What Are Online Citations?
An online citation is defined as a mention of you or your law firm on any website. In general, they will include the name of your firm, the address and the phone number. These are collectively known as your NAP (name, address, phone number). Often times they will also include a link to your website or provide enough of information to the reader for them to find it.
Business listing websites such as Yelp.com, YellowPages.com and other similar services give detailed citations which are commonly known as “structured citations”. Those found on event listing websites, newspaper websites and blogs are called “unstructured citations”. Both types of citations have an influence on the visibility of your law firm online.
How Do Citations Build Website Traffic?
Search engines such as Google and Bing have certain algorithms that provide a list of webpages according to the keywords typed in by the user. Webpages that rank at the top of the list of search items enjoy the highest hit rates and the numbers decrease drastically for every subsequent webpage. A webpage that complies with the search engine algorithm perfectly will rank high on the list of search items for the right keywords, which means that more users will be directed towards it automatically.
The actual algorithm is known only by the few people who have designed. Through careful observation, search engine optimizers have learned some of the key factors. However, as you’re reading this, Google’s developers are working on ways to make their program smarter. In the not so distant future, even the designers will not know the algorithm.
At this time, businesses that have a higher number of citations have a greater chance of ranking higher than their competitors. As search engines look for accurate and reliable information, a greater number of citations helps build credibility, not only for the search engine, but also for the user.
According to David Mihm’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) studies, the factors related to good business citations contribute to around 25% of the top 20 factors that affect the local search ranking. The other such factors included reviews, links and website structure, apart from other, less influential elements.
The Impact of Inaccurate Citations
Inaccurate online citations have a negative impact on the experience of a user. User experience weighs heavily on how well you rank overall in Google search. You must keep track of your citations and update them when your business information changes.
Structured citations tend to keep track of the most recent changes in the details of your business Unstructured citations, such as those in blog posts, are more prone to outdated data.
When a search engine comes across contradictory citations of your business online, be it structured or unstructured, it makes it difficult to validate your business as a reliable part of the community. Inaccurate citations can lead to a lower local webpage ranking, and that drastically reduces the online traffic that your law firm’s website will enjoy.
The Take Away
Keep track of your online citations can be a lot of work. But with things that are as complicated as search rank, the devil is in the details. The truth is, most firms do not put enough time into building and maintaining their online citation list. If you want to stay ahead of your competition, take the time to get them straightened out. You’ll be glad you did.