What Makes a Good Citation Audit

For whatever reason, I love citation audits. I don’t love doing them, but once it has been prepared I really enjoy troubleshooting what can often me a total mess. In this vid I break down how to best tackle a citation audit, and some key principles that you should keep in mind.






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Yo, guys. I am going to talk to you today about citation audits. This is a topic that I’ve been known to speak somewhat passionately about in the past. It’s been a focus of a lot of blog posts that I’ve written in the past, and so it’s something that I can sort of easily speak to. This week I haven’t been feeling super motivated to make videos. I haven’t had a lot of inspiration, so I wanted to get at least one video done today before the end of the week, so this is just an easy one that I could bang off and kind of ramble on a little bit about.

There are a lot of different citation audit tools out there. There’s a lot of good ones. Shout-out to Whitespark. They are the sort of industry leader as far as citation audit tools go, and they are very well trusted, and I would recommend their tool, just as most do. However, there are some limitations. And…I think…you can look at them as limitations and you can also look at them as time savings, and I think that just depends on which camp you’re in. I’m going to speak to my camp, and my camp is one where… It’s not that I’m saying that I’m more thorough, or anything like that, it’s not that at all, really. It’s just like maybe I’m more paranoid, I guess.

So when you run a citation audit via various tools that exist, Whitespark included, you’re going to get back, and this is just my understanding, forgive me if maybe I’ve kind of got this wrong. I didn’t build a tool. I didn’t build any of these tools, so I don’t know exactly how they function, but this is just kind of like my understanding, I guess, is you will get back kind of all the important citations, or at least those citations that have been sort of defined as important by whomever, and you’ll sort of have a clear path, “Okay, I’ve got these 50 citations and I’ve got to take care of these citations.” Right? Whereas, and let me just quickly step back, citations, in most cases, I’m talking about local business directories Yelp, Superpages, Yellow Pages, whatever. Right? So you’ll get a report back, and you kind of have a plan of attack. “I’ve got to take care of these 50 citations by whatever means: manual outreach, by Yext account, use Moz Local, hire Whitespark, hire whomever.” Right? And that’s great, and indeed those are very likely the sort of 50 citations that you want to take care of.

As far as priority is concerned, if I were to sort of take… If I were to say, “Okay. We have got limited resources. I want to take care of these 50 citations first,” I would take care of those very likely. Whatever those 50 are. However, if you have more resources, or if you’re paranoid like me, and don’t want to leave anything to chance, anything to Google, you don’t want to assume that maybe Google doesn’t have it all figured out, then I recommend going a little bit deeper. Maybe, yes, run your audit through Whitespark, then start tackling those right away. And then, my other approach would be just to roll up your sleeves and start digging in Google yourself. And that is just running different search operators, different search queries with different variations of your name, address, phone number, possibly URL, mind you some local business directories don’t allow you to include your URL, so you won’t always find it, but… number… And if you have an old address, or an old phone number that is associated with the same business, or maybe you rebranded, so you have an old name that’s associated with your current address and all that kinds…run all those variations.

And there are a lot of good guides out there. Darren Shaw made a wicked one which I refer to to this day because he nailed some of those search operators, and I don’t think anybody’s really outlined it quite as well in the past. And I think… there’s been a couple of guides since then that have been pretty good, I think Casey…aw, man. I want to say his last name is Mraz, but then I’m probably… You know what? Yeah, I think that’s what it is. He made a wicked one on Moz, and there’s… Just search citation audit guide. Citation audit or citation clean-up guide, because usually, with a citation cleanup guide, there’s a citation audit guide attached to it, or a link to one. And there’s a number of them that are really good, but be super thorough. Put them in a spreadsheet.

