Blog Post

Don't Take a Nap on your NAP: Inconsistent Listings Can Put your Local SEO Efforts to Sleep


Why does Google get so hung up about your NAP being consistent? Guest blogger, Carlton Smith of Flagstone Search Marketing, explains.

In Moz’s 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors report, inconsistency in a business’s listed Name, Address, and Phone (NAP) across the web is number 3 on the list of 27 factors that harm your local SEO.

So, why does Google get so hung up about your NAP being consistent?

Imagine Google as your know-it-all next door neighbor, in big plastic glasses and a housecoat with big fluorescent flowers all over. Your toilet has been threatening to clog, and it finally made good on the threat. Now you have a desperate need for a plumber. You go to ask Mrs. Know-It-All.

“A plumber!” she cries. “Of COURSE I can recommend a plumber!” She stomps off to get her purse. Upon return, she opens the purse and proceeds to pull out business card after business card. “I never throw ANY away,” she says proudly. “You never know when you might need them. And see?” she gestured in your direction. “It was good I did!”

But after 10 minutes, when over 1,000 business cards are strewn on her porch, it becomes clear that it may not have been so good. Mrs. Know-It-All was leaning toward recommending Paul’s Plumbing Pros, and was about to hand you the card, when another card caught her eye. “This is also Paul’s Plumbing Pros!” she shouts. “But… the phone number is different.”

Indeed it is. “Well, maybe that was an old phone number,” you suggest. The second card does look like it was designed 25 years ago.

“Maybe… wait! Here’s another one!” Mrs. Know-it-All pulls another Paul’s Plumbing Pros card out of the pile. This one has the same phone number at the first, but an address downtown, not 20 miles out in the suburbs, the way the other two did.

“Hmm… maybe this is from when Paulie tried to be closer to those big office buildings? He thought they would have lots of plumbing issues,” Mrs. Know-it-All wondered aloud.

You’re not wondering. “How about I just take them all and try both numbers…” you say as you reach out for the cards.

Your neighbor snatches them back and stuffs them into her purse. “Absolutely NOT! I can’t give you a recommendation unless I’m perfectly sure you’ll get through to them quickly. Otherwise you’ll never trust me again. That would be DREADFUL!”

Maybe. Maybe not.

Before you can open your mouth to respond, Mrs. Know-it-All glances over the mess with the speed of light and picks up three business cards. Her head rotates back and forth as she scans them all. She relaxes visibly. “Here,” she says as she presses one into your hand. “Peter Piper’s Piping Professionals. You should be able to get through right away. Do you want to use my phone?”

Google wants to provide its searchers with information that will help them as quickly as possible.

Why?

Well, if it doesn’t, you might not trust Google anymore, and you might stop asking it your questions, and then you might not see its ads and click on them. That would be tragic, and must be avoided at all costs - from Google’s standpoint.

To that effect, when you ask Google for a recommendation, it needs to make sure that:

  1. It’s recommending great, trustworthy people and businesses

  2. It’s giving you the right contact information for this business (because when your toilet is overflowing, you don’t want to hear “this number is not in service” or you’re going to get kind of fed up)

Mrs. Know-it-All wasn’t sure she had the right contact information for Paul’s Plumbing Pros because she had three business cards with conflicting information.

Every place your NAP appears on the web - whether it’s on your site, in a directory or mentioned in someone’s blog post - is another business card in Google’s big shiny faux alligator skin purse. If your business cards give conflicting information, that’s a big strike against your chances of being recommended.

Poor Paul will never be able to get at Mrs. Know-it-All’s purse and correct the misinformation she has. BUT...

You CAN clean up your citations on the web. It takes some work, but it’s worth it.

Step 1 - Decide what you want your official NAP to be.

200 S. Main St?

200 South Main St?

200 South Main St, Suite 506?

Little differences do make a difference. Have ONE version.

Step 2 - Make sure ONLY your official NAP is on your website.

I once worked with a client who had one address on their contact page, and another address in the footer on every page of their site. When I asked her about it, she said that was the old address of the office, and the webmaster hadn’t gotten around to changing it yet. When I told her it was important, he got around to it a day or two later.

Step 3 - Use aggregators and Local SEO services to reach the largest number of directories possible.

Many minor directories get their information from big aggregators. Hit the aggregator and you’ve got lots of birds with one well-placed stone.

Examples:

  • Sign up for Moz Local. It costs $84 per business for an entire year, and it will let you run NAP checks and update NAP information in a number of the critical data aggregators, including Acxiom, Neustar, Best of the Web, Infogroup and Factual. It recently introduced direct control of Google My Business through their interface.
  • Another paid service is BrightLocal. They have a citation building and correction service which is free, but limited. They also have a 30-day free trial (no credit card required), so if you want more reporting capability and you work fast…
  • Yext PowerListings is a similar concept, controlling citations on 100+ local networks and platforms, although you have to request a quote to figure out how much it is going to cost your business. You can often get their services through SEO agencies.

Step 4 - Get consistent on the rest of the web.

For the citation sources that aren’t on the aggregators (or that you don’t want to pay for), check how you’re listed using a free tool like Moz Local’s Citation Checkers. Then do Google searches of your business name or address or phone number to see what listings it turns up, and if all the NAP details match. Check out Casey Meroz’s advanced Google search tricks that cut down the number of listings you need to wade though.

Ready? Set? Go local! And play all the right cards into Mrs. Know-it-All’s hands!

About the author:

Carlton Smith is the founder of Flagstone Search Marketing and has been an internet marketing consultant since 2007.

Views, claims and opinions expressed within this blog post are those of the guest author.