In the days before Google, local businesses lived and died by their discoverability in the phone book. If your small business was not listed in the Yellow Pages, you simply would not survive. Although the world has shifted toward digital directories and web-based local search, being listed in the right places is still critical to success and growth.
In fact, due to the amount of time consumers spend online researching and reviewing their experiences, having your business properly listed online may be even more important than a phone book listing was 30 years ago.
Online directory listings are now a powerful search engine optimization (SEO) tool that can be crucial to growth. Big search engines like Google also place great importance on accuracy in order to maintain consumer trust, so it is very important to ensure consistent company information across the web for optimal results.
A Breakdown of Online Directories & Local Search
Online directories are collections of business listings where potential customers can search for a specific type of business or service. Search engines refer to these directories when they crawl the web for search results, so it is vital to be listed on as many directories as possible. To get started, make sure your business is listed on at least the following directories below:
- Google My Business
- Bing Places
- Better Business Bureau
Local search, on the other hand, is a targeted search that limits the results to only the current location surrounding the user. (You may also know this type of search as a “near me” search.) If your business has a brick-and-mortar location, your goal should be to stay within the top three search results for maximum visibility, especially when it comes to new customers. These are also the results most often displayed in Google’s Map Pack, or small list of local results shown pinned to a local map at the top of the results page.
What is NAP and Why Does it Matter for SEO?
NAP may be an intimidating-sounding acronym, but it is actually a pretty simple concept. NAP stands for:
- Phone Number
NAP consistency is the practice of ensuring that your business’s name, address and phone number are exactly the same across the online space - meaning all online directories.
As mentioned before, trust is of paramount importance to search engines like Google because it guarantees their continued user base. Consumers who are repeatedly directed to businesses that have moved or are permanently closed will lose trust in the search engines they use, ultimately leaving the platform in search of a more reliable alternative.
Because trust is so vital to Google, businesses lacking NAP consistency are their worst enemy. In terms of SEO, this means that businesses with high NAP consistency are given better rankings and will show up toward the top of the search results more often, while low NAP consistency will cause Google to bury that business’s listings below those of other similar, more consistent businesses.
Here’s an example: if your law firm has changed its office location, but you have only updated the new address on your website and not on Google My Business or Facebook, Google will purposely drop your business to a lower position, potentially knocking you off the first page.
For local businesses, the SEO boost resulting from consistent NAP can also mean snagging a coveted spot in Google’s Map Pack. For a local business, getting listed in the Map Pack should be a primary goal, as it allows consumers to directly navigate to your business from their search.
4 Tips to Getting Started with NAP Consistency
If the concept of NAP is completely new to you or you’re looking to boost your local rankings, here are some helpful tips:
- List your business’s full name, current address and current phone as text on your website.
- Audit your current listings and submit listings to all other available directories. This may include additional industry-specific directories not listed in this article, so be sure to do your research.
- Ensure that your information is consistent and as close to identical as possible on every directory.
- This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is vital to consistently use the same business name.
Online Directory Consistency = SEO Power
If you have not given much thought to the consistency of your business’s NAP information across various online directories, you are not alone. Many businesses simply add their listing to one or two directories at a time, based on customer suggestion or current marketing strategy. But these online directories are vital to the continued growth of your business due to their SEO power, and therefore require a second look. Perform an inventory, increase your NAP consistency and watch your business climb to the top of search results where it belongs!