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The Ultimate Guide to Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder

Post updated July 22, 2013 to include new features added to the Local Citation Finder.

Last month, I published my very first blog post for Powered By Search that was a comprehensive look at Moz’s MozBar web browser extension. Needless to say, it was very well received both within the office and among the SEO community (even Moz!).

One SEO expert that happened to come across it was Darren Shaw from Whitespark. And not only did he send his kind regards, but he also gave me the idea for my second post on the Powered By Search blog, which was to explore one of Whitespark’s great local SEO tools, the Local Citation Finder.

Even though it’s very early in my SEO career, I have always had a passion for local businesses, and local SEO is starting to seem like an area of expertise that I would like to focus on. Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is a local SEO tool that I very quickly grew to like, and it is now the first tool that I use when searching for local citation opportunities.

With that said, my goal with this post is to help show other aspiring and existing SEO experts just how and why Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is an essential local SEO tool to have in their arsenal.

In this post you will find an in-depth look at Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder. If you’re not familiar with local SEO and local citations, I’ll run through it quickly before diving into tool itself. However, the majority of the post will be about exploring all the features and functions of the Local Citation Finder, as well as a few strategies for using it effectively.

Feel free to use the quick links below to jump to sections of your choice. Thanks for reading!

Oh, and before you start, if you haven’t used Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder before, sign up for a FREE trial here!


 


Whitespark & The Local Citation Finder

whitespark The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder
The Local Citation Finder is a local SEO tool that was created by the awesome people at Whitespark, a Web Development and SEO company based in Edmonton, Canada.

Whitespark is comprised of 5 “Rad Dudes” (actually 4 rad dudes & a rad dudette), led by Darren Shaw, who was gracious enough to offer some insights on the Local Citation Finder for this post.

Here’s What Darren Has To Say About His Team:

“I’m blessed to work with an amazing team that all contribute ideas and hard work to help shape the company’s direction & help us meet our goals.”

Whitespark is well known and respected in the SEO industry for their focus and expertise on local SEO, and they have created a suite of tools that help with ranking local businesses online, including the Link Prospector, Rank Tracker, Review Handout Generator, Offline Conversion Tracker, and of course, the Local Citation Finder.

What is the Local Citation Finder?

local citation finder home The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is an online tool that is meant to help SEO professionals discover citation sources for a business that is trying to rank in the local SEO results of a Google search.

I asked Darren to explain the Local Citation Finder in his own words, & here’s what he had to say:

“The Local Citation Finder is a tool for citation analysis. You can use it to research the citations of your competition, and your own citations.”

“It is not simply a tool for finding business directories to get listed in. It will help you find these of course, but it also goes much deeper to show you the valuable unstructured citations that your competition is getting through guest posting, sponsorships, hosting events, job listings, video promotion, etc.”

If you happen to be unfamiliar with local SEO and have never heard of citations, a quick crash course is provided below. However, if you’re comfortable with these concepts, feel free to skip to the next section.

Sidenote: Local SEO Basics

Local SEO is a subset of Search Engine Optimization where instead of focusing on improving organic rankings, the goal is to rank a business in the local results section of Google’s SERPs.

local seo results The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

As you can see in the above image, if you search for “Toronto pizza,” Google will return organic results, as well as local results that are tied to Google Maps and Google Places.

With local SEO, the goal is to rank a business within these local results in order to capture potential customers that are searching with local intent.

For example, if you are looking to order a pizza in Toronto, it’s much easier to call Mamma’s Pizza (the top ranking local result) than it is to scroll through the SERPs, click on the website for a pizza place, then find out how to place an order.

Even more importantly, when you search Google on a mobile device, local search results take prominence. So if you have a local business that relies heavily on foot traffic, it’s critical to focus on local SEO.

Citations and Local SEO

There are a number of factors that come into play when ranking a business in local search results, but one of the most important is building local citations.

A post on the Whitespark Blog explains just what a local citation is:

“A citation is any mention of your business out on the web, with or without a link. It can come in various forms:

  • Company name, by itself.
  • Company name, & phone number.
  • Company name, phone number, & address.
  • Company name, phone number, address, & link.”

