The Ultimate Guide To Updating Citations + [CASE STUDY]

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Anyone that does Local SEO knows that a healthy citation profile is one of the most important ranking factors in local search.

We know the consistency, quantity, and quality of the citations play a role in ranking.

So what happens when a business changes addresses? Well, those three things go to H. E. Double hockey stick and so does your traffic and rankings. 

Read on for my 4 Simple Steps to Properly Update Citations During an Address Change


If you are looking for the case study on how many citations you can expect to be updated, click here.


What happens when your business moves

You’ve moved into your shiny new office, and all is dandy.

What could be so awful about upgrading your business space?

Well for one, it confuses the hell out of Google.

The main issue that is created when changing addresses is a mismatch of information found in local listing sites like YellowPages, WhitePages, CitySearch, etc.

As we know, Google uses the quality, quantity (maybe not?), and most importantly, the consistency of citations (Citations = Anywhere your business name, address, and phone number is found) as a ranking factor on their maps and local results.

Local Listings Don't Match

After you move, the citations you have built (or had built for you) in the past are now incorrect. This takes a huge hit to the consistency of the citations for your business, which again, is a huge ranking factor for local results.

This leads to Google being confused. If Google is confused about where your business is, it won’t serve that information to it’s searchers.


What if you haven’t built local business listings?

In general, we see businesses that haven’t built any citations have anywhere from 30-80 citations.

This is due to data aggregators creating these citations rather than business owners.

For our partners that we actively created and optimized citations for, they have anywhere between 150-300 citations.


What Other Horrible Things Can Will Happen?

Confused CustomerIf you fail to update all your local listings floating around in cyberspace, it’s possible you are going to confuse your customers.

Customers looking specifically for your business, or just looking for your product/service, and find your local listing will inevitably land on a listing with your old information. Sending customers to the wrong location is the easiest way to lose revenue, and at the same time, leaving a sour impression on your customers.

Believe it or not, the health of your citations can have a very real, and a very significant impact on your businesses bottom line. Click to Tweet this fact!

If you aren’t ranking well in the search engines, or your potential customers can’t find you, you are losing money.

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How to fix local citations


Now that you’ve moved, your citation profile is a DISASTER!

Don’t worry. I’m here to lead you to citation success.

I’ve divided this process into 4 easy to follow steps. Follow my lead, and you too can be a citation master.

Step 1: Create A List of ALL Citations

Step 2: Update Business Information in the Data Aggregators

Step 3: Manually Claim and Update the Top Ten Citations

Step 4: Outsource The Remaining Updates

Step 1

Simple. All you have to do is individually visit all 4,632 local listing sites to see if your business is listed. Make a list of each site you’re listed on.

This step should only take you 200 or so hours.

JK! We’re SEOs and SEOs use tools. 

We need a tool that scours the internet for anywhere your business’s name, address, and phone number is listed and creates a report of that data.

Fortunately, such tools exist. Check out Whitespark or BrightLocal.

Both Brightlocal and Whitespark are paid tools. If you’re just planning on using these tools for the citation update, you can sign up for a month’s service and unsubscribe when your done.

If you’re cheap like me, you can also use a tool called NAP Hunter Lite. Thanks, Andrew!

Bottom line, you will need a list of all active citations. How you get that list is up to you!

Step 2

This step is crucial, and should NOT be ignored.

This step ensures that you are submitting the new business information to the top data aggregators such as Neustar Localeze, InfoGroup,  Acxiom, Factual etc. Once the new address is fed through these primary data aggregators, it will begin to filter down to the secondary and tertiary data feeds.

This step will reduce the number of citations we will need to manually change, as well as add more credibility to the new address.


What is a Data Aggregator?

Data aggregators are systems/companies that collect, filter, sort, and correct information. In this case, we’re talking about local listing data aggregators.

Data Aggregators

These systems act as a digital phonebook, and attempt to keep accurate data about every businesses’ information.

Many local listing sites like CitySearch and Yahoo pull information from these data aggregators to populate their directories. This action is helpful in many ways, as it means we don’t have to create local listings on certain sites… because the data aggregators do it for us.

However, data aggregators can also cause duplicate listing issues and can also distribute and perpetuate incorrect business information.

For that reason, it’s critical that these data aggregators have your correct information. 

How Do I Submit My Business’s Information to These Data Aggregators?

You can pay to submit to the top data aggregators by visiting their sites, and claiming your business.

BUT, if you go this route, you will end up spending way too much $$$

The cheapest, easiest, and best route is to use MozLocal

MozLocal submits to the data aggregators, and corrects information for you!

It also has a fantastic dashboard that makes it easy to claim, and fix other citations manually.

Best of all, it’s only $84. You’d spend that for updating one data aggregator by going directly to them.


