Citations and Directories: What are The Differences?

“For people to discover your website, you need to build pathways and big, flashing signs that lead them there. In digital marketing terms, this means you need links, links and more links.”

– Luisito Batongbakal, Monitor Backlinks

You have an awesome business with all of the amazing products and services that anyone could dream of.

But you can count on two hands how many people know about you.

Your writing content and sales copy, your website’s nice and your social media schedule is consistent. You are slowly establishing your online presence.

But, despite all of that, your business still doesn’t rank for local searches.

You’re not getting enough customers.

You need to be listed in directories and local citations.

When it comes to ranking for local, they’re the incredibly important factors.

In this article, we will look at how each of these factors works to influence your positioning search, their uses, benefits and the platforms where you can find them.

Here is an overview of the discussion:

Chapter 1: Directories

    • What are online directories?
    • What are the benefits of using directories?
    • What are the examples of online directories?

Chapter 2: Citations

    • What are online citations?
    • What can I get from getting cited online?
    • Where can I receive business citations?

Chapter 1: Directories

Getting listed in online directories is crucial for small businesses today. And, it’s not just for the sake of being found by potential users.

It’s also just smart [read: modern] business best practices…

I mean come on… can you remember the last time you used the phonebook?

I can’t.

Convenience and accessibility are paramount.

In an age where the internet can provide answers to almost everything, it’s more practical to type in “pizzeria near me” or “veterinary clinic in Ventura, California” to source what you need, when (and where) you want it.

It’s why Google is so damn popular.

Search engines will pull up relevant, locally based business listings, along with a few online directories that will help any seeker find what they need to scratch their itch.

Online Directories = Yellow Pages 2.0

These gems are searchable, organized, and accessible to any device.

Essentially, directories are lists of business websites categorized into different niches. As a business owner having your site listed in directories is (or should be) a priority.

Screenwriter Barbara Benedek famously quoted “more is not always better”…

Hate to break it to ya Barb, but when it comes to directories – Most is best!

What Benefits Await?

An online business directory is more than just a database that contains website names, URLs, and contact numbers.

Your customers will find you faster

Your potential customers are using directories to search for companies and making purchasing decisions within a few simple clicks.

The process has been streamlined, filtering businesses according to ratings, reviews, location, products or services offered… just to name a few.

In order to stay in the game, make sure that your listing includes the following:

  • Complete name of your website/business
  • Updated homepage URL
  • Brief but detailed company description, including address and/or service area
  • Any kind of multimedia that best reflects your business

Optimizing your listing is crucial so that even if your prospects don’t explicitly look for you, your business will still be included in the search results.

SEO Credibility

Search engines prioritize showing indexed websites that are trusted by users.

One measure used to determine the trustworthiness of a website is the number of quality links pointing back to it.

As a business owner, you can greatly benefit from the backlinks of authority sites such as online business directories.

Let your customers spread the word

“Satisfied customers who will spread word of mouth are the most powerful assets you have”

– Andy Sernovitz, Word of Mouth

Company reviews and ratings play a crucial role in influencing the behavior and the decisions of a customer.

A recent study revealed that 68% of people say positive reviews make them trust a local business more.

Most directories allow users to share their experience and leave a rating and feedback.

This is powerful social proof that can 100% be used to your advantage – even the negative stuff! Just show your prospects how well you can handle complaints and that you are actively engaged in making everyone’s experience excellent.

Where to get listed

These are just some of the most notable online business directories:

  • Google My Business
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Bing
  • Apple Maps
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Foursquare
  • LinkedIn Company Directory

Follow the link below to download a wicked worksheet which includes 60 top local directories your business should definitely be listed in.


Chapter 2: Citations

Local citations can be found almost everywhere on the internet. They are super valuable to any business looking to gain online traction.

Competition is tough. The market is saturated and the information accessible via the internet can be a blessing as much as it can be a curse…never before have your customers had soo many options available to them. Because there are so many businesses available in a simple click or two, it is becoming increasingly difficult to build a solid online presence.

Fortunately, there are a handful of techniques that can help you gain the attention that you deserve.

One such way is getting your business cited online.

A brief overview of online citations…

“Citations” refer to any time when your business name, address and phone number (NAP) is mentioned by local websites, review platforms, local directories, blogs, social media pages, apps etc.

Your business NAP is the most important part of an online citation, but other details can be included such as:

  • Business hours
  • Taglines
  • Social media links
  • Accepted payment channels
  • Business taglines
  • Geo-coordinates

Citations can either appear as structured or unstructured.

Structured citations are those that contain your business NAP. Commonly, you can find this type of citation in review and listing sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List.

Unstructured citations, on the other hand, are found in platforms where users only mention the company name.

For example, when a blogger cites your business in his article to express his appreciation for the service you provided. He may have failed to include your phone number, but he, however, include your business’ name plus your opening and closing hours.

When someone tweets about your business to encourage others to try your product… that’s a citation, even though most of the time, social media users only share the name of the business and their handle.

Your goal, as a business owner, content marketer, or a webmaster is to ensure that your brand receives citation from credible and authority websites.

To avoid duplicates, remember that your business name and contact information should appear the same in every online citation.

You can use tools such as Google Alerts for citation monitoring. Every time a website mentions your business, Google will send you email notifications. Hootsuite provides this feature as well for social platforms.

While it is important to ensure that your citations remain consistent in every platform, there are some acceptable discrepancies:

  • Abbreviations used for titles (Co. for company and CPA for Certified Public Accountant)
  • Spaces between zip codes or postal codes
  • Abbreviations used in addresses (Apt for apartment and Blvd for boulevard)
  • Phone number formats
  • State abbreviations in the US, Canada, Australia

Benefits of a local citation

While most citations don’t include a link back to a company website, they still provide a lot of value to your local SEO strategy.

One of the factors that influence local search algorithms is the number of online citations.

The more citations your business receives from authority sites, the better chance you have at ranking for local searches.

Aside from improving your SEO, an online citation can also help you with the following:

  • Building your reputation as a credible business
  • Establishing your authority in your niche
  • Boosting your online presence
  • Generating more traffic
  • Providing validated business information to your customers

Sources of local citations

Below are some of the following platforms where you can cite your business:

  • Data aggregators
  • Local blogs
  • Review sites
  • Social media platforms
  • Business association websites
  • Local directories

Or download over 60 American business directories, complete with submission URL and data prep worksheet.

Let’s drive this train home…

The short of it:

.. Directories and citations contain almost the same type of information about a business, such as a website URL, business name, contact information, and niche details.

However, it’s worth noting that they do have a few differences.

  • Whilst citations can be found on various platforms such as blogs, social media pages, review sites, and online business directories
  • Online directories, on the other hand, are submission websites where you can have your business listed.

We know for a fact that it’s virtually impossible to rank for your target keywords if you don’t have enough quality backlinks pointing to your website.

This is where directories can help you.

As for establishing trust and validating the accuracy of your business information, you will need to utilize online citations.

Both citations and directories are powerful ranking factors that you should leverage for your local SEO.

It’s hard enough to rank in search results, but with the use of both of these tools, you can significantly increase your website traffic and earn the trust of your clients.

Don’t have time to tackle the tedious task of seeking out directories and submitting your business?

Let us do it for you, our popular 100 local directory submissions packages will get your business on the map!


Co-Founder Digital Lead ??‍? ? For more then 15 years Tim has been using digital marketing strategies as a tool to scale businesses. Captivated by human psychology and productivity, he is an avid student of strategy. Always seeking what's new and integrating it with what works. ?‍♂️?
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Citations and Directories: What are The Differences?

by Tim time to read: 8 min