Putting this all together then, local SEO is simply about ranking a business in the local results of a Google search. And, to accomplish this, a key factor is to build mentions of a business’ name, address, and phone number (NAP) on the web.

This is a very basic explanation of local SEO, and the subject is actually more complex than this, but hopefully this gives you enough understanding to see how the Local Citation Finder plays an important role in local SEO. If you would like to learn more about local SEO, I definitely recommend visiting Whitespark’s Blog and keeping a close eye on Darren Shaw, but also check out the work of David Mihm. David’s website is www.davidmihm.com.

How The Local Citation Finder Works

The Local Citation Finder is based on Garrett French‘s (Founder of Citation Labs) work “Phone Number Co-Citation Analysis for Local Link Builders,” as mentioned in this post on Whitespark’s Blog.

Basically, the Local Citation Finder works on the principle that “if you can identify a unique footprint for local competitors, then search for this footprint, each URL that the search engine discovers is a ‘citation’.” (source). The Local Citation Finder puts this into action by treating a business’ phone number as the footprint, allowing you to discover citation sources for a particular business.

As for the keyphrase search functionality of the Local Citation Finder, I had to ask Darren how it worked, and he explained that a keyphrase search is also based on Garrett’s article and it “will find all the top ranked businesses for that term, then find all their citations, and you can compare the results with your own citations to find gaps in your own citation profile.”

Darren also noted that the Local Citation Finder has evolved beyond the initial release of the tool to now gather citation data from additional sources, and that big improvements are coming in 2013 to pull in even more citation data. His goal is to always ensure that the Local Citation Finder is the most comprehensive and complete citation tool available.

Pricing & Access

The Local Citation Finder is a paid local SEO tool, with a free demo available if you would just like to try it out. The pricing is shown below:

local citation finder pricing The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

You can access the Local Citation Finder on Whitespark’s website.

Now, let’s dive into the tool!

Local Citation Finder’s “Search By Keyphrase”

Performing a local citation search by keyphrase is a great way to find citation sources that are highly relevant to both your client’s keyphrase and their location. Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder “Search By Keyphrase” section has three major benefits when it comes to finding these sources:

  1. A keyphrase search takes into consideration the keyphrase itself and the location. So, if your client is a plumber in Toronto, the search will return citation sources that are relevant to both Toronto and to the plumbing industry.
  2. A keyphrase search will also return additional results that are relevant just to the city so that you can find and build highly localized citations.
  3. This type of search will also identify the top local SEO competition for the keyphrase in the particular location.

Tip: If you have not yet done local SEO competitive research, the Local Citation Finder will tell you the name of your client’s competitors, their phone numbers, and even their citations (in fact, this is how the Local Citation Finder discovers citation sources). This can allow you to analyze their local SEO profile to help you determine the citation building strategy for your client.

Choosing You Keyphrase

Hopefully you have performed keyword research for your client prior to working on local SEO and citation building, but if you haven’t, here are a few tips for choosing the right keyphrase to search for in the Local Citation Finder:

Tip #1

You need to understand your client’s business, such as the type of work they do, what industry they are part of, and most importantly, what potential customers would search for when they are trying to find such a business.

For example, if your client is a pizza place, a suitable keyphrase is going to be “pizza Toronto” and not something like “Italian cuisine Toronto” (although you could run a search for that keyphrase to find additional citation sources).

Tip #2

Focus on the keyphrase with a high local search volume and reasonable competition. When you are performing keyword research, a great tool to use is Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool.

You will want to choose a keyword that is relevant, popular, and one that you are able to compete for. For instance, “pizza pizza Toronto” isn’t going to be a reasonable keyword for your client to try to rank for if they are an independent and family owned pizza place.

Tip #3

Consider broad and general keyphrases, but medium-tail ones too. Performing a local citation search for a broad keyphrase will help you find common and general citation sources, and often a high volume of them as well.

However, if you think about medium-tail terms, such as “vegetarian pizza Toronto,” you can discover additional websites to build local citations on.

