Local SEO: How to Clean up Citations for Better SERP Visibility

July 25th, 2016 by Search Influence Alumni


Google, Bing, and other major search engines are constantly changing and developing their search engine results pages (SERPs). Major components of these pages include organic, paid, and local results. With the ever-increasing use of mobile, these local results are growing in importance in overall SEO strategy.

SERP Screenshot

So how does one account for local SEO, you may ask?

This is where citation cleanup comes into play.

Citations are the presence of a business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) on any website. As search engines crawl websites and find instances of a business’s NAP, they look for consistency in that information, so the more accurate and consistent your citations are across the internet, the better your business will rank in a local search (i.e. in Google and Bing maps as well as in the maps packs on SERPs).

Ensuring this consistency is called citation cleanup. From my experience, there are four major steps to effective citation cleanup:

  1. Ensure your address is USPS verified.
  2. Update your NAP on your website.
  3. Audit and build your citation on the major data feeds and directories.
  4. Find your remaining existing citations and make sure they are all consistent.

Let’s break this down and go into a little more detail.

Ensure Your Address Is USPS Verified

This is an important place to start because, as you’ll find later on, many of the directories you end up submitting to or cleaning up have standard formatting that in most cases aligns with USPS’s own standards. So, if your format doesn’t match it will be harder and less likely to achieve consistency.

Update the NAP on Your Website

After the USPS verifies your address, make sure it’s reflected on your website. Include your whole NAP as a structured citation. Your website is the baseline for your NAP; this is what Google and other crawlers will compare other citations to, so it must be correct and formatted here.

**For a little extra oomph, consider marking up your citation on your website with structured data like Schema. This will help crawlers understand it better as your NAP.

Audit and Build Citations on Major Data Feeds and Directories


The reason I put this before doing actual cleanup of existing citations is because citation dissemination is a hierarchical process within a large ecosystem of directories. There are a few feeds that push to other smaller directories where your citation may already exist, so updating these and the major directories first will make cleanup later on a little easier.

There are four major feeds to check first: Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual. These feeds trickle down to other directories and local search engines, including Yahoo! Local, Apple Maps, SuperPages, etc. This is also where that USPS-verified address comes into play, especially. Part of the reason these four directories are so authoritative is because they have such strict guidelines on address verification.

Along with those feeds, you also want to update the major local directories. Since many of these are directly on those search engines’ sites, this is absolutely essential to local rankings. These major directories include: Google Maps, Bing Maps, Yelp, YP, Foursquare, etc. You may also consider auditing your social media accounts to make sure your NAP is correct there as well.

Find Remaining Existing Citations and Make Sure They Are All Consistent

Once you’ve built your major citations, you’re ready to do some additional cleanup, if necessary. It’s useful for all businesses to be aware of their citations across the internet, but some businesses may need additional cleanup more than others.

If you’re a business who’s recently changed their name, address, phone number, or website, you should definitely consider more extensive search and cleanup. The same goes for those who are still seeing problems with their local rankings. You may be missing a citation or set of citations that’s affecting your rankings.

There are a number of ways to do this. You can use Google just to search for instances of your citation manually, or you can use a service to do a more in-depth search for your citation and its variations across the internet.

Either way, you’ll find that your citation can be updated on some sites more easily than others. You may need to submit forms to have it updated, contact website administrators, or go through other channels to get it done.

If you’re business is at this point, you may find it more cost-effective to hire an agency or service to do this kind of cleanup.

However, once you’ve successfully cleaned up your citations, you’ll rest easier knowing that your business information is correct across the internet.

Citation cleanup is an important factor in local and overall SEO. By ensuring NAP consistency, you’re gaining valuable traffic from local search engines! To learn more about why NAP consistency is important with your SEO, you can watch this short video.

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