Whereas some online directories include links to nationwide or global companies, other directories exist only to promote businesses at the local level. It is crucial for a business’s visibility to its name, address, and phone number (NAP) featured in these local directories, as people who use those directories will be more likely to find that business if its NAP is included as local citations. Using that business’s services or buying its products then allows the business to gain a foothold in that area, expand in local popularity, increase revenue from its market in the area, and appear higher and higher in search results.
Why Are Local Citations Important?
Because directories vary in their reputation, that is, their ability to provide legitimate links to real, dependable businesses, Google prioritizes some directories over others. The inclusion of a business’s NAP in a more esteemed directory increases Google’s opinion of that business, boosting that business higher in Google search results. The more reputable local citations that feature a business’s NAP, the higher on Google search results that the link to this business’s website will appear. According to the algorithm that Google uses, the key to visibility is not the sheer number of the local citations that feature a business’s NAP, but rather the number of high-quality local citations that feature the NAP.
In this way, if a business’s NAP appears in multiple reputable online directories in a given area, people who live in that area will be more likely to find that business through Google searches. There are three types of Google searches that are most affected by the quantity of local citations: Google Maps searches, “near me” searches, and general searches. After submitting a query for a law firm via Google Maps, the interactive map that features the search results will not include every single law firm in a given area; only those firms listed in the most high-quality, local directories and those with the best reviews will appear initially. Firms with less visibility can be accessed by zooming in or moving the map, but these firms will receive less web traffic because they do not appear first. A “near me” search for a law firm will provide a link to Google Maps, but it will also feature a short list of three local firms. A general search will produce a similar result, with a Google Map and an abbreviated list of nearby law firms preceding a series of links to national firms. Again, the law firms that are included in more reputable, local directories and have received the best reviews will be among the handful of firms to appear.
Of course, local citations in directories only go so far. Establishing a presence in an area is not the goal, but rather the foundation, and strong word of mouth increases a business’s staying power. On the web, one common form of word of mouth is online reviews from customers, and these have been proven to significantly encourage or discourage patronage to a business. The proximity of a business to the person performing a Google search is important, but a large number of positive reviews can boost the business’s position among the search results. Through the guidance of a specialized marketing service, first-party reviews (those included on the business’s website) will appear below a business’s link on a Google search results page, and a high average ranking across many reviews increases the likelihood that the link will be clicked by 154%—more than doubling the number of visits. Google takes into account only the reviews on the business’s website, and those on third-party sites such as Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook are not considered in Google’s algorithm. However, consistent ratings across websites enhances credibility, so asking customers to provide reviews on both the business’s site and a variety of other platforms will only strengthen the appearance and appeal of the business online.
Having a solid digital presence is truly critical, and that can be accomplished and maintained as long as all the information available online about the business’s NAP is correct. Erroneous contact information may seem to be a minor issue that can be swiftly and easily remedied, but statistics would disagree with that assumption. On average, over two-thirds of the information online about law firms is inaccurate, and because seven in ten people would prefer to work with better-reviewed attorneys farther away than with local attorneys who have fewer positive reviews, misinformation can greatly affect how many clients a law firm receives. These trends are similar for legal professionals; more than 60% of the contact information for legal providers is incorrect, and three-quarters of consumers place their trust in online reviews when they search for an attorney. Because four in five individuals looking for a new attorney search for information online before turning to other sources, the accuracy of a business’s NAP is essential to garnering new clients through the Web.
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