May 292012
 

As part of our citation building service, I research local citations and their influence on the organic local search rankings daily. That is why I decided to publish a series of articles related to the topic of citation building for local SEO. The current one is related to one of the most important factors in measuring the value of different citations (according to Google’s “Generating Structured Information” patent) – relevance of the source. And there is undoubtedly no better way to measure relevance in Google’s search results than checking the search results themselves. Similar studies have previously been done – first by Andrew Shotland, and then by Ash Nallawalla, both in 2009. The focus of mine is a little different though. I try to study the importance of different citation sources based on their relevance to particular industry.

Methodology and Specifics

The research is a small scale study that in no way pleads completeness. I chose 10 of the most competitive categories in the local organic search, while trying to be as diverse as possible and to create a mix of different types of businesses. The categories that I chose are:

- attorney
- restaurant
- doctor
- hotel
- auto repair
- florist
- car dealer
- dentist
- plumber
- painter

I also chose 15 cities in the United States. The main criterion I used was their population. I picked the 5 biggest cities, 5 cities with population of about 250,000 – 500,000, and 5 cities with population 100,000 – 200,000. Here is the list of cities I used in the research:

Top 5 Biggest Cities Mid-Sized Cities Mid- to Small-Sized Cities
New York Sacramento Topeka
Los Angeles Atlanta Hartford
Chicago Miami Lansing
Houston Raleigh Waterbury
Philadelphia Pittsburgh Murfreesboro

Queries used were formatted in the following way: [category] [city]. Personalization was turned off.

I assigned points to each ranking on first page potential citation source, with the one ranking on position 1 getting 10 points, and the one ranking on position 10 getting 1 point. I counted the Google Places 3/7-pack as 1 result. In the cases when Google Places has been separated into two, I counted it as 2 results. I did not count the pictures and videos as ranking results. In the cases when there were more than 10 organic results (surprisingly quite a few such cases), all the results after position 10 were assigned 1 point each.

I excluded potential ranking source from the results, because of one of the following reasons:

- the website does not have a mechanism for a business to get a citation from it (no matter free or paid) – these include business websites, magazine and newspaper websites, local guides, government sites, blogs, forums (these are so called “unstructured citations”)

- the potential citation source does not appear in more than one market (i.e. it is an entirely “local” citation source) – I excluded this one, because the scope of this study is to research the important local citation sources per industry. The cities were picked randomly for the purposes of the study, so they are not of particular interest.

Results

The local citation sources differ significantly from industry to industry. In many cases dominating are the specifically niche websites, focusing on particular types of business. Here are the results for the most important citation sources per niche:

Attorney

Website Score Occurrences
Lawyers.com 135 15
Superpages 70 11
Findlaw 64 8
Areaconnect 32 11
Yellowpages 8 1
Lawinfo.com 4 1

Business and government websites dominate the rankings in this niche. The big competitors are Lawyers.com and Findlaw.com. They hold the top rankings in all but two of the researched locations. Generic sites Superpages and Areaconnect compete with them, using different local SEO tactics – while Superpages relies mainly on a very strong main domain, Areaconnect has different local-specific subdomains for each target area.

Restaurant

Website Score Occurrences
Urbanspoon 54 7
Yelp 41 7
Tripadvisor 41 5
Citysearch 27 6
Zagat 27 5
Menupages 17 3
Yahoo 11 2
Restaurant.com 10 2
Superpages 8 2
Opentable 5 2

Again, the niche specific-citation sources dominate especially in the smaller cities where in 4 out of 5 cases one of either Urbanspoon or Tripadvisor is top ranked, and in 2 cases both of these websites are in the top two positions. Yelp and Citysearch are doing well, too. As with the Superpages-Areaconnect situation, Yelp relies more on a strong main domain, while Citysearch has a number of local ones.

Doctor

Website Score Occurrences
Healthgrades 75 10
Areaconnect 72 9
Superpages 39 8
WebMD 37 7
Yelp 36 4
USNews 18 5
Zocdoc 17 3
CBS Local 10 1
Post Gazette 6 1
Citysearch 5 2
Reshealth.org 4 1
Doctorsdig 4 1
UCompareHealthcare 4 1
UHealthsystem 3 1

Zocdoc (from the niche-specific citation sources) and Yelp (from the generic ones) seem to be more prominent in the bigger city areas. At the same time Healthgrades and WebMD (from the niche-specific ones), and Areaconnect (from the generic ones) rank better in the smaller towns.

Hotel

Website Score Occurrences
Tripadvisor 91 13
Expedia 86 11
Hotels.com 48 7
Hotelclub 11 2
Hotelscombined 8 1
Kayak 7 1
Hotelguides 5 1
Hotels-Rated 4 1
Orbitz 2 1

While Hotels.com successfully competes with the two big players in the niche in the big cities, in the mid-size and smaller ones it is entirely a “two horses” competition. Tripadvisor and Expedia completely dominate the hotel industry online and don’t seem to have any other near competitor in terms of local organic rankings.

Auto Repair

Website Score Occurrences
Yelp 110 14
Superpages 58 11
Yellowpages.AOL 28 5
Yellowpages 23 5
Edmunds 20 3
Citysearch 14 5
AutoMD 13 5
Yahoo 8 2
Post Gazette 8 1
Dexknows 7 2

While up to now in all the cases the dominating were the niche-specific local citation directories, in the auto repair industry Yelp and company get the leadership. If you want powerful, relevant citations for your car repair business, you better focus on the generic directories, such as Yelp, Superpages, Yellowpages (it also powers AOL’s yellow pages), Citysearch.

