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What Color Is Your Citationbait?

This is about acquiring citations for Google Places search results.
Written Dec 07, 2010, read 761 times since then.


You have all likely heard of white and black hat SEO previously and most discussions likely involved link building. Well, now with Google Places search we are no longer focusing so much on link building. No, the discussions now center around acquiring citations. Thus the concept of citationbait.

Citations are Google Places equivalent to backlinks. They are after all,  activities on other websites that can influence your Google Places search rankings. In link building we often talk about linkbait or methods that we can use to attract backlinks. The more useful backlinks the better or the theory goes. Linkbait is simply any effort to attract backlinks.

Now, for any of you who have been around SEO at all you likely have already heard of White and Black Hat SEO. Well, it also exists with Google Places SEO. When we are discussing citations we need to be discussing what are white hat methods and what are black hat. In other words what is an acceptable practice and what is not.

But before I go any further I should review what is a citation. They can come from several sources. Citations can include mentions on blogs or listing on local business directory sites. They may also include reviews from sites like Yelp, reviews from local directory sites, and reviews placed directly into your Places account.

You should keep in mind that negative reviews can hurt your listing. So what we want from our Citationbait efforts are positive reviews. Citationbait is simply the act or process of gaining positive citations for your Google Places business listing.

The more positive citations that you acquire the more likely that your listing will rank higher in the Places Search results. Its all about obtaining attention of those who are motivated to assist your business. And this all is made much easier if you have meet or exceeded your customers expectations.

The cornerstone of any successful citationbait program begins with meeting the needs, wants, and desires of your customers. If you do this then acquiring citations should be like a leisurely walk in the park. Often all it takes to acquire a positive citation is you being motivated enough to ask for a positive review. It can be that simple.

We then must ask, what then is an acceptable citationbait process and what is not. I think that it is safe to say that paid and fake reviews are consider black hat and not a good strategy. Of course determining what is fake or paid can be a challenge for Google. That is why I believe that Google created its  Hotpot review service. I personally believe its real purpose is to prevent review spam.

Now, that part was easy. So let’s consider some more possibilities. Is it acceptable to ask for reviews from your suppliers? What about asking your friends or family to write you some reviews?

I suggested in an earlier post, Citationbait Your New Friend?, that you might simply want to start by asking your customers for reviews. You could do this in person or from your newsletter if you use one. I also suggested that you place a sign in your place of business asking for reviews. But these suggestions only will work if you have a loyal customer base.

You could set-up a citationbait program that only generates negative responses and that would definitely backfire on you. So if you are considering a citationbait program be aware this is best reserved for those companies with a loyal customer base.

I previously suggested creating a discount coupon flyer that also includes a request a positive review? I personally really like this approach. It allows you to ask for a favor (the positive review) while you are providing a saving with your discount coupon. But the bottom line here is that you have to be able to produce a satisfied customer.

If you don’t provide great service Google is likely to punish your business in the Places Search results. Quality customer service is more important than ever.

What say you?

Learn more about the author, Urban Scurry.

Comment on this article

  • Search Engine Optimist 
Seattle, Washington 
Carl Larson
    Posted by Carl Larson, Seattle, Washington | Dec 13, 2010

    A decent overview of citations, but you don't give much info on how to find, them, Urban. This article would prob also benefit from some clear definitions. For example, reviews, while important, are not the same as citations. And a simple business mention does not work for a citation unless accompanied by an identifiable characteristic, typically the business' phone number.

    There's three generally accepted ways to get Maps/Places listings to rank well - 1) lots of homogenous listings on all the other 20+ IYPs out there (Yahoo local, Bing, Yelp, Citysearch etc etc) 2) Reviews (FYI - w excepton of recent high-profile examples, negative reviews are just as helpful for ranking as the positive ones) 3) Citations.

    Without an organized strategy to gather reviews, it will be difficult to get your listing to rank, if there is much competition at all for that keyword. For my clients, we create "review cards" modelled after their businesscards with shortened urls for three of their top listings/pages. (Typically Maps, Yelp & Facebook). We also, of course make a poster with the same info to be prominently displayed at their location.

    Citations can be gathered in as simple a fashion as collecting them from your top-ranking competitors' Google Places listings or by using something as industrial--strength as the Whitespark tool.

    For more on Citations. I suggest

    There's a ton of additional good info out there - just Google "Citation" & "SEO"

    Happy optimizing, and any Seattle-area SEOs, stop by Hale's Ale's in Ballard this Tues the 14th for our Local SEO Meetup:


  • SEO 
Tucson, Arizona 
Urban Scurry
    Posted by Urban Scurry, Tucson, Arizona | Apr 10, 2011

    You might want to read this post /citations-list-grows-for-109-days-day-1/, if you are interested in resources.