explaining citation building lately. If you’re having trouble grasping the concept, we hope this helps.

The common explanation is that citation building is the process of creating consistent and accurate information online about your business. Sounds great, but why is this needed?

Let’s step back in time to the 1920s. Imagine you and your significant other have moved to a new city and decided to open up a barber shop. You buy or lease a building, set everything up, and begin advertising and serving customers.

Your first form of promotion is paying a kid to hand out flyers on a busy street corner with your business name and address. That’s a citation. You get your first customers, and they’re satisfied. After their friends and family see their smooth shave and great haircut, they ask, “Where did you go?” The person states your business name and address. That’s another citation.

As the city grows, someone decides to print a “business directory.” They come by to confirm your information, and the directory is printed. Another citation. Eventually, a new haircut becomes a fad, and a newspaper reporter drops by to ask you about it. In the final article, they list your shop’s name and address. You guessed it – another citation.

Over time, all those citations build confidence in the population, letting them know that you’re a valid business, where you’re located, and what you do.

The same concept applies today. If many different online sources (business directories, news sites, review sites, etc.) list your business or mention it with the correct information (name, address, phone number, website), search engines like Google and Bing, and even AI tools like ChatGPT, gain confidence that you’re a valid business. Each new citation builds their confidence. If you don’t have any citations out there in the digital universe, or if your citations are inconsistent, it can cause confusion and may lead to losing visibility in geo-specific searches, like “(service) near me” or “(service) (city)” searches.

If you’re looking to build your citations to help strengthen your local search engine optimization efforts, contact OEPMA today.

William S. Campbell

With 15 years of marketing experience, William S. Campbell crafts effective and tailored strategies to help businesses succeed.

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