Florist

Website Score Occurrences
Findaflorist 17 5
Citysearch 8 3
Yellowpages 8 2
Yahoo 6 1
Insiderpages 6 1
Superpages 5 1
MyWedding 5 1
Yelp 4 1
Areaconnect 1 1

Here the results of the local business directories are the worst. In many cases, especially in the big cities, no directory site is ranked among the top 10 results. The Findaflorist network might be considered a winner in this low-competitive (from directory local SEO point of view) niche.

Car Dealer

Website Score Occurrences
Cars.com 33 5
Yellowpages 28 5
Yahoo 10 2
Edmunds 9 1
ThriftyCarSales 9 1
Usedcars.com 6 1
Academycars 3 1
BBB 3 1
EnterpriseCarSales 2 2

Similar to the “flowers” industry, the car dealer business websites are the ones that dominate the search results. Cars.com and Yellowpages are prominent in the bigger cities, but fail to rank in the smaller ones. And most probably they are not investing much in these locations, because the revenue would be significantly lower.

Dentist

Website Score Occurrences
Superpages 66 10
Yellowpages 30 3
Yelp 21 4
Doctoroogle 13 3
Post Gazette 9 1
Whitepages 8 1
Yellowbook 5 1
Merchantcircle 4 1

The “-Pages” websites – Superpages, Yellowpages, Whitepages, seem to be relevant in this industry. Doctoroogle is the only strictly niche site that breaks their hegemony.

Plumber

Website Score Occurrences
eLocalPlumbers 109 15
Superpages 54 9
Yelp 30 4
Servicemagic 20 5
Yellowpages 14 2
Yahoo 10 3
Angieslist 3 1

ElocalPlumbers, the directory that completely dominates the plumbing niche, is part of a bigger network of websites, ownership of eLocalListing.com. I would advise that especially if you have a service-based business, you look into the listing opportunities they provide.

Painter

Website Score Occurrences
Servicemagic 93 13
Yelp 55 7
Gigmasters 34 8
Yellowpages 33 4
Superpages 24 7
Angieslist 17 4
BBB 15 2
Paintingnetworkx 9 3
Gigsalad 8 3
Yahoo 7 2
Post Gazette 5 1
Citysearch 4 1

Servicemagic, Gigmasters and Angieslist from the niche directories, and Yelp, Yellowpages and Superpages from the generic directories, seem to be the most important citation sources in this industry.

Summary

There are a few generic business directories that show up and are relevant to almost every niche studied. These include:

Superpages – 324 points

Yelp – 297 points

Yellowpages – 172 points

Areaconnect – 105 points

Citysearch – 58 points

Yahoo – 52 points

Every business should try and get a completely filled in and optimized listing on each of these if they want to succeed with their local search marketing.

*Note: Our Citation Building Guide features more information, tips, and tactics on how to do local citation building.

  16 Responses to “Local Citation Building Study Part 1: Niche-Relevant Local Citation Sources”

Comments (16)
  1. Hey Nyagoslav, this is a great study and a great idea. Thanks so much for sharing this. Keep up the great work and sharing these nuggets.

  2. Nice work my friend, this research and approach looks sound. I appreciate your take on the legal niche. Thanks for sharing, keep it up.

  3. Thanks for posting a good analysis.

    Do you have a view on how many citations are enough?

    Balanced by the need to change all the data if the business moves.

    It seems from my experience the amount of work updating the interconnected web directories is a substantial cost for a business move, or a due diligence factor when taking over a location with a previous google places entry and web data.

  4. Excellent study Nyagoslav, most of the citation sources aren’t applicable to me unfortunately but it would be worthwhile conducting something similar on this side of the pond! I like your rating system and methodology. Good job.

    • Hey Sean, thanks for the kind words.

      This is only one of the factors I am looking into when determining the value of different citations. Additionally, I am planning as part of the series to add information about citations in different countries (other than the US). For now I have something prepared for UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Holland, and I might add Ireland, too, if you think this would be of interest.

  5. Hi Nyagoslav. I can’t add more than what the others have said. This study will help businesses in those industries to get better visibility one way or another. Looking forward to Part 2.

    • Hi Ash, thank you for stepping in! As I know you would definitely be more interested in the Australian “citations sphere”, I just wanted to let you know that one of the next parts is going to be dedicated to the green continent.

  6. Great Study! Thank you for sharing the results. Love seeing info on different types of businesses like you have here.

  7. I’ve referred to this list three times in the last week, and just wanted to thank you for putting it together…. Probably would make a good series of posts, adding niche after niche? You have time for that, don’t you? Just a few industries weekly and you’ll be done by the end of the year ;)

  8. Based on your research so far and given a limited marketing budget, would you say citation building is more effective than generating blog content for certain industries? Or is citation building one part of an overall marketing strategy?

    • Hi Katrina, thanks for the comment!

      I definitely think, and I do say this always when I’m asked, that citation building is just one part of a much larger mix of factors that play important roles in the local SEO process. Content (not just blog such) is one of the most important parts of this mix. Citation building could be used more as a back up to all the other efforts, including content creation and syndication.

      You make a good point here by saying indirectly that it is possible that for some industries content creation might not be as important as in others, or that different factors of the local SEO mix have different value depending on the industry. I do agree with this. With some industries it is much more difficult to get good results by content marketing, while it is relatively easier to get good results from citation building. But again – these are all just parts of the mix. If I had a tight budget, I’d focus more on quality than quantity, but would still not drop any of the elements of the mix :)

  9. NZ, not sure yet but I think what you have will benefit our business in that it will make our phones ring??

    joe underwood
    Titan Fence, Inc.
    Area Code Shopper
    Woof Woof Roofs

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