Should you have delved into local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) before, you have most likely delved into citations as well. Marketers often assert that citations are at the forefront of local SEO, being effectively adjacent to regular backlinks. But not all citations are equal; there are structured and unstructured citations, and local, niche, and niche local citations. Moreover, few articles explain what these are or how they work, and many gloss over niche local citations in particular. Thus, in this article, we’ll explain what niche local citations are, why they matter, and how you may acquire them.
Types of citations
First and foremost, let us briefly define citations, and delve into their main types.
First brought into the forefront of SEO discourse by David Mihm in 2008, citations are online mentions of your business. Unlike backlinks, they don’t typically link directly to your business’s website or landing pages. Rather, citations may include your Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) information, but that’s not a necessary inclusion. Citations may be found across the internet, including:
- Business listing directories
- Business review portal sites
- Social media platforms
However, that’s only the basic definition. To contextualize what niche local citations are and why they matter, we should note the main citation types. In no particular order, these are the following.
#1 Structured versus unstructured citations
An initial distinction between citation types lies in their structure. In this regard, citations may be “structured” or “unstructured”.
In simple terms, a structured citation includes your NAP information and is typically visually structured. In contrast, unstructured citations won’t include your NAP information – thus being more akin to branded mentions. Sam Oh of Ahrefs explains this distinction very well in the following video, around the 11:30 mark.
Understandably, all regular citations can be either structured or unstructured.
#2 Niche citations
Niche citations are a more focused type of citation. Unlike general citations on, for example, Facebook posts, niche citations are ones on platforms specific to your niche.
Understandably, these citations are harder to come by. However, they do provide more value for a few reasons, including:
- Industry context. Niche citations help search engines associate your business with your industry.
- Audience engagement. Niche citations typically draw more engaged audiences who are invested in your industry.
Platforms for niche citations may include Chambers of Commerce and industry-specific business directories.
#3 Local citations
Next, local citations are also more focused than regular ones. As the name implies, local citations are ones on platforms specific to your area of service.
Local citations are also relatively harder to come by and will depend on local availability. However, they too have distinct advantages, including:
- Locality verification. Local citations help search engines verify your area of operation.
- Local visibility. Similarly, local citations enhance local SEO, thus boosting local visibility.
Local citation sources may include local business directories, local news websites, and even websites of other local businesses.
#4 Niche local citations
Finally, niche local citations combine the two types above. Therefore, niche local citations are ones on both local and industry-specific platforms.
This type of citation may be the hardest to come by, and its availability will vary considerably. However, it combines the benefits of niche and local citations, thus providing immense overall value.
Tools to acquire and manage niche local citations
Now, before delving further into why niche local citations matter, let us address their acquisition and how to keep track of them once you’ve acquired them.
As regards acquisition, you may consider such specialized tools as the following:
You may also use tools not specific to this one purpose, as many popular SEO tools allow. One such example would be the Link Intersect tool by Ahrefs, as Sam Oh explains in the following video:
Then, as regards monitoring your citations, you may use acquisition tools like the above, or others like:
How exactly you may do so will vary, depending on your choice of tools. However, they will all be the same in principle, scanning the internet for niche and local platforms you may consider.
Avoiding black hat services when building niche local citations
Having noted that, however, we should also briefly mention that there are many underhanded services in circulation as well. One notable, popular example would be “Google My Maps Citations” services offered on Fiverr. Whitespark’s Darren Shaw showcases how these services simply don’t work in the following video:
It should thus be clear that such services will most often be a waste of your money. Moreover, Google has become increasingly aggressive against such tactics over the years. As WordStream notes, Google has repeatedly denounced black hat SEO tactics, and penalties may include outright bans. As such, if you’re trying to drive a long-term business, it’s in your best interest to avoid these entirely. There are legitimate and effective ways to drive traffic and increase sales, including niche local citations.
But why do niche local citations matter?
Finally, let us discuss why nice local citations matter.
Initially, marketers find that they do. Moz finds that citation signals are the 5th Local pack/Finder ranking factor, at 10.82%. Similarly, they find that citation signals are 5th in localized organic ranking factors, at 8.41%. Other signals they identify as impactful between the two, which niche local citation building delves into, include:
- Google My Business signals; 1st at 25.12% and 4th at 8.85%, respectively.
- Link signals; 2nd at 16.52% and 1st at 27.94%, respectively.
- Review signals; 3rd at 15.44% and 7th at 6.47%, respectively.
But to explain why niche local citations matter, we may look no farther than Google’s own definitions.
Indeed, Google explains that local search results are “based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence”. To further specify what they mean by these terms, they define them more specifically:
- Relevance: “Relevance refers to how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for. [C]omplete and detailed business information [helps] Google better understand your business and match your profile to relevant searches.”
- Distance: “Distance considers how far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search. If a user doesn’t specify a location in their search, we’ll calculate distance based on what we do know about their location.”
- Prominence: “Prominence refers to how well known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. […] Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories. Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’ local ranking.”
The final factor of prominence is thus where niche local citations come into play. Each of the factors they list as indicators of prominence is affected or informed by niche local citations:
- Offline prominence. Niche, local, and niche local citations are all indicators of offline prominence.
- Online prominence. By default, niche local citations help establish online prominence within your area of service and industry.
- Reviews. Finally, niche local citations help elicit reviews and thus enhance local rankings – in alignment with Moz’s findings.
That is not to say that niche local citations are the only arbiter of success, by any means. Rather, they should be a crucial part of your overall local SEO efforts to guarantee optimal returns.
To summarize, niche local citations are citations on both local and industry-specific platforms. They combine the benefits of niche and local citations by helping search engines establish your area of service, industry, and online and offline prominence. Acquiring them is no easy feat, and opportunities to do so will vary considerably. Fortunately, there are many tools that can help you acquire and monitor them, bolstering your local SEO efforts.
James Cranston is a copywriter and avid SEO practitioner. Over the past 10 years, he has contributed content to various digital marketing agencies and websites, often discussing the intricacies of modern local SEO.