Whitespark Citation Building Review – This Is One Of The Easiest Ways To Rank Higher In Google Maps And Localized Search Results

Citations are similar to online directories and are about 25% of local SEO.

I use Moz Local to build my top 15 citations (Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook…). Then I pay Whitespark around $400 to build 100 new profiles at $4-5 each so I never had to worry about citations again. This is one of the main reasons I’ve been able to rank clients in the top results for local keywords if you view my SEO work. It’s also one of the few things you can confidently outsource in local SEO since Whitespark has a 4.9/5 star rating with 125+ reviews.

While companies like Yext charge $500/year for 47 listings, you can pay Whitespark the same amount only it’s a one-time fee and you own your listings permantly. Whitespark also includes a follow-up report with 1 universal login if you need to update profiles in the future.

You can see how important citations are by looking at Google’s local search ranking factors

online-directories-local-seo

They are especially important for ranking higher in Google Maps (called the local stack / snack pack results) since citations are the #2, #5, and #14 ranking factors…

local-seo-citation-ranking-factors

I have already ordered $2,081.21 worth of citations for both myself and clients…

citation-history

This has helped them rank in the top results for local keywords. In this review, I will walk you through the process of ordering citations through Whitespark, then show you what to expect as far as pricing, time frame, and an improvement in your Google Map and localized rankings.

Noho SEO

KC SEO Work

Noho Local SEO

KC SEO Work 2

 

Table Of Contents

  1. What Are Citations?
  2. Fill Out Whitespark’s Citation Intake
  3. Purchase Generic + Local/Niche Citations
  4. What Happens After You Purchase Citations
  5. Prevent Spam (Only Con To Citation Building)
  6. Integrate Citation Building Into Your SEO Services
  7. Don’t Forget About Moz Local (Top 15 Core Citations)

 

1. What Are Citations?

Citations are mentions of your business name (often in the form of directories) and are 25% of Google’s local search ranking factors. Citations are especially important in Google Maps (local stack / snack pack) where they’re the #2, #5, and #14 factor. They make you rank higher for multiple localized keywords are are one of the few things you can outsource in local SEO.

Top Online Directories

Can I Build These Myself?
Yes, Whitespark even has lists of the best citations by categorycity, and country. But it takes time and many people do this incorrectly. Finding the right citations, filling out profiles 100% complete, and making sure they’re consistent (eg. business name, address, phone) is very important. I just find it much easier to leave this to the experts and save your time, as it’s only $4-5 per citation and they keep everything organized with a follow-up report and 1 login.

 

2. Fill Out Whitespark’s Citation Intake

The first step is to download Whitespark’s citation building intake and fill everything out as best you can. Read Whitespark’s notes on the right of the spreadsheet for more instructions.

whitespark-citation-building-intake

Bulk Submit Worksheet
If you want Whitespark to build citations for multiple locations (since each location needs to have their own profiles), scroll down to the ‘Bulk Submit Worksheet’ option at the bottom…

bulk-citation-order

 

3. Purchase Generic + Local/Niche Citations

Once you fill out the intake, select your country and do a blend of generic and local/niche citations (there’s no perfect number but I think local/niche citations are more valuable). And obviously the more citations you order, the higher you’re likely to rank in local search results.

Upload your intake to Whitespark’s checkout page, then under the ‘additional options and features’ option in step 4 you will see the option to order follow-up reports, rush orders, and bulk orders (for multiple locations). Follow-up reports are NOT necessary as Whitespark will send you a report upon completion. It’s only if you want multiple reports as listings go live.

whitespark-citation-order

 

4. What Happens After You Purchase Citations

Whitespark will send you a receipt. Then you will wait 3 weeks for them to build the citations. Once completed they will send you an email with a report which includes 1 universal login to access your new citation profiles, along with the URLs where you can find those new profiles.

It can take 1-2 months for Google to update their results with your new rankings. You can use Whitespark’s local rank tracker to measure rankings, or Search Console’s search analytics.

whitespark-local-rank-tracker

 

5. Preventing Spam (The Only Con To Citation Building)

The only complaint I have with citations (not just Whitespark) is the potential spam you may get through your contact form or phone.

