During my discussions with Ken Fagan an interesting question occurred: “How does one determine what business directory is a good citation source?” The obvious and shortest answer would be “Based on its quality.” But yet again - how do you determine the quality? What are the factors that could show you if one citation source is better than another? Here is a summary of what I think (the factors are not in particular order):
1. Number of the top ranking direct competitors having listings coming from the citation source.
There are numerous ways to discover what citations your competitors have and you can do this either manually, or use some local SEO tool(s). The best covered countries are United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia.
2. Number of businesses from the same business line or the same locale being listed on the particular citation source.
I did a small-scale research on the topic some time ago, after which Darren Shaw and David Mihm did two larger-scale ones (by city and by category). Unfortunately, all these researches present data for the United States only.
3. General popularity of the site.
While this is hard to determine (sometimes even for Google), one way to look into the problem would be to see how often particular business directory is mentioned in high quality lists. I did a research on the subject some time ago.
4. History of containing structured business information.
If the website’s primary purpose is to store business information then what Google would be expecting to find while crawling it would be business information. This way the chances that the mention of your business would be picked up as a “citation” by the search engine would be higher.
5. Size of the business database.
While such information might be hard to find in some cases, the major business data providers do share it publicly. Bigger business database might mean both more complete overall business data, and higher trust points in Google’s “eyes”. One approach to solving this problem would be to look into how many of the website’s pages are indexed in the search engines. EZ Local have done a relevant research (for US directory sites only).
6. Distribution network.
Or how many other websites the business data is shared with. A large network would mean that listing your business on the main directory would result in it eventually showing up on hundreds of web properties. David Mihm has been doing incredible job sharing insights into these networks in the United States and Canada (for now).
7. Time for a citation to be picked up by Google.
There is little information on this subject in general, and Google is not really keen on sharing any. David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal have done an incredible research on this subject in the US context.
8. Overall web traffic to the directory.
Reliable and accurate data on this subject is hard to find. Andrew Shotland, using data from Compete, compiled a list based on the traffic to different US business directories.
9. Domain authority of the website.
Higher domain authority would be a another signal that particular website is reliable and has a good history in the search engines. Tools, such as Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder and Bright Local’s Citation Tracker measure this authority based on third-party data and own research work.
10. Availability of claiming and editing process.
Many business directories do not have automated (or any) processes in place for claiming or editing already existing listings. This is a potential prerequisite for lower quality business data, and such websites usually do not have (almost) any editorial staff.
11. Number of business information bits that could be added to a listing.
This is a factor that Google reportedly takes into account when determining the value and trustworthiness of a citation. It also makes sense from content richness point of view, because if the website allows for more business information to be added, it means that the chances for unique content on the page to be shared are higher.
Going back to the beginning of the article - my discussion with Ken was related to researching business directories in France (in case you missed it, I shared such researches for Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany) and the difficulty in determining which ones would be most important and most worth it. Following the points outlined above, and with a decent amount of research, this problem could be solved for practically every market in the world.