Citations? What does that mean? There is far too much mystery surrounding the topic of Citation Sites on the web, and the advice given by professionals covers all the extremes. Citations sites are not that difficult, but it’s the extremes that we need to be careful about. This quick guide will give you the no-nonsense information you need to use Citation Sites to improve your online presence and your restaurant’s reputation.
What you will learn:
- What Citations are
- Examples of Citations
- Why Citations are important to your restaurant reputation
- Which types of Citations you should use
- Some Best Practices
- Where to learn more
What is a Citation?
What a Citation is: First of all, what is a Citation? A citation is any webpage or profile that contains your restaurant name, address or phone number, or any combination of the three. Just like writing a college term paper, we ‘cite’ our references or our ‘citations’. Therefore, any reference to your restaurant is a citation.
There are three components to a legitimate citation: your restaurant name, your address, and your phone number (also known as ‘NAP’). We could technically include your restaurant email, but an email could be listed on any number of sites without any indication that it is related directly to your restaurant. Review sites, social media profiles, directories, private websites, social media posts, can all be a citation.
What a Citation isn’t: Any image of your restaurant, your staff, your owner, chef or location is not in itself a citation. If however, their is a link or description associated with the image and it points to your website or your restaurant NAP, then it can be included in a list of citations. The key is that a citation links back to your restaurant, and if it does, it’s valuable to us.
Involuntary vs. Voluntary: Not all citation sites are valuable to your restaurant. My goal here is to give you the right information so you are informed and can make strategic decisions for your restaurant. And I say that because some experts will encourage you to claim many citation sites across the web. I want you to be cautious, and make good decisions. Some citation sites are what I call ‘involuntary‘, while others are ‘voluntary‘.
The involuntary sites have the ability to add your restaurant to their site list without your permission, or even worse, you never knowing about it. Sometimes it is the guest who adds you, and sometimes it’s the owner of the site. Each involuntary site has different rules and regulations, including how to be removed from the site. You should be concerned that they are taking it upon themselves to add your restaurant, essentially bringing you into their game whether you want to or not. Some sites are very difficult to remove yourself from once you are on them.
There are dangers associated with being added without your involvement. For example, the site might be very low quality and something you don’t want to be associated with. They may spell your restaurant name wrong, get your phone, email or address wrong. If you have multiple locations, they can mess up your listings with other sites. Leaving this important work to a novice is dangerous. Therefore, being informed and making wise decisions is super important.Voluntary sites are better and we have more control over them. On these sites, they either ask you if you want to be added, which is normally triggered by a guest, or you personally go to the site and add yourself.
Examples of Citations:
Why are Citations Important?
Like I mentioned, some experts encourage you to publish your name, address and phone number on as many citation sites as possible, but let’s look at why citations are important before we look at which ones to claim. There are three major reasons you need to pay attention to and claim (specific) citation sites:
Citations validate your restaurant – With multiple citation sites displaying the same NAP across the web, it shows the Search Engines (Google™, Bing™, Yahoo™, others) that your restaurant is a real, living, breathing thing. If the only place on the web that shows your NAP is your restaurant website, you won’t have the same authority as you would being listed on citation sites. It does make a difference, so you need to take it seriously.
Citation sites are like real estate – More authoritative citation sites like Yelp™, TripAdvisor™ and Zomato™ will show up in prominent places on the search engines. Each authority site you are listed on will increase your chances of dominating the first and second pages of Google™ and other search engines. I call it the ‘STACK’. If you don’t count the advertisements, there are normally ten ‘entries’ on the search list, or ‘Stack’. You want to own as many of those entries as possible, otherwise the search engine will fill them with something else (their best guesses, or your competitor, yikes!).
In the following Google.com™ search example: “deli new haven” was used as the search phrase. This screen capture displays these entries. The red arrows indicate review sites and other public sites that count as citations that you can control. The others in this list of entries are luckily restaurant websites. On occasion, some of the entries in the list are spammy, junk sites that work against you. All of these entries are citations:
Citations are about control – If there is one thing I go on about more than anything else when it comes to restaurant reputation, is that reputation has everything to do with control. If you do nothing for your online restaurant reputation, you have NO control over it. If you do the right things, you gain more and more control. It’s about the work you put into it up front.Citations give you the opportunity to control how your guests leave feedback. For example, if you claim your review and social media sites, and then publish those images on your menu, signage or letterhead, you are directing where you want guests to go to leave feedback. Understanding this and capitalizing on it, gives your restaurant the best opportunity to develop a powerful online reputation.
How can you get Online Citations?
There are three main ways to get listed on Citation sites:
Manually – Each site will have a link to request access. Normally the ‘Sign In’ button will also act as the way to ‘Sign up for an account’. This is very labor intensive work, but it ensures that each and every citation is done completely and correctly by the people who know your restaurant the best – you!
Automation – There are a number of online tools that will do the citation building for you. Normally you just enter in your restaurant details, sign up and pay for the service, and then you can check on the progress online. The main issues with this approach is that most restaurants who use this service don’t take the time to check their new citations, or record them. If you leave the service you normally keep the citations, but any information on what was published or passwords, is normally lost.
