Tag Archive | "Citations"

The Guide to Building Linked Unstructured Citations for Local SEO

Posted by MiriamEllis

This article was written jointly in partnership with Kameron Jenkins. You can enjoy her previous articles here.

When you’ve accomplished step one in your local search marketing, how do you take step two?

You already know that any local business you market has to have the table stakes of accurate structured citations on major platforms like Facebook, Yelp, Infogroup, Acxiom, and YP.

But what can local SEO practitioners do once they’ve got these formal listings created and a system in place for managing them? Our customers often come to us once they’ve gotten well underway with Moz Local and ask, “What’s next? What can I do to move the needle?” This blog post will give you the actionable strategy and a complete step-by-step tutorial to answer this important question.

A quick refresher on citations

Listings on formal directories are called “structured citations.” When other types of platforms (like online news, blogs, best-of lists, etc.) reference a local business’ complete or partial contact information, that’s called an “unstructured citation.” And the best unstructured citations of all include links, of course!

For example, the San Francisco branch of a natural foods grocery store gets a linked unstructured citation from a major medical center in their city via a blog post about stocking a pantry with the right ingredients for healthier eating. Google and consumers encounter this reference and understand that trust and authority are being conveyed and earned.

The more often websites that are relevant to your location or industry link to you within their own content, the better your chances of ranking well in Google’s organic and local search engine results.

Why linked unstructured citations are growing in importance right now

Link building is as old as organic SEO. Structured citation building is as old as local SEO. Both practices have long sought to influence Google rankings. But a close read of the local search marketing community these days points up an increasing emphasis on the value of unstructured citations. In fact, local links were one of the top three takeaways from the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey. Why is this?

  1. Google has become the dominant force in local consumer experiences, keeping as many actions as possible within their own interface instead of sending searchers to company websites. Because links influence rank within that interface, most local businesses enterprises will need to move beyond traditional structured citations to impress Google with mentions on a diverse variety of relevant websites. While structured citations are rightly referred to as “table stakes” for all local businesses, it’s the unstructured ones that can be competitive difference-makers in tough markets.
  2. Meanwhile, Google is increasingly monetizing local search results. A prime example of this is their Local Service Ads (LSA) program which acts as lead gen between Google and service area businesses like plumbing and housekeeping companies. Savvy local brands (including brick-and-mortar models) will see the way the wind is blowing with this and work to form non-Google-dependent sources of traffic and lead generation. A good linked unstructured citation on a highly relevant publication can drive business without having to pay Google a dime.

Your goal with linked unstructured citations is to build your community footprint and your authority simultaneously. All you need is the right tools for the research phase!

Fishing for opportunities with Link Intersect

For the sake of this tutorial, let’s choose at random a small B&B in Albuquerque — Bottger.com — as our hypothetical client. Let’s say that the innkeeper wants to know how the big Tribal resort casinos are earning publicity and links, in the hopes of finding opportunities for a smaller hospitality business, too. *Note that these aren’t absolutely direct competitors, but they share a city and an overall industry.

We’re going to use Moz’s Link Intersect tool to do this research for Bottger Mansion. This tool could help Bottger uncover all kinds of links and unstructured linked citation opportunities, depending on how it’s used. For example, the tool could surface:

  • Links that direct or near-direct competitors have, but that Bottger doesn’t
  • Locally relevant links from domains/pages about Bottger’s locale
  • Industry-relevant links from domains/pages about the hospitality industry

Step 1: Find the “big fish”

A client may already know who the “big fish” in their community are, or you can cast a net by identifying popular local events and seeing which businesses sponsor them. Sponsorships can be pricey, depending on the event, so if a local company sponsors a big event, it’s an indication that they’re a larger enterprise with the budget to pursue a wide array of creative PR ideas. Larger enterprises can serve as models for small business emulation, at scale.

In our case study, we know that Bottger is located in Albuquerque, so we decided to locate sponsors of the famous Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Right away, we spotted two lavish Albuquerque resort-casinos — Isleta and Sandia. These are the “big fish” we want our smaller client to look to for inspiration.

Step 2: Input domains in Link Intersect

We’re going to compare Bottger’s domain to Isleta and Sandia’s domains. In Moz Pro, navigate to “Link Explorer” and then select “Link Intersect” from the left navigation. Input your domain in the top and the domains you want to mine link ideas from in the fields beneath, as depicted below.

Open Link Explorer in a new tab

Next to Bottger’s domain, we’ve selected “root domain” as that will show us all competitor links who haven’t linked to us at all. We’re also going to select “root domain” on the resort domains, so we can see all of their backlinks, rather than just links to particular pages on their sites.

Moz’s Link Intersect tool will let you compare your site with up to 5 competitors. It’s totally up to you how many sites you want to evaluate at once. If you’re just getting started with link building, you may want to start with just one domain, as this should yield plenty of link opportunities to start with. If you’ve already been doing some link building, you have more time to dedicate to link building, or you’d just generally rather have more options to work with, go ahead and put in multiple domains to compare.

Step 3: Find link opportunities

Once you’ve input your domain and your competitor(s) domains, click “Find Opportunities.” That will yield a list of sites that link to your competitors, but do not link to you.

In this example, we’re comparing our client’s domain against two other domains: A (Isleta) and B (Sandia). In the “Sites that intersect” column, you will see whether Site A has the link, Site B has it, or if they both have it.

Step 4: The link selection process

Now that we have a list of link ideas from Isleta and Sandia’s backlink profiles, it’s time to decide which ones might yield good opportunities for our B&B. That’s right — just because something is in a competitor’s link profile doesn’t necessarily mean you want it!

View the referring pages

The first step is to drill down and get more detail about links the big resorts have. Select the arrow to expand this section and view the exact page the link is coming from.

In this example, both Sandia and Isleta have links from the root domain marriott.com. By using the “expand” feature, we can see the exact pages those links are located on.

Identify follow or no-follow

You can use the MozBar Chrome plugin to view whether your competitor’s link is no-followed or followed. Since only followed links pass authority, you may want to prioritize those, but no-followed links can also have value in the form of generating traffic to your site and could get picked up by others who do eventually link to your site with a follow link.

Select the MozBar icon from your browser and click the pencil icon. If you want to see Followed links, select “Followed” and the MozBar will highlight these links on the page in green. To find No-Followed links, click “No-Followed” and MozBar will highlight these links on the page in pink.

Common types of links you’ll see in the profiles of local business websites

If this is your first foray into link building for local businesses, you may be unfamiliar with the types of sites you’ll see in Link Intersect. While no two link profiles are exactly the same, many local businesses use similar methods for building links, so there are some common categories to be aware of. Knowing these will help you decipher the results Link Intersect will show you.

Types of links and what you can do with them:

Press releases

Press release sites like PRweb.com and PRnewsire.com are fairly common among local businesses that want to spread the word about their initiatives. Whether someone at the business won an award or they started a new community outreach program, local businesses often pay companies like PRweb.com to distribute this news on their platform and to their partners. These are no-followed links (don’t pass link authority aka “SEO value”) but they can offer valuable traffic and could even get picked up by sites that do link with a follow link.

If your competitor is utilizing press releases, you may want to consider distributing your newsworthy information this way!

Structured citations / directories

One of the primary types of domains you’ll see in a local business’ backlink profile is directories — structured citation websites like yellowpages.com that list a business’ name, address, and phone number (NAP) with a link back to the business’ website. Because they’re self-created and not editorially given, like Press Releases, they are often no-followed. However, having consistent and accurate citations across major directory websites is a key foundational step in local search performance.