And sometimes, like I did this one audit for a client. It was a legal client. What a mess, 15,000 citations. I shit you not, 15,000. We were doing this audit for like seven or eight days straight, like eight hours a day. And just… When we do an audit, we put the… We get the… In a spreadsheet, the site, the URL we found it on, what was wrong, how to fix more or less. And that can take a hell of a lot of time when you are not only dealing with an office listing, but you’re also dealing with multiple practitioner listings. So each one of the lawyers themselves often has their own presence, which I’m finding more and more often, I’m getting guys who run legal digital marketing companies, or just law offices themselves coming to me, and they’ve done a lot to promote their internal attorneys. Built out separate citation builds for their attorneys. And speaking of which, I remember this really interesting thing that one of them had told me, was that 30%, I want to say, of their site traffic, and I don’t know what the quality was, or anything like that, or how many conversions came as a result of that 30%, but 30% of their site traffic was related to those attorneys’ legal listings elsewhere. So those citations out of those…of their practitioners, of their attorneys. So when we were doing the cleanup, they were like, “Be freaking careful. We don’t want to lose 30% of our traffic through this cleanup.” Anyways, I do digress.

So I tend to want to put everything in a spreadsheet, and by everything I mean everything. If it’s indexed in Google, I will find it. I swear to God, I will find it. If it’s not indexed in Google, but it exists, that means it just hasn’t been indexed yet, and that is a pretty common thing with these local search directories. You can submit to 30, and you might get 22 indexed. Something like that. Sometimes lower, actually. And so, you might want to try to find ways to improve that indexation by whatever means. There are a lot of ways to do that. But once I’ve got all that put together, then my next thing is, “Okay, I’ve already started tackling these 50…” Often times I can get these audits done really, really quick. So, often times I actually don’t start with that 50. I’ll just run that first… I’ll just do that audit, that really, really thorough audit, and then I’ll run it through a couple of other tools to make sure… or rather, I’ll do my manual, manual audit, and then I’ll run it through those other tools like Whitespark, BrightLocal, Yext, whatever, whatever…

Oh, man, good opportunity to shout out Andrew Shockland’s tool because I use this…we use this tool more than anything for citation audits, actually. Shit, what is it called? I’ll plug it in the show notes. I can’t remember it off the top of my head, but it’s a Chrome plugin. I’m sure if you search Chrome plugin Andrew Shockland, or audit tool, something like that, you’ll find it. It’s amazing. It saves us hella time. And we’ve actually tried to build one ourselves, to see if we could do kind of like a… There’s a couple of things that we thought that might be better for us, and it was just such a pain in the ass. So I’m so grateful that he spent the time making that tool. Anyway, so I’ll build this spreadsheet and then I’ll just start hammering away at it. And it will take a long time. It’s manual outreach. It’s crappy, but at least, and this is my argument, I hit all the sources. Again, I haven’t left it to Google to decide whether it’s important or not. And I think that’s a big thing.

Sometimes I tell this story about…what is it? Somebody, I won’t go into the details, but somebody looks into Google, searches for a dentist, or something like that, shows up, she’s spent half the day getting there kind of thing, and shows up, and it’s the wrong location. They moved. But because whoever did that cleanup, if they did a cleanup, they didn’t update all the listings. She found this rogue listing and let’s just say that she is a Yelp super-user, or whatever that is, Yelp super-reviewer or whatever. She goes in, and she complains, and she makes a real stink. And now, you went from having a citation cleanup problem, which is relatively inexpensive to clean up, to having a reputation management problem, which sucks way more. So a bad review can cost a lot of business. So that’s not something you want, and you certainly don’t want to trouble someone to end up at the wrong location and be unhappy.

So that’s kind of my second argument in addition to just covering your bases. It’s just not worth… It sometimes… There are just so many variables in SEO that I don’t need to be looking over my shoulder constantly, wondering, “What if I’d just been a bit more thorough in that citation cleanup, or in that citation audit? Would that have made a difference? Would I not be worrying today if I had cleaned up that extra hundred citations? Or made an attempt, anyways.” You may not get them all cleaned up, but anyways. So those are my thoughts on citation audits. I touched a little bit on citation cleanups, as well. That’s really an entirely different video, but because I like to ramble, I got into that a little bit. I’m eager to hear your thoughts. Do you agree? Do you disagree? What tools do you use? And yeah, that’s about it. Thank you, guys. I do appreciate you listening. If you haven’t subscribed already, please, please, please do that. Thanks so much. Have a good one.