Why is NAP Important for SEO and Local Search?
What is NAP, and Why is it Important for SEO and Local Search?
A while ago, one of our customers bought a virtual address in order to stay away from using a P.O. box or home address for their business. It seemed like a good idea until the virtual address company sold an address on the same floor to a competing company from another state that had a very similar company name. This caused two things to happen: first it made our customers worry that they should change their address, and second, it prompted me to go check on the customer’s Google My Business (GMB) listing.
Here’s what I found in Google My Business
GMB had scrambled the customer’s address to something we didn’t record into the listing, while his website, social media, and a good deal of citations, remained the same. Suddenly, his business couldn’t be found in Google Maps. And because the website no longer held the accurate listing consistency it previously had; they no longer held the local search rank position they once had.
They had completely lost NAP credibility.
What is NAP?
“NAP” stands for name, address, phone, and it refers to those which your company uses on any site where it appears. Whether on a listing, social media or your own website, NAP Consistency is a critical part of ranking well in local organic search results because search engines like Google evaluate (and try to correlate) all this data when determining which companies to reward in search results for geo-targeted (local) queries.
Is NAP Important for SEO and Local Search?
The answer is yes, absolutely. NAPs are critically important for SEO and local search queries because, to Google, matching NAPs are proof of credibility, for which they give you higher search rankings. When consistent NAPs are woven into a comprehensive SEO marketing strategy, organic search rankings improve even more.
Does your NAP help you appear in geo-targeted searches?
Consistent NAPs across all your web pages and listings are taken very seriously by search engines when they decide whether to display your URL at the top of a geo-targeted search. Without a name, address, and phone on your website and social media profiles, search engines don’t know that your business is local, so they don’t display it in response to local searches for your products or services. CMSs (Content Management Systems) like WordPress and Joomla are a good way to make sure your NAP is static on all your Web pages.
Consistent NAP use verifies your credibility on the WWW (World Wide Web)
Although search algorithms (the data programs used by search engines to rank websites) are held in utmost secrecy by their creators, SEO experts agree that evidence demonstrates that they cross-reference business NAPs that appear on multiple websites. They do this to weed out less-than-credible websites and display only reliable results for local web searchers. If your company’s NAPs are not consistent across sites, your site is given a lower ranking than competitors whose NAPs are.
So how, specifically, does this affect your online marketing? Consistent NAPs, as part of an SEO marketing plan provide:
- Better organic search rankings
- More traffic to your websites from local searches
- More leads
- More conversions
- More business
Setting up your NAP
The first step is to place your NAP on your website. But read on before you do it because this is one of those “the devil is in the details” things, and if you don’t get it right, you won’t get the results you’re looking for.
I’ll say that again: if you don’t set up your NAP precisely according to the guidelines below, don’t expect positive results.
1. Decide how you will phrase your company name online
Always use your full company name, not the nickname people use for your business in casual conversation. For example, if your business’s official name is Heritage Home Works, LLC, don’t list it as Heritage Home Works (without the comma and LLC). If your name is Lightspeed Printing, Inc., don’t list it as Lightspeed Printing or Lightspeed Printing Inc (without the comma and period).
2. Decide how you will write your company’s address
Have you noticed how different people use different formats and abbreviations when they write addresses? Maybe you abbreviate the word “Street” to “St.,” but your general manager writes out the full word. It’s important to use the same format on every URL where your company address appears. If you say you’re on Emerson St. in your Facebook listing, but your YELP listing says, “Emerson Street,” it’s a stumbling block for search engines, and your competitors with consistent NAPS are more likely to be listed above you.
Proofread your listings closely, letter by letter, more than once, paying attention to these subtle differences. Your address needs to be exactly the same on every site.
Below are three address variations that look basically the same to human readers because our brains derive the same meaning from them. But search engines aren’t human, and to them, these are pieces of data that don’t entirely match.
- 520 N West St
- 520 N. West Street
- 520 N. West
Choose whichever type of format you like, but always use it that way—including the period and capitalization—everywhere online. Make it easy for Google, and you make it easier for customers to find you.
3. Decide how you’ll format your phone number
Below are examples of various phone number formats, where consistency is just as important as your name and address for all the same reasons. Again, Google doesn’t care which format you use, as long as it’s consistent across your entire web presence.
- (316) 264-1321
Even correct/ consistent business hours are good for NAP
Minimizing NAP inconsistency
Because your NAP is widely thought to be a key indicator used by search engines to verify that your business is legit, the practice of making it consistent across the web—down to its punctuation—is a standard tool used by SEO marketers. The industry term we use is, unsurprisingly, “NAP Consistency.”
NAP Consistency makes it easier for search engines to use all the websites on which you appear to figure out who you are, what you do, and how people can find and contact you.
NAP is a topic worth discussing with your marketing team, even when you’re just printing business cards, pamphlets, and brochures. Instituting a marketing policy of doing it the same way in all media stresses the importance of consistency, encouraging your team to consult the established format before doing any online marketing. It’s especially important to make this a company policy if more than one person is responsible for your online presence.
Steps for reducing NAP inconsistency:
- Teach and inform all employees about the importance of NAP Consistency.
- Include your company’s approved NAP in your branding bible, along with your logos, company colors, and fonts.
- Task a person with sifting through your company’s websites and social profiles to verify the accuracy and consistency of your NAPs. Then, assign another person to search the web for your company name and verify the accuracy of all the NAPs they find.
NAP (Name Address Phone Number) checklist — increase your visibility online, push traffic to your website, and increase leads:
Now that you know what NAP stands for, why it’s crucial to your marketing efforts, and how to maintain NAP Consistency, you’re ready to apply it as part of your search engine optimization strategy.