If you see these types of sites in Link Intersect, it may indicate your need for a listings management solution like Moz Local that can ensure your NAP is accurate and available across major directories. Typically, you’ll want to have these table stakes before focusing on unstructured linked citations.

News coverage

Another favorite among local businesses is local media coverage (or just media coverage in general — it’s not always local). HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a popular service for connecting journalists to subject matter experts who may be valuable sources for their articles. The journalists will typically link your quote back to your website. Aside from services like HARO, local businesses would do well to make media contacts, such as forming relationships with local news correspondents. As news surfaces, they’ll start reaching out to you for comment!

If you see news coverage in your competitor’s backlink profile, you can get ideas of what types of publications want content and information that you can provide.

Local / industry coverage

Blogs, hobby sites, DIY sites, and other platforms can feature content that depicts city life or interest in a topic. For example, a chef might author a popular blog covering their dining experiences in San Francisco. For a local restaurant, being cited by this publication could be valuable.

If you see popular local or industry sites in your competitor’s backlink profile, it’s a good signal of opportunity for your business to build a relationship with the authors in hopes of gaining links.

Trade organizations

Most local businesses are affiliated with some type of governing/regulating body, trade organization, award organization, etc. Many of these organizations have websites themselves, and they often list the businesses they’re affiliated with.

If your competitor is involved with an organization, that means your business is likely suited to be involved as well! Use these links to get ideas of which organizations to join.

Community organizations

Community organizations are a great local validator for search engines, and many local businesses have taken notice. You’ll likely find these types of organizations’ websites in your competitor’s backlink profile, such as Chamber of Commerce websites or the local YMCA.

As a local business, your competitors are in the same locale as you, so take note of these community organizations and consider joining them. You’ll not only get the benefit of better community involvement, but you can get a link out of it too!

Sponsorships / event participation

Local businesses can sponsor, donate to, host or participate in community events, teams, and other cherished local resources, which can lead to both online and offline publicity.

Local businesses can earn great links from online press surrounding these groups and happening. If an event/team page highlights you, but doesn’t actually link to benefactors/participants, don’t be shy about politely requesting a link.

Scholarships / .edu sites

A popular strategy used by many local businesses and non-local businesses alike is scholarship link building. Businesses figured out that if they offered a scholarship, they could get a link back to their site on education websites, such as .edu domains. Everyone seemed to catch on — so much so that many schools stopped featuring these scholarships on their site. It’s also important to note that .edu domains don’t inherently have more value than domains on any other TLD.

If your business wants to offer a scholarship, that is a great thing! We encourage you to pursue this for the benefit it could offer students, rather than primarily for the purpose of gaining links. Scholarship link building has become very saturated, and could be a strategy with diminishing returns, so don’t put all your eggs in this basket, and do it first and foremost for students instead of links.

Other businesses

Businesses may sometimes partner with each other for mutually beneficial link opportunities. Co-marketing opportunities that are a byproduct of genuine relationships can present valuable link opportunities, but link exchanges are against Google’s quality guidelines.

Stay away from “you link to me, I’ll link to you” opportunities as Google can see it as an attempt to manipulate your site’s ranking in search, but don’t be afraid to pursue genuine connections with other businesses that can turn into linking opportunities.


Just because your competitor has that link doesn’t mean you want it too! In Link Intersect, pay attention to the domain’s Spam Score and DA. A high spam score and/or low DA can indicate that the link wouldn’t be valuable for your site, and may even harm it.

Also watch out for links generated from comments. If your competitor has links in their backlink profile coming from comments, you can safely ignore these as they do not present real opportunities for earning links that will move the needle in the right direction.

Now that you’re familiar with popular types of local backlinks and what you can do with them, let’s actually dig into Isleta and Sandia’s backlinks to see which might be good prospects for us.

Step 5: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Both the Albuquerque Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn link to Isleta and Sandia on their “Local Things to Do” pages. This could be a great prospect for Bottger! In many cases, “things to do” pages will include lists of local restaurants, historic sites, attractions, shops, and more. Note how their addresses are included on the following pages, making them powerful linked unstructured citations. Bottger hosts fancy tea parties in a lovely setting, which could be a fun thing for tourists to do.

Isleta and Sandia also have links from a wedding website. If Bottger uses their property as a wedding venue, offers special wedding or engagement packages, or something similar, this could be a great prospect as well.

Link Intersect also yielded links to various travel guide websites. There are plenty of links on websites like these to local attractions. In the following example, you can see an Albuquerque travel guide that’s broken up by category, “hotels” being one of them:

Isleta and Sandia also have been featured in the Albuquerque Journal. In this example, a local reporter covered news that Isleta was opening expanded bingo and poker rooms. This seems to be a journalist who covers local businesses, so she could be a great connection to make!

Many other links in Isleta and Sandia’s backlink profiles came from sources like events websites, since these resorts are large enough to serve as the venue for major events like concerts and MMA matches. Although Bottger isn’t large enough to host an event of that magnitude, it could spark good ideas for link building opportunities in the future. Maybe Bottger could host a small community tea tasting event featuring locally sourced herbal teas and get in touch with a local reporter to promote it. Even competitor links that you can’t directly pursue can spark your creativity for related link building opportunities.

And let’s not forget how we found out about Isleta and Sandia in the first place: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! Event sponsors are featured on an “official sponsors” page with links to their websites. This is a classic, locally relevant opportunity for any Albuquerque business.

Step 6: Compile your link prospects in Link Tracking Lists

If you’re thinking, “This sounds great, but it also sounds like a lot of work. How am I ever going to keep track of all this?” — we’ve got you covered!

Moz Pro’s “Link Tracking Lists” was built for just this purpose.

In Link Intersect, you’ll see little check boxes next to all your competitors’ links. When you find one you want to target, check the box. When you’re done going through all the links and have checked the boxes next to the domains you want to pursue, click “Add to Link Tracking List” at the top right.

Since we’ve never done link building for Bottger before, we’re going to select “Create New List” from the dropdown, and label it something descriptive.

Make sure to put your client’s domain in the “target URL” field. For Step 3, since we’ve just selected the links we want to track from Link Intersect, those will already be populated in this field, so no further action is needed other than to click “Save.”

We’ll come back to Link Tracking Lists when we talk about outreach, but for now, all you need to know is that you can add the desirable competitor links (in our case, links from Isleta and Sandia) to Link Tracking lists straight from Link Intersect, making it easy to manage your data.

Step 7: Find out how to connect with your link prospects

Now it’s time to connect the dots: how do you go from knowing about your competitor’s links to getting those types of links for yourself?

There are three main ways you can get unstructured linked citations to your local business’ website, and those categories are what’s going to dictate the strategy you need to take to secure that opportunity for yourself.

  1. Self-created: Self-created links are like voting for yourself, so sites that accept these types of submissions, like Yelp.com, will NoFollow the link to your business’ website. Visitors are still referred to your website through that link, but the link doesn’t pass authority from Yelp.com to your domain. You should only get authority from a website if they link to you on their own (what Google calls “editorially placed” links). Neither NoFollow nor Follow links are inherently good or bad on their own. They are just intended for different purposes, and it’s the misuse of followed links that can get you in trouble with Google. We’ll talk more about that in a later section titled “Avoiding the bad fish: Risks of ignoring Google’s link scheme guidelines”
  2. Prompted by outreach: In many cases, people won’t know about your content until you tell them. These links are editorially placed by the site owner (not self-created), but the site owner was only made aware of your content because you reached out to them.
  3. Organically earned: Sometimes, you get links even without asking for them. If you have a popular piece of content on your site that receives lots of traffic, for example, people may link to that on their own because they find it valuable.

Since this tutorial is about proactively pursuing link opportunities, we’re going to focus on unstructured linked citations types one and two.


