Citations are listings of your business name, phone number and physical address on other web pages, even if it provides no link to your website. For example, a citation might be an online directory where your business is listed, but not linked to. It can also be a local chamber of commerce or a regional business/trade association site where your business information can be found, even if they are not hyper-linking to your website.
Citations are a powerful off-site signal to the ranking algorithms of the major search engines for local results. If two or more sites are of equal caliber on-page optimization, the sites with a greater number of quality citations will most likely rank higher than sites with fewer quality citations. Read the article that many consider to be the gospel of local SEO by David Mihm for more on citations.
Quality citations from highly trusted and well-indexed sites (such as insiderpages.com) help vouch for your site to the search engines about your business’s contact information and categorization. Think of it like proof or evidence that these trusted sites are telling the search engines that your site is a trustworthy and legitimate business.
Even if your business doesn’t have a website, citations can help your business visibility online. This is not recommended chiefly because the abilities to compel and convert search engine users to use your services are greatly diminished and the ability to measure results is nil. However, without much else to go by, search engines rely on whatever information is available so it can serve that info to the users.
Citations also validate if a business actually serves a community, this plays to your website’s trust and authority in a geo-local area. It’s hard for a business to fake membership in a chamber of commerce or a city/county business index, or to be written about in a local online newspaper or popular local-centric blog. Citations (and of course links) from these kinds of websites can dramatically improve your business’s trust/authority and ultimately your local search results.
Lastly, citations are the ultimate tool in hyper-competitive markets when your local business is tied to a somewhat saturated brand. Just look at the number of State Farm insurance agents in Cleveland, OH.
Note how the #2 O-pack site listed is also #1 local organic site listed. I’ll bet it’s no coincidence if you take the time to investigate his citation profile. I can show you how to get the goods on competitors using Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder tutorial.