If you are a local business, local SEO will help increase your visibility in Google. This, in turn, can lead to more enquiries, visitors to your location, or bookings. There are lots of things to get right with local SEO, but one of the most important is your name, address, and phone number, or NAP.
To understand just how crucial NAPs are, think about when you have previously searched on Google for local businesses. Do you recall seeing details of businesses that don’t even have websites? That is quite common, and NAPs play an important role.
The name, address, and phone number of your business appear in multiple places across the web. These are known as citations, i.e., mentions of your business that don’t include a link to your website.
A primary example is the contact page of your own site. There are loads of other examples, including social media channels, directories, mentions in local news articles, and mentions in events.
With NAPs, Consistency Is Essential
The most important thing to remember with NAPs is that every mention of your business name, address, and phone number must be the same. There must be complete consistency.
Achieving this consistency means getting into the fine details. Here are some examples of what this means:
- Don’t swap between “&” and “and” in your business name. Pick one and stick with it.
- Don’t vary how you write your phone number, including the usage of international dialling code and how you group the various digits. Instead, decide on the best approach, and make that consistent.
- In your address, don’t swap between “Road” and “Rd” or “Street” and “St”. Instead, use the same one all the time.
It’s Not Just Name, Address, and Phone Number
You can even extend the strive for consistency further to other forms of citation that can help with local SEO. These citations are not as important as name, address, and phone number, but they can still help. Examples include business category, email address, and alternative phone numbers.
Importance of NAP to Local SEO
Understanding NAPs and the requirement for consistency is important, but where does local SEO come in. Consistent NAPs are crucial for two reasons:
- User experience
- Search engines
NAP Consistency and Its Importance for Users
Potential customers are likely to encounter your business multiple times on the internet before they start to fully engage with your brand or make a purchase. By having inconsistent NAPs, you risk confusing those potential customers.
This can have real-world consequences, i.e., you can lose sales. In SEO, confusion because of inconsistent NAPs results in a poor user experience, something of which you should work hard to avoid.
Remember, you should never make assumptions about how users will find your business online. You might believe it is through your website or social media channels, but there are numerous routes that potential customers can take. Having consistent NAPs helps with all these journeys.
Search Engines and NAPs
User experience is important to search engines, and they work hard to determine whether your website provides a good experience.
Search engines must also have confidence in the information they are analysing. So, if Google is unsure whether two listings are the same company because the NAPs are different, it may not make the connection. This can negatively impact how your business appears on local search results.
How to Improve Your NAP Profile
Improving the NAP profile of your business will improve your local SEO. The starting point should be your own website, followed by other channels you control, such as your social media channels.
On your website, make sure NAP information is displayed in a prominent location. Your contact page is a good example. Also, make sure the NAP information is in text format rather than an image.
If you have NAP information on other parts of your site, such as your phone number, make sure there is consistency.
Your Google My Business listing is important too. If you find inconsistencies, update the information. If you haven’t started using Google My Business yet, now is the ideal time to start. Your website and your Google My Business listing are two of the best ways you can send NAP signals to Google so it knows who you are.
You will need to claim your business if you haven’t used Google My Business before and then go through the setup and verification process. When claiming your business, you might find there are multiple listings. If you do, suggest to Google to remove the duplicate listings.
There are then three other steps you should take to improve your NAP profile:
- Search for your business in directories to check the information. These are the directories where you know your business is listed. You should update any inaccuracies in these listings and remove any duplicates you find.
- Search for your NAPs in Google to check for consistency. This means searching for your business name and scrolling through the search results pages to see where the name is mentioned on the internet. If there are inconsistencies in how your business name is displayed, do what you can to correct them. You should then do the same for your phone number and address.
- Keep a list of NAP locations that you have checked, updated, or removed. You will need this list if details of your business change in the future, such as moving to a new location.
Staying On Top of NAPs
There are key moments in your business when NAP inconsistencies can arise. A good example is mentioned above, where your business moves location. In these situations, you will need to go through a methodical process to ensure ongoing NAP consistency.
Keeping your NAPs consistent is not a one-off job, however, as there are so many ways information on your business can get onto the internet. Instead, you need to be proactive, regularly reviewing how your name, address, and phone number are displayed online and taking steps to update them. The strength of your local SEO depends on it.