How To Perform A “Search By Keyphrase”

A great thing about Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is that it is very easy and intuitive to use. When you navigate to the “Search By Keyphrase” section you are simply given a few fields in which to input your location and keyphrase information, along with helpful tips to ensure that you don’t run into any trouble along the way.

When searching by keyphrase you need to know your client’s location (City, Province/State, Country), and the keyphrase that is most relevant to their business. You simply fill out the fields, and then perform a search.

However, there are two things to watch out for when searching by keyphrase – the “Select Your Final Search Phrase” drop-down box, and the “Assign This Search To A Project” field.

The former allows you to variate the search term that the Local Citation Finder will use to discover potential citation sources. For example, “pizza Toronto,” “Toronto pizza,” and “pizza near Toronto,” will likely return slightly different results. So, if you are focused on building a high volume of citations, experiment with your final search phrase to find additional citation sources.

The latter allows you to tie the search to a project, which helps organize your citation prospecting activities. For more about projects in the Local Citation Finder, jump to the projects section of this post.

Once you have ran your search, wait a few minutes for the results to come in, then check out the results.

local citation finder keyphrase search The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

Local Citation Finder’s “Search By Phone Number”

While the “Search By Keyphrase” section was primarily about finding the most relevant citation sources for a business’ keyphrase and identifying local SEO competition, the “Search By Phone Number” section is about competitive & self intelligence.

A search by phone number will explore the web and look for instances of a particular phone number on webpages, with the logic being that if a phone number is found, it is likely tied to a local citation. The Local Citation Finder’s ability to search by a phone number can be a very powerful and useful local SEO tool for two reasons:

Reason #1

By doing a search for your client’s phone number, you can see a record of their local citations. When you are trying to improve their local SEO ranking, it can be invaluable to know about their existing citation building activities before doing your own.

For instance, if you see a very low number of citations, then you know that you will need to focus on increasing the volume them. Conversely, if you see a vast list of citations but they are all on low quality websites, you’ll know to focus on building your citations on high quality sources to help improve the business’ local SEO ranking.

Reason #2

Aside from self-intelligence, you can also perform a search for a competitor’s phone number, which will return a list of local citations that they have built. The ability to see the local SEO profile of a competitor can be extremely valuable when trying to rank your client’s business for a few reasons.

For example, seeing the number, quality, and type of local citations that a higher ranking competitor has built will help you form the citation building strategy for your client. To gain ground against competitors you should try to first match their local SEO efforts as closely as possible, and then build your own unique and high quality citations to surpass them.

Similar to self-intelligence, if you see a competitor has a large quantity of local citations, then you will know to focus on volume, and if you discover that they high quality citations, then you know to focus on quality. However, one of the most useful things about seeing a competitor’s record of local citations is that you can steal them for yourself as a starting point for your own citation building.

How To Perform A “Search By Phone Number”

Creating a local citation search by phone number is very simple. First, you need to get the phone number, which is either going to be your client’s, or the phone number of your local SEO competitor. You can find your competition either through a Google search for your keyphrase and location (i.e. Toronto pizza), or you can also run a “Search By Keyphrase” from within the Local Citation Finder tool.

After you have the phone number, it’s just a matter of filling out the self-explanatory fields, hitting the search button, and viewing the search results.

local citation finder phone search The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

Local Citation Finder’s “Your Search Results”

The “Your Search Results” section of the Local Citation Finder tool can be looked at in a two-fold way. When first clicking on the results section, you’re given a list of all the searches that have been performed with the tool, and when you click on the “view sources” links in the list you are then given the list of citations resulting from a specific search.

If you are looking to find the results of a past search, you can either click on the category headers to sort by keyphrase, project, date, and citation sources. Alternatively, you can also use the search bar located at the top of the table.

