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Recently Darren Shaw and the Whitespark team put out this resource on the best citation sources by category. While the resource is great, I think it falls into some common traps. I don’t want to get to deep into their methodology on how they selected citation sources, other then to say the list is likely sites that Google does consider authoritative in their verticals. More importantly, some of these sources comes with attached strings that can impact a business well beyond SEO.

The Costs & Benefits of Citation Sources

Let’s look at the best citations for car dealers

Best Citations for Car Dealers

While these sites appear at face value to be highly relevant to car dealers, their effect may not always be positive. Lots of the sites on this list are lead aggregators. The make money by getting between a car dealer and the customer and then getting paid by the dealer itself. So not only do they comes with a monetary cost that will impact the cost per lead and ROI from that channel, but they mess with NAP data to do it. Most of the sites that are lead generators track their performance (which they are paid for) by using toll-free call tracking numbers. This means that are actually creating NAP issues in exchange for paying them for leads. Here are examples of several of the top ones.

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All of this begs the question, what is the value of an incorrect citation at a highly relevant directory? Is it negative or positive? Considering that phone number has long been discussed as the primary way Google matches NAP for a business it seems like there is a strong possibility the effect is negative.

And what about the impact on the business? We have a lot of experience working with car dealers and have been told by clients that because of the massive amount of overhead a dealership requires to operate, It’s very dangerous for dealerships to progressively rely on a third party for customer acquisition. These leads tend to start at a low cost for the dealer, until the third party provider has the leverage to demand a higher rate. If the dealership is not willing to pay, they face losing a massive customer source.

Takeaways

  1. Be informed and transparent – It’s really important to know what you are recommending to a client. I have long felt that SEO best practices tend to focus on what is best in an SEO vacuum and are not necessarily best for the client. I would make a small bet that local SEO’s are constantly recommending that their clients get on 3rd party niche citations because it’s best for their SEO campaign, but it might not necessarily be the best for the clients business. If you are recommending that a client enters into a deal which may have a cost for their business outside of SEO then not only should you know that, but you should tell your client as well.
  2. Do no harm – Make sure you aren’t in such a rush to build authoritative, niche citations for your clients that are you are polluting their NAP data. If a citation source requires a call tracking number be used on a profile, then you should immediately be wary.
  3. Don’t Take Business Advice From Your SEO – Let’s face it, we all like to give advice to clients well beyond the channel we are helping to optimize. While this advice can often be positive, it can also be detrimental. As a client, or someone who is managing a digital business, make sure you are always asking your SEO how a given tactic or strategy might impact other channels or the business overall.
  4. Do You or Don’t You Get the Citation? – From an SEO perspective, if you have a lot of NAP problems to start with, it might make sense to hold off until you get that under control. However, as a business owner, if you are more concerned with rapid lead generation and are informed about the deal you are entering into, or are a risk taker, then it might make sense to deal with these lead generators. There is no right answer for everyone.

 
 

8 Comments

  • Samara Hart  March 9, 2016 at 10:29 am

    This example proves true for Home Advisor and the like, in the home improvement industry as well. Only Google has recently partnered with HA, so it’s a situation where there isn’t an easy solution. All of my clients hate HA and it seems to be that it’s turning into a necessary evil.

    Reply
  • Tim Colling  March 9, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Very thought provoking and useful information. I have to admit, I often wonder whether these sorts of intermediaries are worth it. I know of some folks using call tracking systems like “callrail” (sp?) which seems to fall into this category. They like the sales results that they receive, but I have to wonder whether or not it’s not screwing up their citations.

    Reply
  • Dan Leibson
    Dan Leibson  March 9, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Thanks Tim, glad you like it!

    For me, the issue isn’t about the call tracking number. It’s that they use a toll free (non-local) call tracking number that is only used on their site. And they are sites that Google scrapes and indexes often (hence making the list).

    We have clients that use one local call tracking number across all their citation sources for each location and haven’t really seen any evidence that it is hurting them.

    I hope that makes sense!

    Reply
  • Troy Philis  March 10, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for the information Dan, especially the warning about call tracking numbers. Unfortunately some major players like Yelp and YP put their own local call tracking numbers on listings, as well as the partner listings them may control. These numbers often get scraped by other directories and it can become a huge mess.

    Reply
  • Andy Kuiper  March 10, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Good points – SEO’s and clients need to work collaboratively when it comes to attaining citations and backlinks.

    Reply
  • Joe Goldstein  March 10, 2016 at 11:10 am

    I haven’t put much stock in these ‘best citation by category’ lists since the Moz’s copy listed rotorooter.com as one of the top citations for plumbers: https://moz.com/learn/local/citations-by-category#Plumbers

    Saying it’s one of the most common citation sources for the vertical is one thing, but literally saying “Submitting your business to the sites on this page is likely to improve your rankings” is a pretty gross oversimplification, even by SEO standards.

    Reply
  • JustinB  March 11, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Great article Dan, “do no harm” is very important when working on behalf of a client for their seo needs.
    Makes sense from the two stand points like you mentioned:
    -Introducing 3rd party middlemen into the buying equation, therefore eroding your profit,
    -Incorrect NAP data

    So my next question for you Dan, what if a small business owner decides to use the top data aggregators for their listings (like someone using Mozpro), would these sites pick up that data and just change the number anyways messing up your citation consistency? What recourse do you have as a business owner to correct that situation?
    Appreciate any replies!

    Reply
    • Dan Leibson
      Dan Leibson  March 11, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Thanks Justin!

      I don’t think there is much to worry about with the data aggregators here. They sell data, and lead generators need to have people pay them to take their data so they are working at cross purposes. Although, there tons of places that scrape data from the web, and place it on their website and ask you to pay them to change it if it is incorrect. It is a very old SEO scam. And of course that may be businesses that aggregate leads using a call tracking number and then pitch a business to pay them for the leads although that seems like we are getting into borderline illegal…

      That is one of the reasons that 100% clean citation profiles are unicorn, they just don’t exist because the way the local search ecosystem works.

      Reply

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