There are a lot of moving parts in local SEO. However, NAP is the one that frequently pops up during discussions on local search engine optimization.
One of the primary SEO goals of local businesses is to appear and rank higher on the ‘maps’ section of Google and other search engines. And one of the most effective ways of achieving that goal is to create NAP consistency across the internet.
In this post, we take a look at NAP, NAP consistency, the importance of NAP consistency, and what you can do to improve NAP consistency across the web.
What is NAP?
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone of the business. Google uses this set of information to identify, index, and rank a business.
It is important to understand that one of the local search engine ranking factors is Google fetching NAP data from your Google My Business (GMB) profile and then comparing the NAP data with different sources on the web.
That is where NAP consistency comes into play.
What is NAP consistency?
NAP consistency refers to the practice of keeping the Name, Address, and Phone number of your location-based business accurate and same across all the business listings, social media profiles, blog posts, web pages, and local directories across the internet.
Think of it as making it easier for Google to connect the dots.
If the citations on the internet — the name, phone number, and address of your location-based business — are different, Google may not be able to connect that they are all just referring to your business.
NAP consistency is one of the fundamentals of local SEO. If you do not have consistent local citations on the internet, that is probably one of the first places you should start.
While we are talking about local citations, it is important to quickly explain what they mean.
Citations are one of the local search engine ranking factors. Citations are different from backlinks, as citations refer to any mention of a business’s name, phone number, and address (NAP) across the web. Those mentions do not necessarily have to create a link back to the business’s website.
Business mentions in local business directories, government websites, business association websites, social media, etc., are all examples of local citations.
To ensure NAP consistency, it is imperative to make sure that citations are consistent and accurate across the web.
The importance of NAP consistency
To understand why NAP consistency is so important, you need to think about it from Google’s perspective.
What is Google’s number one goal to ensure market dominance and high user engagement?
It’s to ensure that they provide the best possible results to their search engine users. According to Google, “our goal is always to provide you with the most useful and relevant information.” That is part of their mission statement.
Suppose the NAP information for a location-based is not accurate. This directly affects the user experience. On the other hand, consistent citations and accurate information across the web indicate that the business is not only easier to find, but it also cares about the search users enough to provide them with the right information.
Because citations and NAP consistency are important local search engine ranking factors, Google uses them to decide which websites to rank on the first page and which to relegate to subsequent search engine results pages.
For Google, user experience matters the most. Any website that makes it possible for users to have the best possible experience will gain Google’s favor in the form of higher search engine rankings. According to a study, 73 percent of customers lose trust in a local business with inaccurate business listings.
Is 100% accuracy mandatory?
It may feel overwhelming and practically impossible to ensure that every local citation across the web is 100% accurate.
The good news is that it does not have to be. Google’s John Mueller once implied that the phone number formatting does not have to be exactly the same. It is normal to have slight variations. In addition, there is a consensus that suite numbers may not be a part of NAP consistency, but it’s good to have them if you can.
Common NAP consistency and citations issues and how to resolve them
Here are a few tips for local businesses to identify and resolve common local citation issues to ensure NAP consistency:
- If you are changing phone numbers or the name or address of your business, make a note to search for and update all citations across the web: business directories, social media profiles, blog posts, etc.
- Avoid duplicate listings. One business should not have multiple business listings as they may confuse search engines as well as search engine users.
- Make sure that your business does not have unfinished citations.
- Make sure that your business does not have any unclaimed citations.
- Make sure that your business information is available in a human-readable and indexable format on your site’s web pages. It is a good idea to have the NAP appear in the footer section so it appears on all pages on your site.
- Use NAP information in local schema markup so it may appear in rich snippets.
- Abbreviations are tempting, but make sure to avoid abbreviations while you are referring to your business on the internet.
NAP consistency is a key ingredient of local search engine optimization. It is one of the more important local search engine ranking factors that Google and other search engines evaluate when they are ranking local businesses on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
When you create a Google My Business listing, we highly recommend that you align on how your business should be referred to on the web. Take a decision on the following:
- Whether or not you will use abbreviations when mentioning the business address
- If you will use the full name of your business or the name that your business is most familiar with.
- Which phone number are you going to use on the internet?
- The spelling and formatting in the NAP.
This will ensure that you keep NAP as consistent as practically possible across the web. After that, just make sure to keep your NAP updated if you make any changes — for example, updating phone numbers or old addresses if you change locations.
It is the goal of every local business to appear higher on the SERPs, and ensuring NAP consistency is one of the most important steps you can take to achieve that goal.