The first list is fairly self-explanatory, but there is one thing to briefly note and that’s when you perform a local citation search, the results are not instant. In my experience it takes about 2-5 minutes for the Local Citation Finder to return results. In the meantime, you’ll see “results pending” in the table.

local citation finder your search results The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

Darren was kind enough to provide a tip on a neat feature that sometimes gets missed. Found under “Your Search Results,” you can compare your citations with those of a competitor by doing the following:

  1. Run a phone number search for your phone number (or your client’s phone number).
  2. Run a phone number search for your competitor’s number.
  3. In the main listing of reports under “Your Search Results,” check off the two reports.
  4. In the “With Selected” dropdown at the top of the table, choose “compare” and click go.

As a result, you get this!:

local citation finder darren results comparison The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

Once the search for citation sources is complete, you’ll be able to view them by clicking on the “view sources” link. There are 4 main areas of the results page that are important for identifying your local citation opportunities:

1. The List of Citation Sources

As expected, the search results section of Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder gives you the citation results for a keyphrase or phone number search. Below is what the different columns in the table mean for your local citation prospecting efforts. Also note that you can analyze the table directly from within the Local Citation Finder tool, or you can export the data to a CSV file.

local citation finder results list The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

Here’s a breakdown of the columns in the list of citation sources:

Site

This is the website of the citation source. If you searched by keyphrase, the resulting sites will be relevant to the phrase and location you provided, based on the competition for that keyphrase. And, if you searched by phone number, the websites returned will be ones where the number is listed.

If you click on the red plus (+), you can see the exact webpage(s) where citations were found instead of just the domain alone.

Business Submission

A neat feature of the Local Citation Finder is that it occasionally provides you with the actual link to build the citation on the particular website, such as an ”Add your Business” page.

Any user of the tool can also improve the quality of this feature by telling Whitespark what the submit URL is if one hasn’t been found yet.

OC (Occurrences)

This metric is a count of the number of times a certain site appeared during the Local Citation Finder’s search execution. A high number of occurrences can be an indicator that the source is highly relevant to your keyphrase, or type of business.

Discovery

This is simply the date that the citation source was detected. If you only run a search once, all the results will have the same discovery date. However, if you use the “Re-Run & Append” feature in the future, the discovery date will change to reflect when new citation sources were found.

Site Type (Beta)

This feature attempts to help you understand the type of website that a citation source is. It is marked as a beta feature in the Local Citation Finder, but can be of some use during your prospecting efforts.

For example, a site marked as a directory will tell you that building a citation there will be relatively simple, however a site classified as a news or article site might be unique to a specific competitor and you won’t be able to build a citation there. If you click on the results in this column, you can tell Whitespark what the type of website is to help build their database.

ACR & DA

These two metrics help you understand the authority of a potential citation source. ACR is Majestic SEO’s AC Rank, and DA is SEOmoz’s OpenSiteExplorer Domain Authority metric. Clicking on these metrics will take you to their respective websites where you can gather more insights into the authority and quality of the citation source.

As mentioned in a post on Whitespark’s Blog, the authority of a citation source is very important for local SEO. Even though there isn’t a link associated with a citation, it still matters if a citation is built on a high quality website and not a spammy directory.

Got It!

The “Got It!” column has two uses to help you with building local citations. First, the Local Citation Finder will check if your client already has a citation on a particular website if you are using a project, saving you time investigating citation sources.

Secondly, you can use this column to keep track of your citation building efforts. As you build a citation, check off “Got It!” and you can keep a record of your progress right within the tool.

Useless

Similar to “Got It!,” the “Useless” column also helps with organizing the list of citations. As you are combing through the list of returned citation sources, you can mark sites as “Useless” if you decide that for one reason or another, it will be an unsuitable citation source for your client (i.e. a spammy website, one that’s irrelevant to your client, or one that’s exclusive to your competitor).

Any citation source that is marked at “Useless” will be greyed out so you know not to attempt to build a citation there.

2. Additional Citation Sources By City

In addition to the Local Citation Finder returning results that are relevant to a city & keyphrase combination or a phone number, it also provides a list of the top 30 general citation sources for the searched city.

local citation finder city sources The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

Included in the list are high quality sources that any kind of business in the city of choice should attempt to have a citation on. For instance, it can include social media sites (i.e. LinkedIn), city-centric directories, and valuable national/global business directories, such as manta.com.