This is tricky because NAP (business name, phone, address) MUST be consistent across citations, but this also means you must list your business phone number where anyone can call/email you. Here’s an example of a spam email you might get after the citation building:

spam-emails

Prevent Spam On Your Contact Form:

  • Use Google captcha on your contact form
  • Configure an anti-spam plugin for WordPress
  • Tighten up your WordPress discussion settings

 

6. Add Citation Building To Your SEO Services

  • Become An Affiliate – if qualified, they will let you become an affiliate.
  • Upsell Whitespark Citations – you can easily charge clients $10 per citation and pay $4-5 per citation to Whitespark which can turn a quick profit of $300 depending on the order. Just show clients Google’s local search ranking factors and explain the importance of citations. Then as you order more from Whitespark you can get up to a 20% discount. There is little work on your end (plus the citation intake and follow-up reports aren’t branded to Whitespark) making it very easy to integrate into your SEO services. Just don’t forget to help clients with spam prevention and measuring results using Whitespark’s local rank tracker or Google Search Console’s search analytics.
  • List Top Citations In SEO Audits – if you’re doing a local SEO audit where the client wants to rank higher in Google Maps, provide them with a list of top citations using Whitespark’s resources page and give them the option to build these themselves, or use Whitespark’s citation building service. Because if you’re like me you try to provide as much value as you can in your SEO audits and a ‘top 30 citation’ list is a nice addition.

 

7. Don’t Forget About Moz Local (Top 15 Core Citations)

Moz Local will help you fix your top 15 citation profiles including Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and others. I would try to get your Moz Local score up before building new citations with Whitespark. You do this by running your site through Moz Local then clicking through the tabs to make these citation profiles 100% complete, consistent, then delete any duplicates.

Moz Local

Under each tab Moz Local will tell you what needs to be fixed and includes an “update listing” link that goes directly to your profiles. It’s usually as easy as uploading more images, listing more categories, fixing inconsistencies with you business information, or deleting a duplicate.

Moz Local Citations

 

Conclusion

Here’s my citation building process:

  1. Create a 100% complete Google My Business Page
  2. Use Moz Local to fix your top 15 citation profiles
  3. Build additional citations for $4-5 each with Whitespark

I hope you liked my Whitespark citation building review! It’s a powerful service you can use for yourself, and for clients who are specifically looking to rank higher in Google Maps (local stack / snack pack results). Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions. Darren and his team at Whitespark are great with communication if you have questions. They also have a list of citation building FAQs if you want to learn more about their citation building service.

Cheers,
Tom

WordPress SEO For Photographers: How To Optimize Your Images, Citations, And WordPress Website For Higher Google Map Rankings

WordPress SEO For Photographers

If you’re a photographer, have a WordPress site, and you want to use local SEO to rank higher in Google Maps + localized results for photography-related keywords, this tutorial is for you.

I’ll show you how to use Google’s local search ranking factors to improve rankings by optimizing your Google My Business Page, citations, photos, and how to use Yoast’s SEO plugin for content optimization. No matter what kind of photography you do, it’s actually easy to do WordPress SEO for photographers (local SEO is usually much easier than national SEO). It can take 3-6 weeks to see results (Google takes time to update) but you can use Google Search Console’s search analytics to track your rankings, clicks, and overall traffic from SEO.

SEO For Photographers

Now let’s jump into it…

 

Understanding Google’s Local SEO Ranking Factors

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re doing local SEO these are the ranking factors associated with Google. They are taken from Moz who does a survey of Google’s ranking factors every 2 years. This tells us which core ranking factors we should be focusing on.

Local-Search-Ranking-Factors

 

These are from 2015’s local search ranking factors, but most of them have not changed…

Top-20-Local-Search-Ranking-Factors

I go over these in my tutorial (drop me a comment if you need clarification on anything), but here is a translation with more practical tips:

  • Complete Your Google My Business Page (complete and verify your profile)
  • Sign up for generic citations (Yelp), local (COC), and photography directories
  • Get reviews on your Google My Business Page, Yelp, others
  • Use a mobile responsive and SEO-friendly WordPress photography theme
  • Use your primary keyword on your homepage (using Yoast’s SEO Plugin)
  • Get links from customers, directories, local websites, relevant photography websites
  • Complete your social media profiles, get followers, post updates

 

Complete Your Google My Business Page

This is the easiest way to improve your Google Maps rankings. In fact you HAVE to have a Google My Business Page to even show up in Google Maps. Make your profile 100% complete.

Add your website, hours, and list “photographers” as the category. If you’re a wedding photographer, list this as your primary category then list “photographer” as the secondary category. Now write a thorough introduction, verify your page, and complete your profile. If you already have a Google My Business page, do not create a duplicate listing.

