Survey: Quality Of Citations Matters More Than Quantity

At the start of August, David Mihm published the findings of the latest installment of the Local Search Ranking Factors Survey.

This year, the breakdown & presentation of survey results has been taken to a new level. Ranking factors are grouped by signal type (e.g., Place Page Signals), then further broken down by result type (e.g., Pack or Carousel) and technology (desktop vs. mobile) in a series of interactive pie charts.



I really enjoy reading the annual findings of this survey — and now, in its 6th year, it’s taken on a maturity and style which befits the status of the local search industry. Looking back at the earliest iterations of the survey, the presentation and results are much more simplistic (even clumsy) in comparison to the 2013 survey.

I was particularly interested in the grouping of factors and in learning which group has the most influence overall:

  • Place Page Signals – 19.6%
  • On-Page Signals – 18.8%
  • External Local Signals – 16%
  • Link Signals – 14.4%
  • Review Signals – 10.3%
  • Personalization Signals – 8.3%
  • Social Signals – 6.3%
  • Behavioural/Mobile Signals – 6.1%

The Growing Importance & Complexity Of Citations

External Local Signals contains all factors related to citations and local directory listings. This is the third most powerful group of signals, with three of the top ten ranking factors overall belonging to this group:

  • #3 – Consistency of Structured Citations
  • #4 – Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  • #6 – Quantity of Structured Citations

In fact, there are 7 separate citation factors reported in this year’s survey.

I took a step back in time and compared this to the earliest surveys from 2008 and 2009. In each of these early years, there was only one mention of citations/listings in the survey results:

  • 2008 – #6 Validation with 3rd party providers
  • 2009 – #2 Citations from Major Data Providers

This shift from one citation-related factor into 7 specific factors demonstrates two things about the changing nature of local search:

  1. Local search is much more complex and nuanced now than five years ago
  2. Consistency and quality of citations is more important than quantity

2013 Expert Citation Survey

We wanted to explore the world of citations further and answer some of the common questions our customers ask us about citation building and optimization.

To answer these questions, we enlisted the help of 16 highly respected, knowledgeable and generous search experts. Many of these experts (full list shown below) also contributed to the Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, and we thank them for their time and assistance in helping us with this study.

The findings of this survey were presented during the InsideLocal Webinar, “Enhanced Citations for Local Search Greatness,” on Wednesday, September 11th. (A recording of the webinar can be viewed here.)

The following 4 charts illustrate some of the key findings from the 2013 Expert Citation Survey. (The full set of results can be viewed on

How Important Are Accurate Citations To Local Search Ranking?

  • 88% of respondents said that accurate citations are Critical or Very Important for local search.


What Is More Important: Quantity Or Quality Of Citations?

  • 63% of respondents said that quality of citations is the most important factor.


Is It More Important To Update Existing Wrong Citations Or Build New Correct Citations?

  • 56% say that it’s important to tackle both existing and new citations at the same time.
  • 38% said it’s more important to correct existing, incorrect citations first.


Do You Think It’s Best To Build Citations Quickly Or Steadily Over Time?

  • 53% of respondents say that it’s important to build citations steadily and slowly.
  • Only 7% say to build as many as you can NOW!


Survey Contributors



 Mike Blumenthal -  Andrew Shotland -
 Don Campbell -  Nyagoslav Zhekov -
 Phil Rozek -  Laura Betterley -
 Mike Belasco -  Matthew Hunt -
 Brian Coryat -  Damian Rollinson -
 Casey Meraz -  Phil Britten - DAC group
 Susan Hallam -  Jon Keel -
 David Moceri -  Myles Anderson (me) -

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column | SEM Industry: Stats | SEO: Local | Stats: General


About The Author: is Founder & CEO of BrightLocal provides local SEO tools for local businesses; see their research section for the latest findings about the local search market.

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