Manually Update Claim Top 10

We will outsource a majority of the citation updates, however, it’s best to manually update the top citations for your industry to ensure that they are changed and optimized correctly.

If you haven’t already, this is a great chance to claim these top citations as well as update the descriptions and photos.

How Do I Determine the Top 10?

Easy. Peasy.

Go to Google, and search your business name.

Pick the top 10 local listings that appear in the search results.

This step ensures that anyone searching for your business name will find your CORRECT information.

Claim, Update, and Optimize these top 10 listings.

In2itive Search Listings
Now that you’ve handled the most important citations, it’s time to update the rest.

This time, we’ll let someone else do the dirty work!

Step 4

As I mentioned earlier, most of our partners have anywhere between 200-300 active citations out there.

Could you imagine manually going to each one of these, and updating them?

I couldn’t.

Which is why I found an alternate, more efficient solution.

I found a trusted oDesk freelancer that specializes in citation creation and updates. She’s located in the Philippines, which makes the cost of labor WAY cheaper.

I take the list we created in step 1 and remove any citations updated by MozLocal as well as the citations we manually updated from step 3.

This will leave a list of citation URLS with the old address that we haven’t touched yet. I then send this list to our oDesk lady to update the remaining listings. I provide clear instructions to deliver a spreadsheet that contains all of the URLs I provided, with a note as to the status. Statuses include “Successfully Updated”, “Update Submitted – Pending Approval”, “Unable to Update or Delete”, “Unable to Update – Deleted”.

A week later, she provides a completed report with the status of all our citations.

Case Study

Most of you are probably here wondering… “How many citations can I expect to be updated?”

Lucky for you, In2itive Search recently changed addresses, and we documented our process in order to create this case study.

You’ll be SHOCKED by the results. Lets dive in.


Before the move, In2itive Search had 250 citations. After we completed this process, our citation profile is as follows;

105 citations – Unable to Update

93 citations – Pending

52 citations – Updated

 Citation Update Case Study Results

Ultimately, we were only able to update roughly 21% of our citations.

Why so low?

Well, for one, we were listed on some very low quality websites. Lower quality citation websites were built years back during the citation boom, when only the quantity of citations mattered. Most of these sites are no longer maintained, nor have built-in claiming or updating options. For these citations, we made every attempt to contact the webmaster and get our address updated, but to be honest, these websites are as dead as a door knob.

Luckily, we were able to update our information on the top sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, CitySearch, YellowPages… etc. This is because these sites have built in claiming + updating procedures and are actively managed.

Below is our citation spreadsheet. You can see all the citations currently un-updated in RED.

All in all, we could only update 21% of our citations. The rest you can consider a lost cause. Click to Tweet this fact!


Thank you so much for reading! If you’re so inclined, you can click the button below to share this article on Twitter! I sure would appreciate some love!

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About the Author

Nick Footer

Nick Footer is an entrepreneur and founder of Intuitive Digital, a national award-winning digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. With over 15 years of experience, he has helped hundreds of businesses improve their online presence through search engine optimization, paid advertising, and website design.

85 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide To Updating Citations + [CASE STUDY]

    1. No, thank YOU for creating it! We always use it as a backup to whitespark or BrightLocal as sometimes those tools don\’t find them all!

  1. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for the great article.

    Many of the sites that you were unable to get updated don\’t really matter. They are either low quality sites without human maintenance, or sites that scrape information from other sites, or mirror sites. With that being said, I can see a number of sites in the \”Unable to Update\” list which are important and they *could* be updated, although in some cases the process could be tricky.

    In any case, because we realized some time ago that just a few business directories actually mattered that is why we currently work on just the top 50 \”generic\” citation sources + a handful of industry-specific citation sources. The rest is mostly a waste of time both in terms of importance (small to no importance) and in terms of outcome (mostly you won\’t get anything done).


    1. Yext is nice, and efficient. But it is very expensive, and also requires a continued subscription. Once you unsubscribe, most of your listings revert to the way they were before signing up. Moz Local, and manual work makes sure your changes stick, and you\’re not stuck paying Yext for eternity.

  2. Great breakdown. We\’re going through a re-brand and about to embark on our updates. If you\’re willing to share your oDesk contact in the Philippines it would be much appreciated!

  3. Brian Baker, very helpful article and yes, cleaning citation is a real headache for local optimizers. This article is going to be really useful for me and all of them who are finding duplicate and incomplete citations on different business aggregator sites. Thanks for posting this Brian.

  4. Hi, Thank you for making this post. I was able to find the information i need to get a better knowledge. I will come by to read more information regarding to SEO, PA, DA and other marketing knowledge.

  5. I would actually disagree and say Google is putting less emphasis on local citations. They are putting more emphasis on a unstructured citation with strong niche relevance.

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