If your competitor has been featured in an article from say a local journalist or blogger, then your outreach will be focused on making a connection with that writer or publication for future link opportunities, rather than getting the exact link your competitor has. That’s because the article has already been written, so it’s unlikely that the writer will go back and edit their story just to add your link.

The one exception to this rule would be if the article links to your competitor, but your competitor’s link is now broken. In this scenario, you could reach out to the writer and say something like, “Hey! I notice in your article [article title] you link to [competitor’s link], but that link doesn’t seem to be working. I have similar content on my website [your URL]. If you find it valuable, please feel free to use it as a replacement for that broken link!”

Sometimes the contact information of the writer will be right next to the article, itself. For example:

If there’s no email address or contact form in the writer’s bio, you can usually find a link to one of their social media accounts, like Twitter, and you can connect with them there via a public or direct message. If you live in a small, tight-knit community, you may even be able to meet with the author in person.

Press releases

If you notice your competitors are issuing a lot of press releases and you want to try that out for yourself, you’ll likely need to sign up for an account, as these are a primarily self-serve platform. Most quality press release sites charge per release, and the price can differ depending on length.

Citations / directories

You’ll either want to sign up for a citation service like Moz Local that distributes your data to these types of listings programmatically, or if you do it manually, you’ll want to find the link to create your listings. Please note that your business may already be on the directory even if you haven’t set up a profile. Before creating a new listing, search for your business name and its variants, your phone number, and current and former addresses to see if there are existing listings you can claim and update.

Business websites

Most businesses will make it easy to contact them. If you’re trying to contact another business for the purpose of proposing teaming up for a co-marketing opportunity, look in their footer (the very bottom of the website). If there’s no contact information there, search for a “Contact Us” or “About” page. You may not find an email address, but you may be able to find a contact form or phone number. Below is an example from Albuquerque Little Theater, where they have contact information on the right and advertising information in the top navigation for businesses that are interested in taking out ads in their printed show programs. Not an unstructured linked citation, but a great way to get your business known to the community!


Most organizations will make it easy for those who want to join, unless they are more exclusive or invitation-only. In the event that you do wish to get involved in an invitation-only organization that has no public-facing contact information, try viewing a member list and seeing if there’s anyone you know. Or maybe you know someone who can introduce you to one of the members. Genuine connections are key for this type of organization.

Step 8: Writing a good outreach email (for unstructured linked citations requiring outreach)

Outreach emails are necessary when the link opportunity you’re pursuing isn’t a link you could create yourself, or if the link source is one where you can’t make face-to-face contact with decision-makers. One of the most important questions you should be asking yourself for these opportunities is, “Why would this website link to me?”

Here’s how Bottger might go about sending an outreach email:

Greeting that matches the nature of the outreach target

“Hey Jill!” might be fine when outreaching to the author of a blog, while “Hello Ms. Smith” might be better for more professional outreach.


Give a brief summary of who you are, what you do, and your interest in contacting them. For example: “I work with Bottger Mansion, a historic Bed & Breakfast in Old Town Albuquerque. I found your page about Albuquerque activities — you’ve really captured a lot of what Albuquerque has to offer!”

The ask, and the value add

This is where you’ll actually ask for the link. It’s a good idea here to add value. Don’t just ask for something; offer to give something back!

To continue the same example: “As long-time residents of Old Town, we’d love to provide you with a comprehensive list of activities in the city’s historic district! We feel an Old Town Activities list would be a great addition to your page. Bottger Mansion regularly hosts high tea, for example, which we’d love to let more people know about with a spot on your list!”


Wish them well, thank them for their time, and sign off. Make sure that it’s easy for them to find information about you by including your full name, title, organization, and website/social links in your email signature.

Don’t be afraid to get on the phone, either! Hearing your voice can add a human element to the outreach attempt and offer a better conversion rate than a more impersonal email (we all get so many of those a day that ones from people we don’t know are easy to ignore).

And remember that local businesses have a particular advantage in accruing unstructured linked citations. Lively participation in the life of your community can continuously introduce you to decision-makers at popular local publications, paving the way towards neighborly outreach on your part. Learn to see the opportunities and think of ways your business can add value to the content that is being written about your town or city.

Step 9: Tracking your wins

Next-to-last, we’re going to jump back to Link Tracking Lists for a second, because that’s going to come in extremely handy here. Remember when we created the list with Sandia and Isleta’s links that we were interested in pursuing? Those will now show up when we go to Moz Pro > Link Explorer > Link Tracking Lists.

Every time Bottger successfully secures a link that they’ve added to their Link Tracking List, the red X in “Links to target URL?” column will turn blue, indicating that the site links to Bottger’s root domain. If we were pursuing links to individual pages, and a link prospect linked to our target page, the red X would turn green.

Another handy feature is the “Notes” dropdown. This allows you to keep track of your outreach attempts, which can be one of the trickiest parts about link building!

Avoiding the bad fish: Some words of caution before you get started

Before starting this process for yourself, familiarize yourself with these four risks so that your fishing trip doesn’t result in a basket of bad catches that could waste your resources or get your website penalized.

1. Risks of a “copy only” strategy

Link Intersect can be amazingly helpful for discovering new, relevant link opportunities for your local business, but link builders beware. If all you ever do is copy your competitors, the most you’ll ever achieve is becoming the second-best version of them. Use this method to keep tabs on strategies your competition is using, and even use it to spark your own creativity, but avoid copying everything your competitors do, and nothing else. Why be the second-best version of your competition when you can be the best version of yourself?

2. Risks of a “blindly follow” strategy

Comparing your site’s backlink profile with your direct competitors’ backlink profiles will return a list of links that they have and you don’t, but don’t use Link Intersect results as an exact checklist of links to pursue. Your competitors might have bad backlinks in their profile. For example, avoid pursuing opportunities from domains with a high Spam Score or low Domain or Page Authority (DA/PA). Learn more about how to evaluate sites by their Spam Score or DA/PA.

They might also have great backlinks that aren’t the right opportunity for your business, and those should be avoided too! Do you remember Isleta and Sandia’s links for events like MMA matches? If Bottger were to blindly take those resorts’ link profiles as directives, they might think they have to host a fight at their B&B, too!

Take what you find with a grain of salt. Evaluate every link opportunity on its own merit, rather than deeming it a good opportunity simply because your competitor has it.

3. Risks of an “apples to oranges” strategy

Choose the domains and pages you want to compare yourself against wisely. As a small local B&B, Bottger wouldn’t want to compare their backlink profile to that of Wikipedia or The New York Times, for example. Those sites are popular, but not relevant in any way to the types of unstructured linked citations Bottger would want to pursue, such as links that are locally relevant or industry-relevant.

In other words, just because a site is popular doesn’t mean it will yield relevant unstructured linked citation opportunities for you. Here in this tutorial, we’ve outlined one potential use-case for Link Intersect: finding unstructured linked citations your local business competitors have. However, this is not the only use for Link Intersect. Instead of comparing your site against competitors or near-competitors, you could compare it against:

If you know what types of links you’re trying to find, choosing sites to evaluate against your own should be a lot easier, and yield more relevant opportunities.

4. Risks of ignoring Google’s “link schemes” guidelines

If you’ve never embarked on link building before, we encourage you to read through Google’s quality guidelines for webmasters, specifically its section on “Link schemes.” If you were to distill those link guidelines down into a single principle, it would be: don’t create links for the purpose of manipulating your site’s ranking in Google search. That’s right. Google doesn’t want anyone embarking on any marketing initiatives solely for the purpose of improving their ranking. Google wants links to be the natural byproduct of the quality work you’re doing for your audience. Google can penalize sites that participate in activities such as:

  • Buying links that pass PageRank (“followed” links)
  • Excessive “you link to me and I’ll link to you” exchanges
  • Self-created followed links that weren’t editorially placed by the site owner

This underscores that the activities that are just good business, like being involved in the local community, are also the ones that can produce the links that Google likes. Sites owners might need a little nudge, which is why we’ve included a section on outreach, but that doesn’t mean the links are unnatural. Unstructured linked citations should be a byproduct of the good work local businesses are doing in their communities.