Local citations should be built on websites that are highly relevant and have high authority. The main list of sites provides highly relevant sources to either the keyphrase or phone number searched, but these additional sources can help add more authoritative citations to your local SEO profile.

local citation finder city sources list The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

3. Top Ranking Businesses (If Searching By Keyphrase)

If you perform a search by Keyphrase, the results will include a list of the top ranking businesses for that phrase (this is in part due to how the Local Citation Finder works). For example, a search for “Toronto pizza” returns the following:

local citation finder top businesses The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

As you can see in the above image, you are given the top 7 businesses that are ranking for your searched keyphrase. If you have not yet identified your local SEO competition, these results will tell you who they are. However, the real value is the fact that you can click “view sources” and see their citations.

If you are trying to rank in the local SEO results, knowing the competition’s citations can be invaluable in improving your client’s chances against them. You can first attempt to match their efforts to help put your client on an even plain against them, and then you can build additional and unique citations to pull ahead.

The table that is returned by clicking on “view sources” is similar to the normal list of citation results, except that the metrics are condensed to just the URL, the number of occurrences of the domain in the SERPs, Majestic SEO’s AC Rank, and SEOmoz’s Domain Authority. You can export these results to a CSV file.

A very useful feature of this table is that you can also add more businesses to it! For example, if your client’s business (or a particular competitor) isn’t included in the top 7 results, you can add them by clicking on the “Add A Business” link just below the table. This allows you to compare the top ranked businesses’ citations with another business of your choosing, which can help you understand how to scale your citation building efforts in order to get ranked among the top seven, or to see how close a competitor is getting to the pack. Manually added businesses will appear with a red star beside them in the table.

Bonus Tip! On the Whitespark Blog, Darren Shaw shared a really useful trick for monitoring citations in a certain keyword space using the “Add A Business” feature:

Using this new “Add a Business” feature, you can now set up a single search in the LCF to monitor citations in this particular keyword space. Just run a keyword search, add any other businesses that you know are important in that keyword space, and then drop in once a week to hit the “re-run and append” button. Boom! All the new citations that those businesses got in the past week will now be in the report.

4. Compare Citations (If Searching By Keyphrase)

The ability to compare citations is tied to the ”Top Ranking Businesses” results that are returned if you run a search by keyphrase. What it does is provide a comparison of the citations built by the top 7 competitors for the searched phrase. If you also chose to manually add businesses to this list, then it will be included in the comparison table as well (which can be a great way to see how a business outside of the pack compares to the leaders).

The value of this comparison table is that you are able to determine which citation sources are common among competitors, and from that, understand that you should be building a citation on those sources as well.

Conversely, if only one competitor is listed on a particular site it can be an indicator that the citation was either difficult to obtain, unique to the competitor (i.e. a citation on a business partner’s website), or potentially a low-value citation that other competitors don’t see the need to pursue (or a high-value one that everyone else missed). It will be up to you to investigate the citation source and draw your own conclusions.

To compare citations, click the “Compare Citations For These Businesses” link at the bottom-right of the Top Ranking Businesses table.

local citation finder top businesses compare The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

If you prefer, you can export this table to a .csv file, or a .pdf.

Local Citation Finder’s “Your Projects”

The “Your Projects” section of Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder helps organize citation prospecting into projects, which you can use to group searches for an individual client.

Aside from the organization benefits, creating projects for your local citation searches also lets you take advantage of a very useful feature – the tool will automatically identify any existing citations that your client has on the sources returned in the results.