Google My Business Page

 

Improve Directory Listings With Moz Local

Moz Local Dashboard

Run your website and zip code through Moz Local to get a report on your directories. You will get a score and recommendations to improve some of the most important directories…

Moz Local

Click on the different tabs, view the red notifications to see what items need fixing, then use the “update listing” links to improve those directories. Notice how consistency of information (business name, address, phone, categories) and not having duplicates are important. If you don’t want to do this, you can pay Moz $84/year. However, it’s usually a matter of adding photos and making sure your profile is consistent and 100% complete.

Moz Local Incomplete Listings

 

Build More Directories With Whitespark

Now that you have your core directories down, let’s build more. This will further improve your rankings so please don’t think this is a waste of time – it most certainly is not. These are the kind of extra steps that will help you outrank competitors. Notice “citation volume” is a direct ranking factor in the local SEO pie chart (yellow section) – so the more the merrier.

Top Online Directories

Do It Yourselfuse Whitespark’s list of top 50 directories
Hire Whitesparkpay Whitespark one-time fee of $4-5 per directory (worth it)

 

Ask Customers For Reviews

Online Reviews On Google My Business

Google My Business and Yelp are most important. Simply follow-up with customers after the work and ask for a review (leave them instructions with a link to your Google My Business and Yelp page). Make this a priority since reviews are good for both branding and SEO. Sometimes legitimate Yelp reviews get filtered out, so read this post to learn how to avoid it.

 

Use An SEO-Friendly Photography Theme

Let’s talk about optimizing your website – which starts with your WordPress theme. You want a theme that is SEO-friendly, responsive, secure, and loads fast. At the same time your theme should be built by a reliable developer so it won’t crap out on you down the road.

Djazz WordPress Photographer Theme

My list of photography themes is a good place to start. They all have the SEO-friendly features listed above, and they’re all built in the Genesis Framework which is recommended by Yoast, Google’s Matt Cutts, and the founder of WordPress – Matt Mullenweg. If you don’t know what Genesis is then you can read about it on StudioPress’ website. But it is the best way to build a WordPress photography website that is SEO-friendly.

 

Learn Your Keywords

If you haven’t learned your photography-related keywords, here’s how to do that…

Photography SEO Keywords

Just go to google.com and type in your keywords using this format. Google Autocomplete will fill-in-the-blank with the most common phrases people are searching, with higher phrases having more searches than the lower ones. Just be sure the last character you type is an underscore “_” so Google will fill-in-the-blank. You can try other combinations too.

Keep in mind your 1 primary keyword (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer) should be targeted on the homepage. If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) you will need to create a new page for each of those for better keyword-targeting.

This leads me to the next step…

 

Target Keywords Using Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin

Yoast WordPress SEOf Plugin

You will use Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin to target keyword(s) on your website. This is where a lot of photographers get overwhelmed. Don’t though, because I made this very easy.

Step 1 – Configure The Yoast Settings
Once you install Yoast, go ahead and download this zip file below which includes the Yoast settings I use. Upload this to your WordPress site using the SEO tab on the left side of your dashboard. You will go to Tools –> Import And Export –> Import. Upload the zip file.

DOWNLOAD MY YOAST SETTINGS (ZIP FILE)

You will need to navigate through the Yoast settings and change a few things…

  • General –> Company Info (fill this out with your info, and upload a default logo which should be at least 200 x 200 pixels)
  • General –> Webmaster Tools (see video below)
  • Social Settings –> fill this out with your own social media links
  • Advanced –> Breadcrumbs –> use your own company name

 

Step 2 – Target Keyword(s) On Your Website
As I mentioned earlier, you want to target your 1 primary keyword on your homepage. To do this, go to Yoast’s SEO tab on the left of your dashboard –> Titles & Metas –> Homepage. You should be able to fill out your SEO title and meta description here (this is the text that appears in Google’s search results), or click the link to view the page where you can edit this.

Targeting Keywords With Yoast

Use the same format in the photo. Write a unique meta description summarizing what you offer while including your keyword in a way that sounds natural. This is very important as it’s the forefront of your SEO. Also make sure you don’t go over the character limit of 156.

