Citation building is not a fun thing to do. If you’ve done this tedious task before, you probably know what I mean.
You also probably know it’s even worse when doing so for multi-location businesses in which you need to create and claim hundreds and hundreds of citations. Still, it is a major and necessary part of local SEO, as it accounts for about 15.5 percent of the local ranking factors.
Because citation building can be incredibly time-consuming, businesses and agencies tend to rely on automated listing management systems. These systems allow you to create, centralize, and control all citations under the same account, with little efforts and little time.
But is the fast way the right way? To help you choose between paying for an automated listing distribution service or go the DIY way, here are some considerations you should think about before committing to any method.
Reach and Network
Manual citation building allows you to cover as many websites as necessary for every possible country without any particular limitations.
Automated listing management systems will also allow you to create and claim citations on many of the most important directories in your country, as long as they are part of their network.
The reach of each platform will then vary greatly. For example, Yext’s network in the U.S. is made of 62 websites, while this number drops to only 20 for Canadian businesses.
The right choice for you will ultimately depend on the type of business you want to create citations for. Those 20 citations can be more than enough for an electrician in a small city, but the truth is, you’ll probably need way more than this for an insurance company in New York City.
In fact, the number of citations required to help your business’ local visibility will depend on the competitiveness of its industry and its location. For the most competitive industries, you’ll need to be present not only on the most important websites, but also on the hyper-local and industry-oriented sites. No matter which tool you use, you’ll likely have to create citations manually at one point or another, if you want an extended local presence.
One of the major advantages of automated services is the speed with which the data you submit is published. With Yext, most of the listings will be active almost automatically or within a couple of hours because of the partnerships it has developed over the years.
These partnerships have helped make the process and follow-up a little easier, and you’ll probably see results a little faster, as well. This is the best option if you want to run a short-term program.
With the manual approach, it will really depend on the website. Listings such as CitySquares and EZLocal are created and updated immediately. However, it can take up to eight weeks before the data is actually published for some others.
Completeness of Profiles and Personalization
Having an online profile that is complete and personalized is important. The more your listing is complete and enhanced, the more it will be seen as relevant. This will ultimately help your visibility and allow your online profile to stand-out from other basic profiles.
Some tools will have deep integration on a couple of websites that are part of their network, which provides a lot of other useful information besides the average NAP (name, address, and phone number).
However, the personalization of profiles is normally put to the minimum standard when using an automated approach. Typically, you end up feeding each listing the same information.
All directories are different and the information you can put on your profile will vary depending on the website. If you want to ensure high-quality listings that stand-out, you cannot just submit the same template each time. You’ll have much more latitude and personalization opportunities by going the DIY route.
Many people overlook having duplicate and incorrect listings and just focus on creating new ones, but these types of problems hurt your local visibility. If your information is listed incorrectly or if you have identical profiles, you’re missing out getting credit for a citation.
A couple of automated platforms will provide resources to help you deal with duplicate citations, such as Bright Local’s Citation Tracker. Automated platforms are really good at findings exact duplicates. An example scenario in which these platforms are most efficient is if one business is listed with the same information three times on the same directory.
While automated platforms will indeed help you find and remove the majority of duplicates, chances are, there will still be some duplicates that will fall through the cracks. For other mismatched cases – listings with wrong business name, address or phone number – it gets especially difficult to clean everything up only by using a platform.
Bottom line: there will always come a point in which you’ll need to manually check everything to ensure that all your information is correct and that there are no duplicates anywhere. You may also need to manually clean up some listings in the event of an error because your automation tool will inevitably miss a few incorrect listings.
Time Required and Cost
Let’s say you have a business with 10 different locations, and you want to clean and build citations manually for the 30 most important directories. Assuming that on average, each citation can take you about five to 10 minutes to claim or create, you’ll need between 25 to 50 hours of work.
Taking into consideration that some industries will also require you to create citations on hyper-local and niche directories, it’s easy to see that this is an incredibly laborious task. Not everyone has the time nor the resources to do it.
On another level, listing services will split the time required by an impressive percentage, but these tools aren’t free. Depending on the package, they range from $49 to the exorbitant $999 for Yext’s premium package per year.
Again, not everybody is willing to pay this amount of money for an automated tool, so research your options and consider what works best for your budget before impulsively making a purchase.
Duration of Citation
Another thing to take into consideration when choosing the appropriate method for citation building is the duration of citations. Listing management platforms work on a principle of sustained service and fee. This means that when your subscription has expired and you stop paying, your listings may or may not continue to be active.
You’ll have to renew your contract every month or year; otherwise, some of your citations are likely to disappear, erasing all the time and money you have invested in this task.
This adds some value to the manual way: it might take longer to get your business listed and verified, but it will not be removed or reverted afterwards. Before committing to any platform, make sure you read all the terms and conditions on the life duration of your listings, so you won’t find yourself having to reclaim and build hundreds of citations.
For some markets that require hundreds of listings, it is almost impossible to keep track of every active, pending, and potential citation, especially for multi-location businesses. You’ll find yourself lost in some Excel sheets and other tracking documents, which will make the reporting task very difficult.
Almost all automated services will provide you with accurate reporting and an aggregated view of your current citation’s status. You can even get advanced data that is otherwise impossible to obtain, such as the listings profile searches and views.
The reality is that no service is currently completely hands free. There will always be some duplicates or inconsistent listings that don’t get caught right away. However, automated management tools will help you get the job done quickly and easily.
Whether you choose to go with an automated service or to do the task manually, remember that citations will not skyrocket your local results automatically. It takes time, patience, and hard work. Yet coupled with an efficient local SEO strategy, it can boost your results to new heights.
Special thanks to Laurence Soucy, local SEO and earned media advisor at iProspect, who helped contribute to this article.
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