What Are Local Citations?

Out of curiosity I was wondered if there was an exact definition of the term “local citation” so I decided to find out.

When your mom is bragging about you to her friends, she will likely use your name. This is an example of a citation but in the real world. So a citation online would be just the same; a mention of your name. Since I am focusing on local businesses though, I will be talking about mentions of a local business.

The Confusion

In doing research to define exactly what constitutes a local citation, I found several small but confusing contradictions among our top local SEO gurus.

Moz defines a citation as a mention of a business name and address on other website pages, with or without a link. There is no mention of the business phone number.

But on this page, Moz says “a citation is a mention of your business name with another piece of business information, such as your phone number, address, website, or a combination of the three.”

Darren Shaw of Whitespark created a blog post that says that “A complete citation should include the company name, address, and phone number. A citation that does not include all three of these is sometimes referred to as a partial citation.” This contradicts Moz by saying that a complete citation contains the business name, address and phone number.

Nyagoslav Zhekov, now also working at Whitespark, has even commented on this blog post as well stating that, “Actually, I believe even just the phone number might be considered a citation.” This would be called a partial citation as mentioned by Darren Shaw.

So What Is The Actual Definition Of A Citation?

Well the best way to clear this up would be to reach out to Moz and Whitespark so that’s just what I did.

I asked Darren Shaw of Whitespark, “I came across Moz’s definition of a citation and they say “Citations are defined as mentions of your business name and address on other webpages—even if there is no link to your website.” I noticed above that you mention if a citation doesn’t contain all 3 (NAP) that it’s not a complete citation. Can you make a clarification or clear up any confusion since Moz is only saying the name and address are a citation?”

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He had this to say:

“The post says that any variation of your NAP is a citation. Just the name by itself or just the phone number would still be considered citations. Think of it as any mention of your business on the web that Google can identify and associate with your business.

So, if your business name is Acme Plumbing, and some website mentions Acme Plumbing without the phone number, Google might not know which Acme Plumbing to associate this mention with since there are dozens of businesses with the same name across the country. In this case, you’d want to make sure you also get the phone number in there so Google will know for sure which Acme Plumbing the website is referring to.

If your business name is something like “Carolyn’s Wackydoodle Scrapbooking Biz”, then chances are there are no other other businesses out there with the same name, so even just a business name mention would count as a citation.

Hope this helps to clear up any confusion.”

And Rand Fishkin was kind enough to respond to my inquiry as well saying: “Technically, the word “citation” could refer to either. Some citations are more powerful when they have the full data, and some citations (that do have impact on your local rankings) may be nothing more than a reference to your business name. I’m sure Darren would also note that citations that lack all the information can impact rankings, so we’re likely in agreement.”

A special thanks is owed to Darren Shaw and Rand Fishkin for taking the time to respond to what may have seemed like a trivial question.

Examples Of Location Citations

By piecing together these comments, I was able to deduce these examples:

  • Business name by itself – partial citation
  • Phone number by itself – partial citation
  • Business name and address – citation (Moz) partial citation (Whitespark)
  • Business name and phone number – partial citation
  • Business name, phone number and address – citation
  • Business name, phone number, address and link – citation


So in conclusion, it seems that there is no exact definition of a citation but it can be summed up as any mention of your business on the Internet that search engines can associate with your business.

About Dani Owens

Dani Owens, the owner of Pigzilla, has been in the digital marketing field since 2011. Her resources have been mentioned and shared by local SEO experts such as Eric Ward, Darren Shaw, Phil Rozek, Marie Haynes, David Mihm and Local U. From small, independent Mom-and-Pop shops, to enterprises with thousands of locations, Dani Owens has years of experience strategizing and implementing reliable local SEO tactics that lead to increased organic traffic and conversions.