Hire a Firm – There are thousands of citation creation companies in the world. Many of them do not have the same love for your restaurant that you do, so be cautious when you hire a company. You can hire a Fiverr™ provider to build citations, just make sure you check their work, make records on your side and change your passwords when the Fiverr™ is complete. Other service providers will do citation work as well as reputation management and reputation marketing. Services like this range from $500-2000 one time for Citations, to $500 – 10,000 for full reputation services.
Which Citation Sites Should I Use?
There are literally thousands of citation sites on the web. To make a list to follow would be impossible to create, and most importantly, to maintain. My general recommendation is to claim your listing on the major review sites: Yelp™, TripAdvisor™, Foursquare™, Google™, Zomato™. Also the major social media platforms: Twitter™, Facebook™, Instagram™ and Pinterest™. And make sure your listing/profile is complete. Fill out all the boxes and add the photos and video.
I prefer to look at citation building from a strategic point of view and they have meet my simple criteria:
- They should be good quality sites
- They shouldn’t be Involuntary sites (unless I am already on it, then I do my best to fix it/leave it)
- They should have a high Alexa.com ™ score (10,000 or less is excellent)
- They should be related to your topic. For example, you don’t want to list your restaurant on a directory that has everything from motors to plumbers on it
- They are active. If the last update or review was a year ago, that would be a red flag
- I personally recommend my clients to stay away from the Yext™ group of citation sites until they are well versed in the subject. They syndicate to about 70+ sites
Best Practices for Restaurant Citations
There are hundreds of reputation experts that share their strategies on the web. Some of those strategies should be ignored and others followed to the letter. Instead of giving you an exhaustive list, here are some foundational best practices you can use as a framework to judge whether a strategy you come across should be followed or not. Ultimately, you are the judge, but I am providing logical points that you can easily prove for yourself:
Get it Right – If you take anything from this guide it should be this, that it’s absolutely vital that your citations are correct. Citation sites that have incorrect information will actually work against you. You want everything to be correct across every site. I always recommend restaurants set up a central Google™ Account (See: Google My Business), and use that NAP as your foundational NAP to mirror every other citation from. You will thank me later!
You Keep Track – Citation building is very much a ‘set it and forget it’ activity, and because of that I recommend you create a spreadsheet or Google™ Sheet that shows the actual link to your citation (the ‘URL’), and the Username and Password (login details). This way you know where to find EVERY citation if you change your name or have some other significant change later down the road. You would be surprised at how much you forget even a month later.
Quality vs Quantity – In the case of citation building, less is more. You want to focus on the quality, established citation sites, instead of publishing your restaurant on every directory and review site you come across. Ask yourself where the majority of your diners are going to discover you. Is it on Yelp™, Twitter™ and Instagram™, or is it on a directory that lists all the businesses in Boise, Idaho and gets 100 visitors a month? You want to showcase your restaurant on the sites that deserve you.
Minimize the Risk – If you do a Google™ search on your restaurant name, one on your phone number and another on your address, you will quickly get an idea where your restaurant is published. It might even be a shocking exercise. I recommend an audit like this to see which sites I would want to be removed from. If you find involuntary sites that you want to be removed from, there should be a link on the site somewhere that you can follow to remove yourself from the citation site. I recommend you check the information on the site first and request changes to the entry FIRST.
Once you have the data updated then put in the request to have yourself removed. I recommend this because often the act of removing you from their site is done manually and many of these sites have absentee landlords and might not get to it for months or years. This way at least you are minimizing the risk of having incorrect data if you have to wait for it to be deleted.
Hold your hired staff or firms accountable – If you hire a firm to create citations for you, set some ground rules they should follow before they begin. For example, you want to own the accounts they create, you want a spreadsheet with all the accounts and passwords, you want them to be thorough by completing the entire citation profile, and you want them to do it quickly and correctly.
Where Can You Learn More?
This site is entirely dedicated to restaurants; restaurant owners, chefs, restaurant staff, restaurant marketing firms, reputation marketing and reputation management firms. You get the picture. But, I’m the first to tell you that I am not a born and bred restaurateur or restaurant process expert. But what I do know is how to market restaurants online, how to deconstruct difficult processes and make things easier, and how to build a powerful online reputation. You are the master in your kitchen, and I invite you to become a master in my domain! It you are up for a little DIY, I have what you are looking for.
To provide you with the best information on restaurant reputation, I have created a set of courses to guide you. The master class is called: Restaurant Reputation Bootcamp, and it’s designed to step you through the entire process of understanding a holistic approach to restaurant reputation, taking control and building an ironclad online reputation. It covers the entire process of setting up citation sites and has a checklist to help you choose the most strategic citations. And best of all, WHY to claim each one!
As I mentioned earlier, citation services can cost between $50 and $2000. I wanted this course to be accessible to every restaurant and hopefully see an ROI right away. So the course is only $147.
I also have created some mini courses to help you focus on more specific topics. They are only $47.
Also, remember, if you have questions or comments, please use the comments below, or use the “Contact Me” form if you want to get a bit more personal. I’m here to help, and happy to learn from your strategies as well. I wish you great success with your online reputation.