This goes without saying, but projects can be a huge time saver when you start building local citations.

local citation finder projects The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

Creating & Using Projects

Just as with the other sections in the Local Citation Finder, projects are very easy to set up and use. However, if you’re still unfamiliar with the tool, here is a step by-step approach to creating and using projects:

  • 1. Navigate to the “Your Projects” section of the Local Citation Finder, and click on the red button near the top that says “+Create New Project.”
  • 2. Simply enter the name of your client’s business and their phone number into the window that pops up. The phone number is very important because it will be used to check whether or not your client already has a listing on the citation sources that are returned in searches.
  • 3. If you would like the Local Citation Finder to automatically update a business’ list of citations on a monthly basis, be sure to hit the “Enable monthly citation monitoring” check box when creating (or editing) a project. This is a great feature that saves you from remembering to perform manual updates, and as a bonus, you’ll be emailed a report every month that shows you the changes.
  • 4. Now, when you run a local citation search either by keyphrase or by phone number, be sure to assign the search to a project using the last drop-down box just above the “search” button.
  • 5. After you have performed a search, it will then be tied to the project and search results can be viewed by either going to the “Your Search Results” section of the tool, or the “Your Projects” section.
  • 6. Within the “Your Projects” section you can view your record of searches by clicking on the number in the “Searches” column. If you have citation monitoring enabled you can click on the “citations” link to see the list of existing citations found for the particular business, and lastly, the “opportunities” link will show you potential sources where you can build citations based on what was returned in searches tied to the project.
  • 7. The “Citation Sources” table is formatted almost exactly the same as other search results, with a couple of minor differences. First, only the domain is listed and not the actual URLs where a citation was found, and secondly, if your client already has a citation on a domain, the “Got It!” box is already checked.

The Local Citation Finder & Your Local SEO Strategy

Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder is a tool that is meant to help with the citation prospecting activities of a local SEO strategy. It will be up to you to understand your client’s business, keyphrases, and competition before using the tool, and it’s up to you to build the local citations that the Local Citation Finder, well, finds.

For this local SEO tool to be of any real value, you will need to use it purposefully and strategically. Listed below are a few ways that the Local Citation Finder can play a role in your Local SEO strategy:

Building Citations From The Search Results

Once you have the results from a search in the Local Citation Finder, it will be up to you to analyze them, and ultimately build the citations for your client. Whitespark does offer a Citation Building Service, but how you go about actually building the citations is up to you. If you choose to do it yourself however, here is an approach you can take:

1. Analyze For Quality & Relevance

Ideally, you should be building citations on websites that are both high authority and highly relevant to your client’s location and type of business. Keep an eye on the ACR and DA metrics as a quick way to gauge the website’s authority, but also investigate the site for yourself.

When it comes to determining relevance, you will have to visit the websites returned in the search results to see if it is a viable source for a local citation. A relevant source will typically be a city or region focused website that matches the client’s location, or a website that is focused on your client’s specific industry, such as a home renovation website for a client that installs windows.

2. Analyze For Pre-Existing Citations

Some of the citation sources returned in the search results will be ones where you, or someone else has already built a citation for the client. If that’s the case, then there is no reason to build an additional citation, and you should instead focus your efforts on other sources.

But, how do you know if your client already has a local citation on a website? Here are three methods that I use for finding this out:

  • 1. Create a project in the Local Citation Finder for your client’s business. The tool will then automatically check to see if your client’s citation already exists on a website returned in searches that are tied to the project. It marks them as “Got It!,” and pushes the source down to the bottom of the search results list.
  • 2. Visit the website of the potential citation source and use its on-site search to look for your client’s business. You can also do a CTRL+F search to look for any mentions on a particular page.
  • 3. Use the site: search operator in a Google search for the particular citation source to look for mentions of your client’s business name and/or phone number.

If none of these checks show that your client already has a citation built on the website, then you can move on to the next step, which is building the citation.

3. Building the Local Citation

local citation finder add your business The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

When you find a website that fits your criteria for relevance & quality and it doesn’t already have an existing local citation for your client, then you can actually build the citation. Depending on the type of website the potential citation source is, the process for building a local citation can vary, but here are a few common scenarios.

  • For directory-type websites there is typically a form that you will need to fill out. In some cases the listing will be auto-approved, but typically for higher quality sites there is a review period. Look for links that say “Add your Business,” or “Add a Listing,” for example.
  • For more unique and exclusive citation sources you may have to directly contact the site’s webmaster or marketing department to request a listing.
  • For highly unique sources, such as building citations on Chamber of Commerce sites, or even guest posts or articles, you will likely have to either apply for a membership in the case of a Chamber of Commerce-type website, or contribute content along with the citation in some cases too.