In conclusion

At Moz, we’re strong believers in authenticity, and there is no better pond for building meaningful marketing relationships than the local one. Focusing on unstructured linked citations can be viewed as a prompt to grow your community relationships — with journalists, bloggers, event hosts, business associations, and customers. It’s a chance for a real-world fishing trip that can reel in a basket of publicity for your local brand beyond what money can buy. Your genuine desire to serve and build community will stand you in good stead for the long haul.

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Moz Blog

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Local Event Marketing: Earn Links, Build Citations, Get Reviews, Increase Foot Traffic, and Win at Local SEO

Posted by Casey_Meraz

The recent Google Pigeon update that affected local search was just another example of why marketer’s should never put all of their eggs in one basket. 

Online marketing has been rapidly evolving over the years and a major paradigm shift has happened which has caused marketers to stop building links and start thinking of how to earn them. In this blog post I am going to cover an actionable strategy that any business can use to build citations, earn links, get positive reviews, and increase foot traffic to your brick and mortar location via event marketing.

One of my favorite hobbies is actually hosting and running events. Over the years I have run, marketed, or participated in everything from March of Dimes Volunteer Events, Adventure Sporting Events, all the way to marketing promotions for specialty retail stores.

Hosting events is a great way to increase your offline visibility as well as earn a ton of links, possible news mentions, and build citations. The citations will help your local SEO campaigns by getting listed on locally relevant websites., the links will help your organic rankings increase through earning high quality links, and foot traffic and exposure to your place of business will be great for your business.

Typically when people think of event marketing they get the false impression that only brick and mortar stores can participate in events. While it’s true that this post is geared towards the local SEO benefits of hosting an event at your physical location , there are plenty of other benefits even if you don’t have a Google My Business listing.

Many people make the mistake of coming up with a good event idea in their head, posting it on their blog, and then sit back and hope the entire community will come and support it. That is a mistake. This takes a lot of thoughtful good work, but it can pay off tremendously. At the same time you need to decide up front how crazy you want get you’re your event and it’s marketing reach. If it’s going to be a small event with just a few participants you won’t need to do everything in this guide. Pick and choose what’s right for your marketing goals and expectations. Remember that you’re going to get as much out of this as you put into it. So don’t take shortcuts and do this the right way.

I think Kane Jamison said it best in 
his post about Link Building with Local Events:

The overwhelming majority of the value from hosting events comes from the event itself, so don’t get lost in the link building aspects of the strategy. You should be hosting events because that’s the type of sh*t real businesses do.”
- Kane Jamison

What are the tangible benefits of event marketing for local SEO?

Benefit #1: You can easily build citations

Getting your business Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) on a high quality locally relevant site can be a big deal as it shows the search engines your business is locally relevant. Many cities have town websites and community websites where they post local events. All you have to do is find these and submit to them. If the event is hosted at your location your NAP will be posted on a bunch of locally relevant sites. I will talk more about this later in the post.

Benefit #2: You can easily build links

Everyone is always talking about link earning which events will help you with. However this is also a legitimate way to build some links where appropriate. If you list your event on a website that posts information about local events you can link back to your event detail page. 

Benefit #3: News mentions and brand exposure

OK now I can talk about link earning. If you follow my rule and are actually creating an event that
people will want to go to or helps the community in some way, you can reach out to the local news and see if they’re interested in covering the event. They may post it or in some cases they may send down a news crew to cover the event. When I see events that support causes I’m passionate about, I always promote them on my own channels and link to the web page where potential visitors can learn more. 

Benefit #4: Get foot traffic and sales

If you’re a brick and mortar location the foot traffic for you and the surrounding businesses can be a huge opportunity to increase your exposure and sales. Make sure you have a plan in place to deal with this accordingly. 

Benefit #5: Get Reviews

If people are happy with you’re your event they might just give you a positive review. We have personally found this to work really well after hosting a free Meetup training class. Remember though, some services like Yelp don’t want you to ask for reviews so make sure to honor that as well.

Benefit #6: Get Social

The social benefits of events with any amount of users can be huge. Event attendees might take photos, use your event hashtag, check in, or just plain promote your event just because they like it. 

Selecting your type of event

First we need to start off with an idea or a group of ideas for an event. While it’s cool to get excited and pumped up with the idea you need to make sure that the event is put together with proper planning and execution. It must serve a purpose that will actually attract potential customers to your location or the area where you’re presenting at.

  • Grand openings: This is self explanatory. Hosting a grand opening for your business is always a great way to increase your visibility. You can do this even after you have been open for a couple of months.
  • Themed seasonal parties: One of my clients has a Summer Kick Off Party outside of their brick and mortar store every year at the start of summer. They offer games, events, food, raffles, as well as offer a big sale to attract new customers. 
  • Classes: Educational Classes and Meetup’s are a great way to get people to come to your location. By providing free education about your niche or craft you can attract plenty of attendees. We use meetup.com for our training classes
  • Special sale: Many companies have sales. Make it a bit more special by adding to it. You can provide raffles, free food, or something else to attract your customers. Think about major holidays for sales as well including Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • Fundraiser: Partner with a cause you’re passionate about and do a fundraiser on that day. More on this later
  • New product promotion: If you have a new product to release you can schedule a promotional event around this. 
  • Fairs and other similar events: Even if you have a booth at another larger event like a county fair or business expo, you can appeal to your clients directly by hosting a sub event within the event. Typically having a freebie, special discount at a certain time, or other really attractive benefit you can make this work pretty easily.
  • Event theme parties: If you work in the hospitality industry it gets a bit easier to host events. You can have themed parties for traditional events like a major sporting event or smaller events such as an Oscars viewing party at your establishment. Segment these event types to your customer base and what might work best. 
  • Raffles and giveaways: Sometimes I use this as a sub event within a bigger event to keep people more engaged and sticking around all day. Whether its one big prize or smaller prizes every hour, it’s easy to get some people to stick around with the right raffle.
  • Host a guest lecture: Having a prominent speaker cover a specific topic is a good way to get noticed for your event. 
  • Networking events: Don’t have an idea yet? Networking can be key to any small businesses success. You can start a business networking or referral event at your office. Meet weekly, monthly, or whenever is feasible to you but built it up over time and host it at your location.
  • Promote a community cause: Maybe your community has a lot of trash on the road that needs to be cleaned. If you believe in that cause you can sponsor and run the cause. It’s easy to coordinate these types of events and promote it within the community. The meeting place can be at your establishment. 
  • Host a 5K: Work with your town and community and have the start/ ending of a 5K race or fundraiser start or end at your location. Major sporting events require a lot more preparation though so I suggest only doing this if you partner with an expert. Safety needs to be your top priority. You wouldn’t want a news mention for something bad that was due to an oversight on your side of the event.
  • Toy drives / food drives: If you don’t have the time to plan and host a large event you can start with a food or toy drive. Just find an idea you’r passionate about and how you can serve the community. Making your establishment a promoted drop off point for your cause is a great way to give back. 
  • Host a Google hangout: Sure this is not an event that will help you with getting citations. However if your goal is getting more exposure, increasing your reputation, and getting links you can still use a lot of the information in this guide. 

