If you run a small business, you probably already know about the importance of SEO and local marketing – but how much do you know about NAP? And what even is it?
NAP stands for name, address, phone.
You’re probably thinking: “OK, well I know my business’ name, address and phone number, and it’s on the website. So what?”
The key thing to know is that local search engine results pull your NAP data from everywhere online, and if there are differences – even minor ones – in that data from different sources, it will negatively impact your ability to rank well in local search.
That is why, as far as NAP goes, consistency is absolutely critical. And NAP is critical if you’re going to engage in citation building – a key local marketing strategy which involves gaining mentions/listings (‘citations’) in as many places as possible.
Start with your own business website. It goes without saying that you should have your name, address, and phone number prominently listed – but look at how you have written the name in terms of capitalization or punctuation. Look at how you may have abbreviated the address. Look at the format of your phone number. All of these things must be written in exactly the same way, wherever you use them online.
Although not included in the NAP acronym, your website URL formatting should be presented the same way too.
You might think that’s just plain common sense – but actually, when you think about the numerous places online this information may appear, often input by different people, it’s easy to see how inconsistencies arise.
Let’s look at a made-up example.
Bob Creasy and Sons Pest Control
2531 Hickory Ridge Drive
(702) 784 1285
Creasy & Sons Pest Control
2531 Hickory Ridge Dr.
Bob Creasy & Sons
2531 Hickory Ridge Drive
See how easily that can happen?
If you saw those three examples listed together on business cards or in ads placed next to each other in pre-internet days, you might well think that this was a company that is, at best, confused about its presentation. At worst, you might think its owners were sloppy, and that they therefore do sloppy work – or even that there’s some not quite legitimate about the company itself.
In our online digital world, what you might have thought decades ago about a company unable to get its presentation straight translates exactly into what a search engine thinks about these three differently formatted listings.
So, because customers would place less faith in a company with such inconsistencies, so do search engines.
As a result, the messier your NAP data spread across the internet, the less well you are likely to fare in local search.
How to fix this?
Start by tracking down as many online mentions of your business as you can. A simple google search for your business name is a good start, but you can also try searching for your address or phone number – you’ll turn up a lot of places you never realized you were listed, or that you’ve forgotten about.
Pick a format for your NAP that you want to stick to – and make sure you use that on your main website.
Then start tracking down and amending those other mentions, listings and directories.
If this is too time consuming for you to manually, there are a number of citation tracking tools which will do it for you. Most are not free, but many offer an initial free trial, which you could use to get mostly on top of the problem at the beginning.
Your local search results will thank you for it!