You will also find that building citations on websites may be free, or paid. Whether or not you choose to build a citation on a paid site depends on your budget, the quality, and the relevance of the site.

Understanding, Matching, and Surpassing Local SEO Competition

In the “Search By Phone Number” section of this post, I touched briefly on the importance of understanding your competitor’s local citation building efforts. It’s worth mentioning a bit more in-depth since competitive intelligence is a very important aspect of your local SEO strategy.

It’s important to understand a competitor’s citations because it helps you determine just why they might be ranking above you in local search results. You can see if they simply have a higher volume of citations than you do, or discover that the ones they have are of higher quality. Once you know this, you can plan an effective response, rather than just building citations blindly.

It also helps to match your client’s own local citations with those of competitors so that you can put them on more even ground. Knowing just where your competitor has a citation by searching their phone number in the Local Citation Finder makes it very easy to find their sources and understand just where you need to start building citations.

Analyzing & Monitoring Your Local SEO Efforts

The Local Citation Finder can also be a great tool for keeping track of your client’s local citations. This can help you understand whether or not you need to increase your efforts, maintain them, or decide whether you need to focus more on building higher relevance and/or high quality citations, for example.

If you run a search by phone number for your client you can see a record of their local citations. If it’s a new client, this can help you determine your citation building starting point when planning your local SEO strategy. However, you can also use the Re-run & Append feature in the search results to continuously keep track of local citations as you build them.

The search results in the Local Citation Finder also tell you the authority of the citation sources, which can be very helpful in determining the quality of the citations that your client has. If you see that they numerous low quality citations but very few high quality ones for example, you’ll know to steer your local SEO strategy to building local citations on more authoritative websites.

Also, if you create a project for your client, you can compare your local citation building efforts against those of competitors. Any searches tied to a project will automatically fill out the “Got It!” field where your client already has a citation in any search results. This can help you in matching your competitor’s citation building efforts.

Bonus Strategy: Darren’s Pro Tip For Boosting Local Rankings

When I asked Whitespark’s Darren Shaw for a bit of help with the Local Citation Finder, he also shared this great tip for using the tool to discover niche specific and city specific citations, which can greatly help boost local rankings. Here’s how to do it!

  1. Create a new Project.
  2. Run a ton of keyword searches and associate them with that project.
  3. Go into the ‘Your Projects’ section, and, and click on ‘Citation Sources’ to see all the citations found for all the searches grouped together in one list.
  4. Use CTRL+F in your web browser to search for keywords in the domains.

For example, let’s say I’m trying to help a plumber rank in Chicago…

  1. Create a new project called ‘plumbing in Chicago’ and give it your client’s phone number.
  2. Keyword search for: plumbers Chicago, plumbing Chicago, Chicago plumbing, Chicago plumbers, Chicago drain clearing, Chicago plumbing and heating, etc.
  3. Go into ‘Your Projects,’ and click on ‘Citation Sources’ beside this project.
  4. CTRL+F and search for ‘plumb,’ ‘heat,’ ‘Chicago,’ etc. You’re looking for keyword stems that might be in the domains.
  5. Record the domains and their SEOmoz Domain Authority to build a list of sites to submit to.
local citation finder darren tip The Ultimate Guide to Whitesparks Local Citation Finder

Pretty cool, isn’t it? Darren also noted though that when you are looking at these local/niche sites, be sure to look at their quality before submitting to them. Quality does matter when it comes to building citations, and if you would like to learn more, check out Whitespark’s guide on determining citation quality here that they follow for their citation building service.

Closing Thoughts & Thanks

Well, there you have it. Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder in a nutshell. If you managed to read through the entire thing beginning-to-end, I owe you a pat on the back and a beer!

I’d like to extend my thanks to Darren Shaw of Whitespark, first of all for the great work he is doing in the world of local SEO, and for creating the Local Citation Finder. On a more personal note, thanks Darren for the post idea in the first place, and for taking the time to answer my questions and adding your insights.