Now that you have the idea, let’s get ready to promote the event

Preparation is essential to the success of your event. To have a successful event you will need adequate time to market your event to your audience. Schedule the event at least 30 days out if possible. Major events are typically scheduled a year in advance, for example I can already buy tickets for the 
2015 MozCon.

After you have done the basics such as decided on your event type, secured the venue, and scheduled the dates, it’s time to start thinking about marketing the event and spreading the word. Here are a  few tips to remember before we get started:

  • Remember the local SEO benefits
    Remember if you want to take advantage of the Local SEO benefit of building citations, it’s important to host the event at your business location. You will promote your Business Name, Address, and Phone Number as the event venue on many outside websites.
  • Consider creating an event #hashtag
    While most major events have figured this out most smaller events forget this crucial step. If your event is social in anyway and people will be sharing photos, checking in, or inviting friends creating a proper Hashtag can help your event succeed further. Pro Tip: Add this #hashtag to all event marketing promotions online and offline (with signage and banners). People may use Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook and tag your event.
  • Think about ticketing in advance
    Most of the event ideas above don’t require ticket purchases or registrations. However if you want to do that I always suggest using a service like 
    EventbriteTicketbud, or Brown Paper Tickets. Ticketing can help keep the numbers in check for your event. Eventbrite for example will allow you to create free tickets or paid tickets. It’s also a place you can put your NAP and get a link. Services like this also allow easy website integration for ticket purchases. Research what’s easiest for YOU to use and provides the best customer experience for your need. 
  • Should you allow event sponsors?
    This is a question you should address up front. Sponsors can have a lot of benefits, especially if you sell tangible goods. If you’re having a raffle for example they may send you free product to raffle off. Maybe they will just send you small branded widgets. People love free stuff. All you have to do is ask. Additionally they can help be powerhouse partners when it comes to marketing. Be sure to inform them anytime you run a promotion so they can help push it out to their audiences. 

On-page optimization for the event

One decision you need to make is where the users can find all of the information about your event. Typically you will always want to do this on your website. Even if you use a third party ticketing service like Eventbrite, you can still embed that code onto your website to make the registrations happen there. Having a central point of information where users can find every detail is essential. Plus keeping it on our website will ensure all of the links and signals you build will linked back to your website.

When we explore on-page optimization the main optimization I’m talking about is user experience. We want to make this easy for the user to find every detail they need in an easy to use format. 

Essential Details on your page

Here are some of the most important basic details that you must include on your event page:

  • Event name: Come up with a unique name for your event. This will help you stand out from everyone else out there. It should also be descriptive of the event. If you’re hosting a Beer Festival it would be wise to mention that in the event name. 
  • Date and time: This needs to have prominent placement on your event page. Without these essential details it’s going to be difficult to get people to show up on-time. 
  • Location (NAP!): This is where the Local SEO Benefit starts. Ensure that your company name, address, and phone number are listed as the location site. This information should match your Google Local My Business Listing. Add photos of the venue as well for easy identification. 
  • About the event: Include a short write up in a prominent location about what the event is about and it’s purpose. You can go into more detail later but be concise on the first blurb of text. 
  • Schedule: Having a schedule of events is helpful for some events and their attendees. 
  • Photos and video: If you have hosted the event before be sure to include photos and videos if possible of the past events. 
  • Ticket status: If the tickets are limited include the ticket purchase cut off date, whether they can be purchased at the event, and how many  are remaining. 
  • Contact information: Nothing is more frustrating for event attendees than not being able to find an answer and also not knowing who to contact to get the answer. 

When thinking about the user experience design and UI must also be a factor. You want to provide as much information as possible about the event so all questions are answered, however you will likely need to split these up into separate pages if your event is a bigger event. The more information you can provide in an easy to view manner, the more successful your event will be and the less questions you’ll have to respond to. 

Successful event pages typically contain much more information, including:

  • Driving directions: Having driving directions with an embedded Google Map is a great way to go. Also provide several other directions from major intersections to make it easy for people visiting from major metropolitan areas. 
  • Lodging and transportation information: If it’s a multi-day event it’s a good idea to list local hotels and airport transfer options. you can partner with hotels or transportation companies. 
    Pro Tip: Partner with Hotels and transportation companies and you can get links and NAP listed on their website too!
  • FAQ page(s): If you’ve hosted an event before you already have the perfect resource. Go back to every email you responded to answering a question from the last event and turn it into content for your FAQ page. In addition to this you can interview past event attendees and try to get their real feedback via a survey. Ask questions pertaining to the registration experience (if required) or how easy it was to find the proper information.
  • Press pages: If the event is big enough, add a press page where the media can easily reach you with questions. Include benefits like free entry details on this page. 
  • Sponsors: If you have event sponsors such as manufacturers with bigger names be sure to include them prominently. 
  • Special requirements: Do you have to be above a certain age to attend this event? If so make sure to display this and any other essential details prominently. 

Technical on-page optimization

Technical optimization for event marketing is easy because it’s
All About The User Experience. What do I mean by this? Let’s consider the ways your visitor will find this event. They will either click on one of your links through your direct marketing campaigns or find your through search. 

I’m a big fan of Beer. In fact if you’re in Denver and don’t have a beer with me I will be very sad. But I digress. I did a quick search on Google for “Beer Festival” my intent is to find a beer festival to attend in the near future. If I want to increase my click through rates in search I should cater to these people. 

In the below example we see two examples. The first one is the Great American Beer Festival. Notice their concise yet very effective title tag that contains the event Name, Location, and Date.  Now look at the bad example that hurts my eyes to look at. The Meta Description comes up in all Caps and the page title does not contain enough details. If your search behavior is like mine you might not even want to click on that result. 

So as far as on-site technical optimization goes I would limit it to this:

  • Meta title: Include the event name, Location, and Dates
  • Meta description: Think about your audience and include enough information that will cater to them and entice them to click through. Of course Google decides what to show here but doing this can help you get some clicks. 
  • URL: Consider whether or not this even is going to be a yearly event or not. Many events that repeat the event annually just create a single page on their website without the year in the URL. An example would be http://www.MyWebsite.com/my-event-name

    Since you will be promoting this event and page details across the web you may want to retain the link juice for next years event. You can do this through a 301 redirect or just keep your annual event page an evergreen page that just updates with the new information yearly. 

Good event pages vs. bad event pages

Now, let’s take a quick look at some examples of good and bad event pages.

Example 1: Great American Beer Festival

This is the about page on their site. Since there whole business model is event hosting and not a supplement to another business we will just be looking at the layout of their information. Assume for example that this was the event landing page for your event. Although it’s a bit busy you will see that the Location, Date, Travel Information, Ticket Information, and FAQ are all readily visible above the fold. 

I think it’s an effective way of presenting the information. 

Example 2: The Schlitt Law Firm

Although I work with a lot of attorneys, this is not one of my clients; I found this doing a Google Search. This law firm was offering a Toy Drop Off at their law firm. They released this page in 2012. In my opinion this is not an effective page. This was written as more of a press release and doesn’t really contain a lot of information above the fold. Plus it’s kind of hard to read with so much text and not a lot of pictures. 

I think this would be more effective with the drop off location, a map, and other pertinent event details listed above the fold. 

Example 3: Steel City Ruby (simple yet effective)

Don’t get discouraged with the examples above. You can easily present the information in a simple way on your website. I found this example online and although I don’t care for the colors I found it very simple and effective. This page has the business name at the top, the date information, ticket information, ages, venue details, and a blurb about who is going all above the fold. While it could use some visual improvements like a picture it’s easy to get the basic details about the event from this page. 

