When talking to SEO types about Google Places, one of the big buzzwords you’ll typically hear mentioned is “citations”.
What are citations in Google Places?
Citations are to Google Places pages as backlinks are to your website – basically, they are votes, in the form of links (or mentions) throughout the web that are directly pointed at your business.
Google PageRank algorithm, all the way back in the beginning of Google when they first started crawling and indexing websites, back link analysis has always been at the core of their algorithm used to determine authority and ranking for web pages.
In fact, in the paper that Sergey Brin and Larry Page wrote back at Stanford in 1998, the Google founders specifically referenced citations when they said the following:
2.1.1 Description of PageRank Calculation
Academic citation literature has been applied to the web, largely by counting citations or backlinks to a given page. This gives some approximation of a page’s importance or quality. PageRank extends this idea by not counting links from all pages equally, and by normalizing by the number of links on a page. PageRank is defined as follows:
We assume page A has pages T1…Tn which point to it (i.e., are citations). The parameter d is a damping factor which can be set between 0 and 1. We usually set d to 0.85. There are more details about d in the next section. Also C(A) is defined as the number of links going out of page A. The PageRank of a page A is given as follows:PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))
Note that the PageRanks form a probability distribution over web pages, so the sum of all web pages’ PageRanks will be one.
PageRank or PR(A) can be calculated using a simple iterative algorithm, and corresponds to the principal eigenvector of the normalized link matrix of the web. Also, a PageRank for 26 million web pages can be computed in a few hours on a medium size workstation. There are many other details which are beyond the scope of this paper. [REF: Stanford INFO labs]
So as you can see, citations were critically important (and still are) in determining the authority and rankings of particular sites in the Google’s search results.
Citations are now equally important when it comes to your Google Places page ranking in local Google search results.
One way to start building highly authoritative citations (references and links) back to your Google Places page is by using the “Discussions” search element:
As you can see above, the “Discussions” search filter is along the left hand side.
This is a great way to find new potential opportunities for building citations back to your Google Places page.
In the example above, I typed the phrase “flower shops in athens ga” in the search bar, which is a very local based search phrase.
Now I want to click “Discussions” to change the search results to show me only those sites that Google thinks are actual discussions taking place around my business and market.
By clicking through some of the sites in the “Discussions” search results, you now want to find sites where discussions are happening, and there are opportunities for you to join the discussion as your business.
Adding your comments to a discussion will sometimes open the opportunity for you to leave your business address and / or link back to your website.
These would be “citations” – the things your Google Places page needs desperately to building higher rankings in the local search results on Google.