An online citation is any online property (other than your own website) that mentions your business name, address and phone number (NAP). The most common citations are online directory listings (structured citations) but any other website mentioning your business name + address and/or phone is number also considered (unstructured citations).
Google and other search engines look at this data and cross-match it to verify your business is legitimate – so it is very important that NAP is correct and consistent across all online citations.
The number and consistency of online citations are one of the main ranking factors for local search rankings of your Google My Business profile, and citations sometimes rank in their own right for relevant search queries.
Another important aspect of online citations is link building. While many SEO experts don’t consider links from citations a ‘real link’, they do still go into the equation of how many online properties link to your site.