Marketing Through Citations

Citations are a great way to increase awareness about your school and programs. Whether you’re a new ECE center just starting out, or a preschool that’s been around for generations: citations and directory listings are an important part of your marketing portfolio.

Understanding Citations and Listings

What are citations?

Citations are defined as mentions of your school’s name, address, and/or phone number (what we in digital marketing call NAP) that exist on websites other then your own. Citations may also include a link back to your preschool’s website.

Example:
http://www.raisingedmonton.com/2017-edmonton-preschool-open-house-listings/

What are (directory) listings?

Listings, or directory listings, are structured citations. These profiles usually include your preschool’s NAP (name, address, phone number), but will often include other useful information like photos, videos, hours, and a description. All listing are citations, but not all citations are listings.

Example:
http://www.greatschools.org/illinois/chicago/10796-Creative-Scholars-Pre...

Why are citations important?

Citations help preschools and ECE centers increase inquiries with prospective families. They help grow awareness with the school’s audience by giving the school a presence on third-party websites that attract their own visitors.

Additionally, search engines (like Google), use citations as a local search ranking factor. The more Google sees your school consistently referenced in a variety of authoritative sources, the more likely they are to trust that your school is legitimate, open, and worth returning in their local search results. Citations also validate your preschool or ECE center is part of your local community. 

What types of citations matter the most?

Some citations are worth more than others when it come to their ability to both attract local families, and help your school rank better in search engines. Here’s a list of factors you should consider when building citations:

  1. Is the directory/website curated?
    A curated directory is actively managed by a business, organization, or individual. It generally indicates that the directory is of higher quality because only businesses who pass certain criteria can get a listing; all listings require a manual review. 
  2. Is the directory/website topically relevant to ECE, parents, or my local area?
    If the directory or website has to do with: your local area, early childhood education, preschools, activities for young children, etc.. then that citation is more important for your school.
  3. Does it look like a link scheme?
    A link scheme is intended to purposefully manipulate Google into showing your school at a higher ranking position through the use of unnatural linking. This is often referred to as getting “bad links”, which is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and should be avoided. It can be difficult to determine what is or isn’t a “bad link” or a “bad website” to get a link from, however, you can use the following as a general guideline: If you wouldn’t proudly show the website your about to get a link from to the family of a current student, then it’s not worth getting a link there. 

How to make the most of your listings and citations

Here are some tips for making the most out of your listings:

  • Strive for strict NAP consistency.
    Take a look at your Google Business Listing. (Don’t have a Google Business Listing for your preschool? Learn more here) Observe how your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) are laid out. Match your NAP exactly (to the letter). If it says 123 Anywhere St. then that is your official address (i.e. don’t write out street). Use that same NAP on every citation you build for your school. NAP consistency means you’re making the information easier for Google to identify and associate with your school.
  • Fill out everything.
    Take advantage of all sections of your listing by filling them all out completely. You’re being given a platform to talk about your school, so use it wisely. Do they give you room for ten photos? Then add ten great photos. Do they let you add a description? Then write up a great description of your programs. Do they give you room for multiple categories? Then take a look at your school and its programs to see which categories (like day care, preschool, learning center, etc..) are best aligned and add them to your listing. 
  • Monitor and measure results
    Keep an eye on your Google Analytics (learn more here) to watch how much “Referral Traffic” is being sent to you from different directories and websites. Bonus tip: set up conversion tracking to monitor how many of those families are filling out your contact form. This will allow you to gauge how beneficial that citation is to your school. When you find a citation that is performing well for you, consider how you can expand on it: Do they offer premium features? Paid advertising? Then consider if there are any others just like it that you haven’t claimed yet and prioritize those with your citation building efforts.

Citations and directory listings are an important part of your preschool’s general marketing efforts, and a key element of your local search rankings. Consistently building quality citations over time will help your school gain increased awareness and authority with prospective families in your area.

Author Bio
Tiffany Torres is the Chief Creator of Opportunities with the Preschool Marketing Group. She’s spent years helping preschools and early childhood education centers grow their enrollment and waitlists through smart, modern marketing. You can connect with Tiffany on LinkedIn, or by email info@preschool-marketing.com.