How NAP Affects Local SEO and Why Citation Consistency Is So Important

When your business details aren’t consistent in local directories, this is a disservice to both your customers as well as the Google search engine. When your business details are not correct, your potential customers are not going to be able to find you. Google itself will not rank you correctly in local search results because it can’t get a consistent read on you. This post covers some typical citation errors that plague local businesses and some tips on how to keep your citations consistent.

The Importance of Google+ and Citations for Local Search

When performing a local search, you’ll often get back a page with a Google local map at the top. This map will have a few local businesses pinned to it that provide that product or service relevant to the local search query. All those map pins are Google+ Local Pages (formerly known as Google Places pages). The Google+ Local Page is known as a citation and plays an important role in your local search ranking. Citations help enhance your business’s visibility in Google local search just as links help boost a website’s search presence in SEO. A citation is a mention from another website about your company that includes its name, street address, its phone number and website URL. These citations are the references to your business from sites like Yelp and CitySearch. The key to citations is consistency. When you have multiple sites providing citations that link to the same local address, it helps anchor your business within a specific locale. It helps build trust that you are a local business and establishes that you are who you say you are in the local business community.

Why Citation Consistency is Important

Citation cleanups are important because if you have inconsistencies in your citation profile, that starts confusing search engines like Google and that confusion may cause a loss in your local search rankings (which includes Google My Business, Google Places and Google Maps).

Citation inconsistencies can also end up hurting your brand. Local customers who drive to your location based on an outdated citation are not going to end up at your business. They’re going to be unhappy that you’ve wasted their time and will probably take their business elsewhere. It’s not enough that you have to worry about people leaving negative reviews about your business that you now have people leaving comments under your business listing that they think you’re closed and out of business.

If your business has moved around a few times, you’re going to have many different variations of your business information existing online. This is one of many factors that can leave behind a trail of inconsistent citation details for your business.

Checking Your Citations

You can start by claiming your Google+ page if you haven’t already claimed it. There are many websites out there that you can build citations on, including:

Besides large directories like these, there are also many local and relevant niche directories that may fit your business. If there are relevant industry websites where you can list your business, then add your business profile there as well. Your local chamber of commerce may have a local business directory where you can add a profile. For example, an herbalist can seek out alternative practitioner directories (or even herbalist-specific directories) along with local directories (health-related or not) on which to build their local marketing citation platform. There’s also some really nice tools out there that you can use as you’re building out your citation profile. The most popular tool is the one offered by Moz. After you enter your business name and zip code, Moz searches the Internet for references to your business. It comes back with an analysis of how consistent your citations are based on the NAP fields as well as your website URL.

Getting your business details right is going to boost your credibility and help you rank next to the map that pops up in the Google local search results page. When you’re checking your citations for correctness, you want to aim for data consistency wherever your site is being listed. NAP stands for your business’s name, its address and its phone number. Whatever your Google+ profile name is, make sure that you’re using that same business name across all of your citations as you build them out. Some examples of NAP consistency problems include:

  • Inconsistent addresses owing from suite numbers.
  • Businesses using tracking numbers instead of their main phone number.
  • Businesses who move to a different city and acquire a new phone number.
  • Businesses using inconsistent naming conventions, especially as it relates to disclosing their business’s entity (Corporation vs. Corp. vs. Inc. vs. LLC).

You want to make sure you’re using the same naming conventions throughout all of the websites where you’re building citations.

Work With Sites Directly and Aggregators to Correct Your NAP Details

Sometimes it’s not enough to work with the local citation sites directly to clear up your NAP inconsistencies. Because local directory sites get their citations information from different sources, it can be difficult to track down all your NAP variations. To start correcting these differing business details, you’d go to the aggregators who syndicate your business information to other websites like Yelp. You can locate the contact information for many of these sites to contact them directly about your problem citations. This could be a duplicate profile that needs to be deleted or an incorrect NAP that needs to be fixed. You might have to email them more than once, but the larger sites will usually reply and retract or edit your incorrect listing. You may find you have troubles contacting the smaller sites, but these are less important because they get less traffic and thus less visibility.

It’s important also to work with the aggregators directly to get your disparate citations cleaned up. These data aggregators sell local business information to sites like Yelp, CitySearch and even Google. That’s why you may have a business listing on Yelp even if you haven’t uploaded those details yourself (Yelp is just a popular local business directory that stores citations). Even if you clean up your information on a site by site basis, it might be overwritten by aggregators if they still have your NAP details wrong. One of the most important data aggregators for local business details is InfoGroup.

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