What’s the Difference Between Structured and Unstructured Citations?

Crush Your Competition with the Inside Scoop on Local SEO

Building citations is one of the best ways to rank on Google Maps. But did you know that there are two distinct kinds of citations? Structured and unstructured citations are two different (but connected) ways of improving your local SEO. And understanding them is the key to getting strong leads from local searches.

Join us as we explore the ins and outs of citations for local SEO.

Structured Citations

Remember the Yellow Pages? Anyone worth knowing could be found in that book. It was the one-stop-shop to find your local auto dealership, chiropractor, locksmith, and landscaper. Now that the digital age has taken over, fewer and fewer people leaf through the thick volume to find a business — instead, they turn to Google, Yelp, or Facebook, and the list goes on.

The concept of a listing in the Yellow Pages is the same as a structured citation. A structured citation is a business listing located in an online database like Yellowpages.com or on a social media site like Yelp. Structured citations always include the mention of your business’ name, address, and phone number (also referred to as NAP). We call these listings structured citations because they are references to your company that are supported, approved of, and built into the structure of a pre-existing digital platform or database.

The big takeaway with structured citations is NAP consistency. NAP consistency is one of Google’s primary ranking factors because they want to be sure that they’re advertising the correct name, address, and phone number to their users.  If your NAP is not the same on every platform and database—even the ones you didn’t create yourself—Google will not be able to trust your business.

That’s why any sound marketing strategy should include a NAP clean-up, which is a service that corrects citation inconsistencies across the board.

Unstructured Citations

Unstructured citations are less formal. They’re online references to your business in articles, blogs, descriptions, captions, reviews, etc.

For instance, a local foodie might have a hobby blog where they review their favorite restaurants. If they visited your restaurant and wrote about it online, that would be an unstructured citation. If you were quoted in an article, that would be an unstructured citation as well.

Three main factors determine the effectiveness of an unstructured citation: industry relevance, local relevance, and domain authority. Let’s break these down in further detail.

Industry Relevance

If you own a restaurant, the local food critic’s blog would be an excellent place to have your business name featured. Why? Because people who are interested in eating good food are likely to read it. Whereas, if your website is mentioned on a basketball fan’s blog, you might not benefit as much. (Unless your restaurant is located just outside the basketball stadium). Industry relevance is crucial to reaching your target demographic.

Local Relevance

In the same vein as industry relevance, unstructured citations aren’t especially helpful if they come from a faraway source. If the foodie from our previous example is name dropping your Brooklyn restaurant from a remote village in Peru, chances are you won’t see a spike in foot traffic as a result.

Domain Authority

Finally, the cherry on top of the citation cake is domain authority. As long as your unstructured citation is relevant to your industry and location, it’s viable. However, it’ll be even more effective if it comes from a popular website. You can recommend your favorite book to everyone you know, but if Oprah recommends it, whose recommendation will have more of an impact? Exactly.


LinkNow Media offers exhaustive NAP clean-ups and sound citation generation strategies. If you need help firing up your citation campaign, drop us a line at 1.888.667.7186, or email us at website@linknowmedia.com.


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