How to market your event and get the word out
(and get foot traffic, links, likes, citations, and mentions)

Now that you have put in the important but necessary leg work it’s essential that your market your event right. Like any marketing efforts outreach targeted to your segmented customers will be the most effective. If you have a CRM where you have been tracking customer information you can use this to help promote your event. 

Realistically each of these topics deserves their own article too but for simplicity I have broken it down to the main tactical subjects you can tackle. If you want to track these results more granular through Google Analytics be sure to implement UTM Tracking Codes everywhere you submit a URL. If you’re using ticketing you can setup goals as well and track which sources contributed to the most ticket sales. Alternatively you can always see which sources are referring the most traffic. 

The goal using any of these methods below is to get them to your event page and convert if necessary

Method #1: Start by posting your event everywhere you can

Top Benefit: Foot Traffic to your event, Citations, and a Links

One of the most effective things you can do is post your event in front of people searching for events. Plus you get the potential foot traffic, exposure, link and citation benefits as well. 

Below are 10 sites US based events can submit to right away regardless of your geographic location. Make sure to add your NAP and Link back to your event page.

  1. Craigslist Events: Craigslist has an events section where you can post details about your event. 
  2. Eventbrite.com: As I mentioned above Eventbrite is good for ticketing, but it’s also good to promote your event. It also feeds to a lot of different news sites so it acts as a strong distribution point as well. 
  3. Facebook Events: You will want to promote your event socially as well. There are a lot of ways to do this but let’s start by getting it added. Post this under the company’s Facebook page and not your personal event page. 
  4. Meetup.com: Meetup requires an annual subscription fee but it’s a great way to get your event in front of a lot of people. You can also partner with an existing Meetup group for your event and have them promote it on their page. Seek out partners with similar interests in non competing niches and get in front of their audiences. You can also sponsor them :)
  5. Eventful.com: Eventful is another event posting website. You can add your venue to the Eventful database for all future events as well. 
  6. Spingo.com: I have never used this site before but I found it doing a quick search so it’s another option to post your site. 
  7. EventsNearHere.com: Like Spingo, I have never used this, but it appears it has easy-to-use free event submission. 
  8. Events.org: Another good site to submit your event to. 
  9. Zvents.com: Another national directory for events that you can submit to.

Find region and niche specific places to post your event
When finding locations to post your event two I suggest breaking them into two categories. The first category will be websites that serve to residents in your community like local newspaper websites, event websites, etc. The second category is niche related sites that would post your event based on the topic. These can be easily found using Google. Simply try some search strings like these:

  • Submit your event
  • Add your event
  • List Your Event

If you’re looking for locally relevant directories make sure to add the city and state name in the search. If you want more niche related sites add a keyword to the front of the search as well. 

Check out this example below where I found a site I can submit my Beer event too. This will help get your event in front of an audience that is
ALREADY INTERESTED in what you’re offering. Think of the foot traffic and social benefits you can get from this. 

To get a full list and more relevant event marketing details check out 
Kane Jamisons post here. He did an excellent job covering a lot of the different search strings you can try out to find these sites. You should spent a lot of time here curating your list of sites and saving them for future use. This is a goldmine that is typically untapped

Method #2: Talk to local news outlets

Top Benefit: Foot Traffic to your event, Citations, and a Links

You never know unless you ask right? If the event is big enough you can offer a VIP perk for journalists willing to cover the event. Pitch the idea to the local news outlets. Forbes has this article 
13 Do’s And Don’ts When Pitching To The Media. Although it’s geared more towards non event pitches there are some good takeaways. 

Personally I have had success in the past reaching out to my local news stations to get video coverage and local newspapers to get written coverage. Don’t limit yourself to just the major newspaper and consider the local community papers. In many cases you can get pre-event exposure and post event exposure. 

Maybe you could serve ads targeted to Journalists on LinkedIn on Facebook promoting the VIP area of your event as well that’s open to journalists. 

Method #3: Send an email newsletter

Top Benefit: Reach a wider audience and increase the number of attendees

If you already have an email subscriber list you need to make sure that you invite them to your event. If your lists are already segmented by customer type I suggest drafting an email geared towards each of these segments to promote the event. Appeal to that target audience. If you don’t have this list you could create an initial customer segment of “Top Customers” and send a special message to them with a coupon, etc.

Make people feel special and ensure there is a reason for them to want to come to your event. Don’t spam people that aren’t signed up on your list already.

Method #4: Create a marketing video

Top Benefit: Citations, Free Links to your Event Page

Create a short video to promote your event. Include pictures of your events and all of the pertinent event details that you included on your event page. 

You can then submit this to YouTube, Vimeo, Etc. where you can include your NAP and link to your event website in your description. If you mention it in audibly in the video then you can also use it in your transcription. While you’re at it, Geo Tag the video in YouTube to your business location. 

Here are some of the benefits of this method:

  • Add your NAP to your video description
  • Add a link to your video description to your event page where people can learn more details
  • Promote your video to your subscribers
  • Segment an audience and serve them YouTube video ads with a small budget

Method #5: Take advantage of your Yext featured message (if applicable)

Top Benefit: More Attendees and Links to your Event Page

If you use Yext and have an active Powerlistings subscription you can update your featured message in your account. This will allow you to promote the event on these local directories and include a URL to your event page. It can be a quick win especially if you already focus on barnacle SEO and have your directory listings ranking for your top keywords.

Since this will display on your local citation profiles you might get some additional visibility. 

Method #6: Serve ads to similar event attendees and after the event

Top Benefit: Get More Attendees, Get Reviews after the Event, Increase Social Exposure

I owe credit for this one to my buddy Ben Wynkoop for figuring this one out. Remember how I mentioned that your event should have a Hashtag? Well, Ben wrote a blog post that featured 10 takeaways from Wil Reynolds’ presentation at the SEM San Diego May event, where he spoke on the growing role of PR in SEO. That particular event used the hashtag #SEMSD. After the event was over he spent $ 18.42 serving ad’s to everyone who tweeted (AKA Attended the event) showing a picture, the blog post title and link to the actual post.

You can use this same method to your benefit. This is how.

  1. Find a list of similar events in your area that use an official hashtag
  2. Develop an Ad on a topic of interest to attendees.
  3. Use Twitter Ad’s and target it to everyone who tagged the event by targeting the official event hashtag as an exact match keyword
  4. Spend little $ $ $ $ and get a possible huge ROI

Method #7: Consider SMS push notifications

Top Benefit: Foot Traffic to your event

Depending on your customer base and whether or not it’s OK you can consider sending out SMS push notifications. Proceed with caution on this and make sure that your clients are OK with it. If so you can send out a blast to tell them about the event and then one more on the day of the event to remind them to stop by. 

Method #8: Partner with local organizations like your chamber of commerce

Top Benefit: Foot Traffic to your event, Citation, and a Link

Inform your local chamber of commerce about the event and other potential supporting organizations. They, like the event websites may be willing to post your information on their website and possibly send out an email newsletter to their member base as well. The more exposure the better. 

Method #9: Have your sponsors promote your event

Top Benefit: Foot Traffic to your event, Citations, and a Links

If you are allowing event sponsors for your event to offset costs or get raffle prizes, they will likely want to promote the event too. Ask for a blog post on their website, a banner ad, or social media mentions on their channels to get in front of their audiences. We will talk more about this in the social examples below. 

Now lets step up the social game

Ideally you’re already active on Social Media groups and forums that are relevant to your industry or niche. However if you’re not, now is a good time to start. But first let’s look at some
Do’s and Dont’s

Things you should do

  • Use Followerwonk to identify and follow the influencers. Reach out to them and build relationships. 
  • Only participate in groups that you are already active in. Somewhere where you are not just being self serving. 
  • Share it with your audiences on all of your platforms
  • Answer questions that people ask.
  • Respond to other question and comments. Be productive and pro-active. Offer to help people. 
  • Ask others to share it if they find it useful. Don’t sound desperate though. 