Whether you have read most of the post, or just skimmed through a few sections, I hope you now have a better understanding of this great local SEO tool. I also hope that you have decided to give the Local Citation Finder a try by now, but if not, check it out here!

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About the Author

Michael Smith is an SEO & Inbound Marketing Consultant at Powered By Search, and author of "Ultimate" posts published on the Powered By Search blog!
  • http://twitter.com/Ravenjeremy Jeremy Rivera

    Holy snikes. I totally respect your commitment to detail, this post is…well…epic!

    • http://twitter.com/m_smith120 Michael Smith

      Thanks, Jeremy! It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it!

  • http://twitter.com/EdmontonSEO Darren Shaw

    WOAH. Michael, thank you! This post is amazing. You basically just wrote our official documentation!

    If anyone has any questions, I’ll happily answer them in the comments.

    • http://twitter.com/m_smith120 Michael Smith

      Awesome! So, should we talk royalties then? (kidding!). I’m so glad you liked the post Darren, and thanks again for your help. Hopefully it’ll get the Local Citation Finder a few more fans :)

  • Kyle Sanders

    GREAT post. I will definitely be sharing this with colleagues. Thank you! This is incredibly useful.

    • http://twitter.com/m_smith120 Michael Smith

      Thank you, Kyle! I’m happy that you found it useful!

  • http://www.thesilentseller.com The Silent Seller

    What a superior post. Ever so helpful Michael and a big shout out to Dev Basu and all your colleagues that contribute so freely to the local search marketing community. I have added a link on my recent post on Whitespark too.

    • http://www.poweredbysearch.com/ Dev Basu – SEO since 2007.

      Thanks Rob!

    • http://twitter.com/m_smith120 Michael Smith

      I’m glad you liked it! Thanks for the kind words about Dev and the team, too!

  • http://twitter.com/jontheexiled Jon White

    Another great post!!

    • http://twitter.com/m_smith120 Michael Smith

      Cheers, Jon! Thanks for checking it out!

  • Larry James

    Your article has been a big help to me Michael. I am a web designer who is looking to learn more about local SEO, and for a tool I can use that will help me to get clients ranked in local search results. I am currently using the free trial of the Whitespark Local Citation Finder, it is very limited and does not allow me to see the full value of the LCF. I think I have learned more about the tool from your article than I have using the free trial. Do you know if the Whitespark Rank Tracker tool is included with the $20 package or does it cost extra?

    • http://twitter.com/m_smith120 Michael Smith

      I’m glad that the article was helpful to you, Larry! The $20 package for the LCF includes access to just that tool, Whitespark’s Rank Tracker costs between $5 and $200 per month. Best of luck with your local SEO work!

  • http://vinceaquino.wordpress.com/ Vince Aquino

    Great article Michael! I been using Whitespark LCF for a year and just found out that I can do alot more things on it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Michael Smith

      Thanks, Vince! :)

  • brandonwentland

    Incredible post. Thanks for writing.

    My favorite part of your writing is how you break things down to their simplest components all the while focusing on the important parts.

    Looking forward to future how to posts!

    • Michael Smith

      Thanks so much, Brandon! The tricky part is definitely breaking it down into something simple, but still valuable. I’m glad you liked it!

  • http://uk.linkedin.com/in/gregorytkint Greg

    Just read through it all and even though I have used the Local Citation Finder on quite a few occasions I must admit that I learned quite some new tricks reading your post…
    Really impressed with your attention to detail!
    Right, well need to read you (SEO)MOZ toolbar post now!

    • Michael Smith

      Thank you, Greg! Glad that it helped you pick up a few new tricks. The Mozbar post is well worth the look too :)

  • Jamie Knop

    Nice write up Michael. Whitespark is a must have tool for a local campaign especially as more and more results become localised.

    • Michael Smith

      Thanks Jamie! The LCF is definitely a must have!

  • noeal

    may be it was little late to read., but the post was awesome.,