NAP Consistency refers to the accuracy of a location-based business’s Name, Address, and Phone number across all business listings, local directories, social media profiles, and websites. It is widely considered a search ranking factor for local SEO. Don’t forget about your homepage URL as well as this is the most important element to keep consistent.
NAP consistency should be seen as a foundational local search engine optimization strategy. It’s really just common sense marketing. Think of it as “table stakes,” or the minimum requirements to play in the local search game. If you don’t have any citations or they are inconsistent across the web, it’s the first place to start.
What are local citations?
Any mention of a business’s name and contact information on the Internet is a local citation. Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors established “Citation Signals” as the #5 general “Local Pack Ranking Factor.” These include sites like directories, chamber of commerce mentions, social media and other business association pages that list business information. Citations do not necessarily have to link back to your site to provide search engines with positive signals regarding your business. Consistent data across your business listings is a crucial signal to Google and Bing that your business is legitimate.
Start listing your business with the major players: Google My Business, Bing Places, and Apple Maps Connect. Once you have consistency, start building additional citations on your social media pages and other local directories.
Why is NAP consistency important?
Google considers a focus on the user one of its main missions: “Our goal is always to provide you the most useful and relevant information.” Algorithms have to sort all the information on the Internet, so Google and other search engines use many types of ranking signals to determine the most relevant results for their users’ queries.
There are many types of factors that rank websites in the top of search engine results and relegate others to the second page. For search results that return local business results, citations are one of the most important signals to Google and Bing that your business is authentic and the information it could serve to users is accurate. Local business citations with major inconsistencies are given a demerit of sorts in search engine’s set of ranking signals. Businesses with consistent Name, Address, and Phone number data around the web are ranked higher because, to search engines, consistent citations mean your business cares about providing searchers with the right information.
The same concept can be applied to people looking for information about a business. If you were trying to contact a business and found online listings inconsistent with an old phone number, or multiple old addresses listed for a business it would be a bad experience. You might think a company who doesn’t bother to update their contact information isn’t trustworthy enough to handle your business either. In fact, 73% of users lose trust in a brand if their business listing contains inaccurate data. The best businesses stay on top of their online presence by keeping all their directory listings up-to-date.
Just how consistent does NAP have to be?
Don’t believe the myth that all NAP citations must have every character, space, and dash be perfectly the same. Google representative John Mueller has implied that phone number formatting doesn’t have to be exact in every citation. Mike Blumenthal, local search expert, has talked about Google’s ability to “normalize” local citation data with regard to slight variations in common abbreviations and formats. This goes for suite numbers too. Local SEO expert, Darren Shaw of WhiteSpark says that suite numbers do not matter for consistency, but you should add them to help your customers find you.
Doesn’t matter. Google doesn’t factor the suite number into the consistency question. They consider it for display purposes only.
— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) August 10, 2017
In the 2018 Moz study on local ranking factors, citation consistency and quantity (from aggregators and Tier 2 and 3 citation sources) was mentioned in the “top 10 Factors Experts Are Focusing on Less in the Past Year.” It’s still important to be consistent, but SEO experts are seeing less of an impact from focusing on cleanup of 2nd tier citation sites.
The takeaway here is to do your absolute best to maintain a consistent business name, address, telephone number and URL in online listings, but don’t stress out too much about slight variations, the search engine can figure it out. That said, do what’s best for your potential customers, make sure it’s easy to find you and conform to a consistent format across all listings as much as possible.
Your local search rankings are not impacted if one citation says “Ave” instead of “Avenue” or even if a suite number is missing or formatted differently. If you still have issues with search rankings after your core search listings, social media and relevant local listings are consistent, there are bigger factors to look at like search engine accessibility of your site, the content you publish and your backlink profile. Watch out for “snake oil” SEO salesmen who promise to fix all your woes by adding you to thousands of (low quality) directories or scare tactics
Above all, make sure you your citations are correct, and if you do make a change, put the effort in to update contact info everywhere a potential customer might find it.
What are common local citation issues that come up?
NAP consistency across local citations is a crucial SEO factor for many small, local businesses. It seems like this should be easy, but there are a few ways that local business listings can become inconsistent and impact search visibility.
- Incorrect information in a citation. This can be from changing your phone number or address without updating directory listings, inheriting someone else’s old phone number, or pushing incorrect information through data aggregators. If the local citations have incorrect business information, search engines receive mixed signals. This digital confusion leads Google and Bing to potentially rank your local business lower than others who have all the consistent information listed.
- Multiple listings for the same business across the same directory.. With this scenario, search engines can see your duplicate listings (or “dupes”) as misleading and not know which one to trust or rank. Users will also be confused–not knowing which listing to leave reviews under and perhaps even getting incorrect information from an outdated dupe. Multiple listings with bad data could also be sourced as originals, and duplicated across other platforms on the web–leaving you in an even bigger citation mess.
- Unclaimed and unfinished citations can also hurt your local business rankings. To give Google and Bing the most correct data to work with, it’s important to claim your local business citations and complete every field with the correct information.
Does call tracking affect NAP consistency?
CallRail’s Advanced Guide to Local SEO, DNI, & NAP Consistency demonstrates how local businesses can successfully track their calls without affecting NAP. In this article, Mark Sullivan recommends a few methods for maintaining NAP, including one to “port the existing business’s phone number.” With the porting method, there’s no need to go around the web updating information on local directories. An additional method, that can be used in conjunction, is to setup Dynamic Number Insertion on your website. This will show your website visitors a unique phone number on your website tied to their session data including which website they came from (referral site).
If your digital marketing plan involves unique tracking phone numbers for each citation, as is done by some agencies who don’t know better, call tracking numbers can pollute a business’s NAP consistency.
With Google My Business, you can use a unique call tracking number as the “primary phone” and maintain NAP consistency by using your main line number (used in every other citation) as the “additional phone”. This type of setup will help you track phone calls from your GMB listing. Check out Darren Shaw’s article on how to use a call tracking number with Google My Business.
It’s important to find a call tracking provider that can walk you through how to maintain the integrity of your business citations..