Things you should not do

  • Don’t go join a bunch of relevant social groups and post the same message trying to shamelessly promote your event. This is spam.
  • Don’t Spam forums
  • Don’t just promote self serving messages selling your product or promoting your brand.

Think long and hard about defining and segmenting your audience

Many people make the mistake of taking the shotgun approach to marketing where they just try to get their message to everybody possible. They try to serve everyone instead of focusing on their niche (I call this the Walmart approach). Let’s setup a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you’re a niche airsoft retail store and you’re hosting a training event for people who want join an airsoft team. Would it make more sense to share this message about your event with a Cross Fit group or a smaller local airsoft group? Even though the airsoft group might have less members the message will be really targeted. It’s likely that would get more interaction from this group of target customers.

If you haven’t already identified these types of groups it’s important that you take the time to do the research. Once you have identified these groups you need to start participating them in a non self serving way. Think about the community and long term results. This will allow you to put together a plan that you can eventually also use to help promote your event. Once you’re in, you will likely have brand advocates that will promote your events for you for free. 

Where can you find these groups?

Google Plus Communities 

According to Google with communities you can “Talk about the stuff you’re into with people who love it too”. So how do you go about this?

  1. Visit Google Communities while logged into your Google account
  2. Search for communities using keywords relevant to your industry or where fans might hang out
  3. Review the number of members in the group, see how active they are, and decide whether or not to join. Some groups require admin approval before joining.
  4. Once you’re a member introduce yourself and try to participate. Be helpful and don’t troll. Answer peoples questions and provide your feedback to others. Be proactive and develop a strong reputation. 
  5. Don’t be afraid to post non self serving messages.

Facebook Pages
If your customers are on Facebook then it’s going to be a good place for you to be. Since Facebook allows Hashtags it’s important to tag all event related posts with your hashtag. By now you should have already created your Facebook Event Page through the company’s Facebook page. Once this is done here are some things you can do to promote it.

  1. If you have a budget you can use the Boost Post option and target the Facebook Ad’s to your direct target audience. If you’re not familiar with Facebook Ad’s read this. The targeting options are down right creepy but super useful when your audience is well defined. 
  2. Include this link in any event submissions as well if your event is more social. Consider adding a widget on your website where people can see which of their friends are attending and easily share and join this. 

If you already have an active Twitter presence you can use it promote your event. Make sure that any event related tweets contain your event hashtag in them. When your event comes people may tweet using the hashtag about your event if it’s posted publicly. To get more publicity always ask others to share it. Event tweets can range from a variety of topics and you should mix it up. You can use it for small announcements to introduce new event details, new speakers, new sponsors, or answer questions that you’re getting a lot of. 

If you’re not active on Instagram you may want to consider it. Simply posting a picture of something cool with your event Hashtag along with other relevant Hashtags is just another way to get in front of your audience. If you have the time and resources, don’t miss out and invest some resources into this. 

During and after the event

During the event you probably have enough to worry about. However don’t be shy and during any public announcements make sure to remind people to Check In, Take Photos, Use the Hashtag and get the word out. Some review websites allow you to solicit them but others like Yelp are very clear on this policy. They say “Don’t Ask For Reviews”. If you’re trying to get Yelp Reviews of your business from your event the best thing you can do is post public signs with Yelp’s logo at your event.

There are also some offline things you can do at the event that can help you increase your reach for future events. Make sure to sign people up for a mailing list if they’re willing. If you can get there permission to email them you can create a list of event attendees and market directly to them. This will come in handy after the event as you can email them and ask them how they liked the event. 

At my company we host monthly Meetup events. Below is a real world example of how we can actively get reviews just by hosting an event. 

How can you get these reviews?

It’s simple, really. Do you remember the email addresses you collected? We are going to use these emails to find out how attendees liked the event. Many customers like giving feedback and they’re just looking for an outlet to share their opinion. There is a way to allow everyone to give their feedback and guide them where you want them. For this I suggest you sign up for Get Five Stars from Mike Blumenthal. This service makes it easy to contact customers and attendees and guide them where you want them. For example, people that have a complaint can be guided to send their feedback directly to you (instead of venting online) and if they’re happy it provides a place where they can leave a positive review on your Yelp, G+, etc.. You can also learn what you need to improve from the feedback you get from customers.

In closing

Obviously there were many specific topics I tried to cover in this post that I can elaborate greatly on. I hope to publish supplemental updates on more of the complex ideas here soon. In the mean time I hope this gets you started and provided enough creative energy for you to come up with a plan to market your ultimate event. If you found this useful please 
Follow Me @CaseyMeraz on Twitter or buy me a beer when you meet me in person :)

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Posted in IM NewsComments Off

Finding and Building Citations Like an Agency

Posted by Casey Meraz

So you want to rank locally? If you have already worked hard to add a few citations, complete your on-site local optimization, acquire customer reviews, and build some locally relevant links, well, now it's time to shift your focus. According to David Mihm, citations make-up roughly 25% of the overall local ranking factors.

Why It's Time to Change Your Thinking…

I've mentioned before that it's time to stop chasing links, and for local SEO it's time to stop chasing citations! What do I mean by that? If your whole purpose for creating citations is to improve your local rankings, then you are probably relying too much on Google. What would happen if those rankings were to suddenly go away? Instead of viewing the process building your brand in the local ecosystem as a laborious task that needs to get done so that you can rank, then you aren't seeing the big picture.

Each of the citation sites that you're trying to get listed on were created with goals far beyond just helping businesses rank for Google's local results. In most cases, they were created to provide a good customer experience and send potential shoppers to worthy vendors. Each of these sites gets their own traffic, and setting up your business listing on them is another place for potential customers to find you.

Below is a quick example from a fairly low traffic attorney site. In a one month period, they are getting traffic from other websites where their citations also reside.

Local Marketing Sources

It's time to change your mindset and get motivated to start building citations for the right purpose. If you do that, the rankings you long for will come with it. Now, here's how we find and get our business listed in these citations in an organized and speedy fashion at my firm.

Make Sure Your Information (N.A.P.) is Accurate.

Having accurate information that correlates across your website, Google Plus page, and local ecosystem citations is the most important part of building and fixing your businesses citations. Your business Name, Address, and Phone Number (referred to as N.A.P. format) is essential for local rankings. Make sure this information is 100% consistent before moving forward!

Below is an example of the appropriate NAP format for a Law Firm:

The Reeves Law Group 515 S Flower St Los Angeles, CA 90071‎ (213) 271-9318

You will notice that most directories display information like the example above. Some will allow you to add a link to your website, but some will not. In this case, the link is not the important information. The accurate listing of the business in the NAP format is. 

We've established that having accurate and consistent listing information is critical, so how do we do it?

The Easy Way May Not Be the Best Way

One easy way to get listed consistently on multiple directories is by using a service like Yext. While that can be a great option, depending on your situation, make sure you know what you are getting into. Yext, for example, will easily publish to dozens directories with the information you submit. Some will start showing instantly, and some will come up within a few days with very little work. But at over $ 475 a year (yes, annually) for the retail version, you might think twice about it.

If you are not looking to purchase services like Yext…

Here are Three Fundamental Steps to a Great Alternative Approach:

Prepare Your Information

I always like to start by creating a quick Google Doc with the client's NAP information at the top. This allows me to easily copy and paste the fields if I need them while I'm building citations. It also allows me to keep the data consistent across the board. Typically, I ensure my Google Plus page is 100% accurate with my business information, and then copy and paste the information from Google Places. I will also use this same Google Doc for tracking my citation sources in one easy to use place. 