This might be all you need to do. You can’t include the keyword in the URL (this applies to any website’s homepage) so that’s OK. Most photographers prefer to have no text on the homepage (in the photo the article heading and content is red with “no”). I understand most photographers prefer let the photos do the talking, but it WILL benefit your SEO if you include text on your homepage. Otherwise Google will only have your photos to go by.

I suggest adding “Chicago Wedding Photographer” (or whatever your primary keyword is) as your title. Then include a short paragraph of what you want to tell your audience, while also including the keyword here. With all the different typography and layouts, you should be able to make this look nice. Here’s a good example of a website that uses text in the design.

How To Target Multiple Keywords
If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) then target the main keyword (eg. Chicago Photographer) on your homepage. Now create a new page for each different type of photography. This gives you a better chance of ranking high for those specific types of photography since searchers will find THAT page in Google – not your homepage. Make sure each page contains unique content since duplicate content is an SEO no-no.

To optimize those pages for their keywords, use the same strategies described above only set “Chicago Baby Photographer” (or whatever type of photography it is) as your focus keyword. Then optimize that page using Yoast’s SEO Plugin. If you need help using Yoast to optimize your content for green lights, here’s a video…

 

Optimize Images For Keywords

Before uploading an image to your WordPress site, make sure it has a descriptive file name. Instead of using “DSC27272” a better file name would be “willow trees blowing in the wind.”

Willow trees blowing in the wind

 

Optimize Images To Load Faster

A common issue with photography websites is that the images are so large, they take forever to load. Since website speed is a ranking factor in Google, you don’t want this.

Luckily there are a few ways to prevent this…

Serve Scaled Images
If a featured image calls for 150 x 150 dimensions but you use an image that is 300 x 300, you are not using the correct featured image dimensions. This will cause slower like times by 200%. To solve this, learn the correct dimensions of your featured images (or even images in your slider) and resize them in the media section with the correct dimensions.

Another example of not serving scaled images, is when you drag to resize an image in the visual editor. This resizes the displayed image but not the actual image file (this is what “serve scaled images” means). The correct way to resize images is in the media library:

Serve Scaled Images

Optimize Images
Install the WP Smush.it plugin and go to Media –> Bulk Smush.it –> Run all my images through WP Smush.it right now (screenshot below). That’s it! You can automatically smush images once uploaded under Settings –> Media. I like to also run EWWW Image Optimizer which can catch images missed by WP Smush.it.

Bulk Image Smushit

If you don’t want to mess with images or you just want more tips on making your site load faster, see my WordPress speed optimization guide. There’s tons of good tips there.

 

Use Your Business Name, Address, And Phone # In Your Footer

I know, I love easy tips too… and this one doesn’t get easier. This helps with the whole consistency of information thing that Google looks for. In WordPress, you usually find this under Theme Options (look for the copyright area) or in the Editor –> Footer.

Here’s how I list mine:
Online Media Masters | 1324 West Byron Street, Chicago IL 60613 | 847-271-2422

 

Get Links To Your Website

Looking good so far! You’ve got your directories in place, your website optimized for your keyword(s), and you’ve make some other optimizations to improve your photography SEO. But let’s not forget about links to your website since they are essential! When people link to you, it’s a strong signal that tells Google your website is important and to rank it higher.

So how do you get links?

  • Asking customers to link to you
  • Asking partners to link to you (eg. you’re someone’s preferred photographer)
  • Local directories like the ones from Moz Local and Whitespark
  • Chamber Of Commerce
  • BBB
  • Getting published in articles (eg. in the Huffington Post)
  • Creating useful content on your blog (videos are good for this)
  • Making sure you have a nice website design
  • Sharing your photography on social media
  • Sharing your photography through an email list
  • Add social media sharing buttons to your website
  • Other publicity/marketing to get your website “out there”

 

Kick Your Social Media Into Gear

You know that awesome picture you took the other week? Did you post it on your Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram account? You SHOULD! Spend some time creating nice social media profiles and cover images. Add your pictures, write an introduction, and so forth. Now keep updating those profiles with new photos. Then you’re golden.

 

Ongoing SEO Maintenance

The main “maintenance” involves asking more customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business and Yelp page. It can also mean creating more directories, adding useful content to your blog, and posting on social media. But once you’re setup with all the WordPress SEO tools and tweaks, local SEO should be pretty low maintenance.

I hope you found this helpful! If you did, please share :) or if you have a question about your photography’s WordPress SEO, drop me a line in the comments. Glad to help you out.

Cheers,

Tom Signature