To make NAP implementation easy, I created this startup checklist:
NAP implementation checklist
- Determine the exact NAP you’ll use—down to the precise formatting and punctuation.
- Post your NAP on your website
*Make sure it’s visible in your website header and footer
*Include it on your contact page—here’s an example from our website’s contact page:
- Add your NAP to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) registry. This can be done here.
*If you have additional phone numbers or addresses, it’s okay to include these in the BBB’s “additional phone numbers” and “additional addresses” sections, but make sure your main listing is consistent with your chosen NAP format.
- Create a GMB profile, if you don’t have one, and use your NAP in it. You can do this here.
- If you already have a GMB profile, edit it as necessary for NAP Consistency.
- Further improve your SEO results by listing your company on more online directories, which creates additional NAP citations across the web. Here’s a good starter list (but don’t stop here; the more the merrier):
Correcting NAP listing/ citation directories is a good thing. Sometimes using software like MOZ Local or GetLocal is a wise choice. They will save you dozens of hours…
- Local Chamber of Commerce sites
- The Better Business Bureau
- Any additional directories that are specific to your industry
Add/edit your NAP in all your social media profiles, including:
- Google+ (this is a big one!)
Keep the ball rolling
Once your consistent NAP is up and running, mark your calendar to check your NAP citations every three to six months to ensure they’re accurately listed. This consistent multiplicity is what makes NAP optimization effective.
Why are local listings so important?
In our digital world, web searches are often the first exposure that local customers have to your company. NAP Consistency makes it more likely that they’ll find you rather than a competitor. It also fortifies your legitimacy in the eyes of web searchers because, although it’s a small detail, it makes your company look more professional online. When you’re obviously paying attention to your company’s details, it’s an indication that you’ll give customers the same meticulous attention.
How does Google local search work?
Yes, “Big Brother” (Google) is watching us; nothing new there. When a potential customer searches online, Google’s algorithms routinely verify their IP address, which is tied to their physical location. The search engine then favors display results in the searcher’s local area. This digital scrutiny is good for your local because it directs local customers to your company rather than one located a hundred miles away.
The SEO benefits of NAP Consistency go beyond your ranking in the main rows of search results. By implementing a NAP policy, you also assure that your business will appear on Google maps, which is a huge influencer of local searchers. All of this can be accomplished when you register with GMB. Below is an example of a business search result demonstrating how Google favors local businesses and even suggests options.
What if your address is a P.O. Box or virtual address?
Because not everyone who lists a business online is entirely above-board, Google has started cracking down on the use of virtual addresses. In terms of Internet transparency, this is a smart move, as it protects web searchers from potentially fraudulent vendors. (Here’s an article about Google’s new policy.) But it also means that a distinct, unique, physical address is vitally important to your NAP optimization.
Virtual office space is a great deal for small companies in many ways; it can give you more expensive-looking zip code and provide various office services for far less than the cost of renting a unique space of your own. But because Google considers them to be potentially less than legitimate from a search engine standpoint, they’re dropping the digital hammer on them.
The same thing applies if you use a P.O. Box for your GMB address. Because it’s not a verifiable business location, Google will be particularly punitive with your search engine placement. After all, anyone can rent a P.O. Box and Google have no way of confirming that these represent legitimate companies.
And with Google’s new policy, you simply can’t do it anymore. Here’s the excerpt from GMB’s terms and conditions:
“Do not create a page or place your pin marker at a location where the business does not physically exist. P.O. Boxes are not considered physical locations. Your business location should be staffed during its stated hours.”
Virtual offices are not specifically mentioned in the guideline, but in actual practice, Google probably won’t allow a virtual office address to be used. Although there are companies that get away with it, their search results may still suffer, and they are probably in technical violation of policy.
While most companies with virtual addresses are entirely legitimate, the consensus among SEO experts is that it’s only a matter of time before they are investigated and removed.
Virtual Addresses probably have some kind of benefit, but not with NAP and Google. They are not regulated and they have lots of SPAM and other ill intention businesses that use them. Plus you will be sharing a fake address with dozens of other businesses, maybe even with competitors.
How does Google find out about these companies?
GMB is just as susceptible to spam and other types of abuse as any other Search Engine/ Internet-based registry. There are people out there who leverage virtual addresses in order to “game the algorithm.” This all-too-common phenomenon only intensifies Google’s scrutiny of all virtual addresses, which gives them more ammunition for identifying them. If you’re using one on GMB, it’s probably just a matter of time until you’re removed, and possibly banned. It’s not fair to all the real businesses using virtual addresses, but that’s the digital world we live in.
Your name, address, and phone number—plus your business email address, and web address—need to be the same everywhere. Or at the very least, 80 percent consistent. Maintaining NAP consistency most everywhere, especially Google, Facebook, and your website, build credibility with Google because Google cracks down on spam big time. Local SEO is also tied to your reviews, which is why customer rankings in your local area are so powerful.
Back to the customer that I told you about at the beginning of the article. Our customer got away with using a virtual address for a while, but when Google found out, they scrambled the company’s address by changing characters in the GMB listing. From an SEO standpoint, this breaks a lot of stuff and creates a lot of problems because of the NAP rules and algorithms.
Too Busy to Deal with Your NAP?
If you don’t have the time to search the web, check, and update all your NAPs, don’t sweat it. US Logo’s expert digital marketers can collect and correct all your NAP citations, add your NAP to high-impact directories, and keep track of your NAP as it appears on social media. With an expert handling your NAP Consistency, not only will you never have to worry about NAP inconsistency, you’ll rest assured that your online visibility and search engine rankings are improving. Just give them a call at 316-264-1321