Feel free to download this free Local Citation Building Template.

In case you decide not to use the spreadsheet I created, you will see I have fields for some of the most common information that citation sources ask for- including:

  • Your Name – Your actual name or the name of business owner
  • Email Address – The Email Address that will be checked by the business
  • Company Name – The company's exact name as it appears correctly on Google Plus
  • Address – The company's exact address as it appears correctly on Google Plus
  • Suite or Floor Number – Only use if there is a Suite or Floor number
  • City – The company's exact city name as it appears correctly on Google Plus
  • State- The state the company resides in
  • Zip – The zip code of the company
  • Phone Number - The LOCAL phone number of the exact business location
  • Landing Page For Location – The landing page for that office or physical location

I also added some advanced fields that I also see on some submission sites. Here are some examples: 

  • 800 Number – The 800 Number of the Business
  • Logo URL – The URL of the company's logo hosted on your website
  • Facebook URL – The Facebook URL of the company
  • Twitter Handle - The company's Twitter Handle
  • Places Page Link – A Link to their G+ Local Page or Google Places Page

**Below is an example of the header from my Local Citation Building Template.

The Citation Building Spreadsheet NAP Information

Citation Building Can Be a Bit Tedious, So Here's an Easier Way…

Typing can be a bit tedious

If you're like me and you have the attention span of a lemming, then you need some reinforcements. But when dealing with something that's so important, how do you prevent data corruption and ensure accuracy at the same time? 

My answer is Roboform and it costs between $ 9.95 and $ 39.95. To be clear I am not affiliated in any way shape or form, it's just the program that I found works best for me. So, I will share how I use it.

Roboform allows me to input the information about a location and have it autofill on many of the submission sites. It's not perfect and it requires a manual review, but spending a couple of minutes setting this up is worth its weight in gold. Not only will it ensure it outputs what you put into it, but it will also store the information and you can share the data with your team. It will also integrate into your browser where you can use a drop down and select the auto fill information you want. Basically it just saves a ton of time.

How to use Roboform for Citation Building 

Once you've downloaded the program from Roboform.com and installed it, you can open it up and go to File > New > Identity to create a new identity. You will end up creating and naming a new Identity for each different business location you have. You can then click the edit button and spend a few minutes and fill out all of the information you want to your heart's desire. If you're just building citations through Roboform, then you can stick to the Person, Business and Address sections and only fill out the fields I have listed in my spreadsheet.

Start off with the Person section and fill out the following fields that are circled below including:

  • First Name – The first name you want to display on the listing. Typically, it is the same as the person registering the account. 
  • Last Name - The last name you want to display on the listing. Typically, it is the same as the person registering the account.
  • Phone - The Business Phone Number for that location (Your NAP)
  • Email - The mail address that is going to register the account and be the contact email. Use this if they're going to be the same email. 

Roboform Person Fields You Need To Fill Out

Next Move On To the Business Section

On this page, I typically only use the company name and website. The company name will be the actual company name in your NAP format and the website will be the landing page of that physical location. Sometimes these are truncated to just the domain, but it's always better to try and get the link you receive to go to the actual landing page for that location.  

Roboform Business Category Field To Use

Lastly, You Can Move onto the Address Section In this section you will add your address from the NAP format. 

Using the address section in Roboform

And that takes care of that part!

Now you are setup to start finding citations and knocking them out! We will use Roboform to auto fill the fields instead of typing them each time. They will still require manual review but it will save a lot of time!

Now, Let's Get Listed on Some Local Directories, AKA: Build Some Citations

The goal of doing all of this citation is work is to make sure we end up with good data. Check it to make sure you're not already listed before you add your listing to each of these websites. Spamming the web is not cool; even if it is unintentional. So follow this quick three step process called CHECK, FIX, ADD.

  1. Check to see if the listing is there
  2. If the listing is there, make sure the NAP is 100% accurate. If not, fix it!
  3. If the listing does not exist, add it

If you are using the free Local Citation Building Template I created, you will see a list where you can easily add the information along with notes about your new citation sources. I highly suggest keeping track of this information. Remember that you're not just doing this to impress the search engines. You want to have access to this information in the future. What if you decide to move one day and didn't have this?

A Screenshot from the spreadsheet:

A screenshot from my free citation building spreadsheet

At my company, I also give this information to our clients in the unlikely case that they felt we were doing a bad job and wanted to fire us. 

Make Sure You Have the Top Citations

Whether your business is brand new or old and established, I suggest you start off by adding a new listing or correcting your incorrect listing at the Top Citation Sources suggested by Getlisted.org. They worked hard to put together this list of citation sources they believe carry the most weight in different industries and geographic areas. They provide two great resources to act as a starting point:

View the Top Citation Sources by City

View the Top Citation Sources by Category

Just like with every citation source you come across, make sure to add them to your tracking spreadsheet. 

Next, Don't Re-Invent The Wheel. Find Your Top Competitors

Do you already know who your top competition is? Check them out and see who ranks consistently for the keywords you want to rank for. 

Finding citations a year or two ago was a bit harder than it is today. These days you have some easy and affordable options to see where your competing businesses are listed. In this article I will discuss an easy way using Whitespark's Local Citation Finder and another method for searching for them manually through Google. As with any data collection, I always recommend using multiple sources to ensure greater accuracy. 

Method #1: Using Whitespark to find your competitors citations

Start by navigating to the "Your Projects" tab. Click on the projects tab

Step 1: Create a new project. To keep things organized, I will typically create a new project by using the "+ Create new Project" button under the "Your Project" tab. It will ask you for your business Name and Phone Number and hit the Create Project button.

Create a New Project Button in Whitespark

Step 2: Find Citation Sources by Keyword – Use the option to "Search By Keyphrase" and enter the keyword information you want to rank for.

Whitespark Interface for Searching

Step 3: Wait For the Results – After starting the search, wait for a few minutes for it to compile the results. In my experience, it's typically pretty fast. You will also get a confirmation email when the process is complete.

Whitespark Search Results

Step 4: See What Came Out and Start Getting Citations – After it's complete, click back on the your "projects link" to see a list of your projects. Select the pink Citation Sources link to see what results came up for your listing. One of the best things about Whitespark is that they have also compiled site submission URL's in their data.

For some listings, you can easily just click the link "Submit Your Business". You can then just use the RoboForm drop down to autofill the information making citation building simple! You may not want to bring Whitespark home to mom because she's so easy.

Method #2: Conduct a NAP Search in Google

You can also conduct the searches you want in a search engine, and come up with your top competitors. This is also a great way to do it because you can use the compare option to see which competitors have.

To do this, simply pull up Google and enter your competitors NAP information. Below I entered a company name, their address, and phone number that I found from their Google Plus Local page. 

Way to search competitors citation sources in google using NAP


With this information, I can now visit each one of these sources, and add my business to the same sources if they allow a submission. You will find some sites do not allow submissions, or are owned by the business themselves. Whitespark has a cool option to mark these as useless which makes their data very clean and accurate.  

Be Very Careful If You Outsource Citation Building

If you don't have the time and are considering outsourcing citation building please be careful, and have some serious QA. If your people are not being meticulous with your data, you're going to have a lot of data confusion on your hands, and spend twice the amount of time trying to fix it. On the other hand, some companies like Whitespark offer these services a la carte as well. 

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn more advanced citation building after you have exhausted these resources, I suggest you read my write up of some tips from David Mihm's presentation from Local U Advanced Baltimore. Better yet, if you have a chance make sure you attend the next Local U Advanced session. 

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