Local Citations Tips Local SEO

When it comes to SEO and ranking efforts, local businesses face an array of do and don’t guidelines on pretty much every single text, picture, and video facet associated with their website. A single wrong step can destroy your online marketing strategy, making it a daunting process for any business. However, one of the most common missteps might be in the most basic, simple, and fundamentally important facet of your brand – your NAP.

Local business owners face a multifaceted problem if their NAP is listed inaccurate and/or inconsistent across the web:

1. Customers with a vague idea of who you are have difficulty finding and/or distinguishing you.

2. It keeps random potential customers from seeing you.

3. It tarnishes your brand as inconsistent and a potentially unreliable source.

4. Ranking in local search ultimately suffers.

What Is NAP?

NAP is an acronym for your business’s name, address, and phone. NAPW, or NAP+W, is used when your info includes your business’s web address. Your NAP is like your online identification signature that (as a combo) can be compared to the business version of a Social Security number. In other words, the unique combo tells everyone you are who you are.

Most likely, your NAP is already listed on hundreds to thousands of various websites and apps where you, supporters, or data gatherers have marketed, referenced, listed, or otherwise keyed in your info. These info listings are called citations.

Search engines pick up these citations as checkmarks toward your business being search-reliable, meaning they use them as a local search ranking factor.

Bad NAP

Most small business owners are surprised at how prevalent NAP problems are and how severely they affect ranking.

BrightLocal’s InsideLocal Webinar Series recently listed the most common local business search ranking issues, and guess what was number one? Yep, NAP citation inconsistencies. Duplicate business listings, optimization, poor links, and Google violations rounded out the top five.

As far as search engines are concerned, they often pick up incorrect and inconsistent NAP as referring to two separate businesses. When this happens, all the checkmarks are split up vs working together to increase rank. Search engines may also view inconsistent/inaccurate NAPs as businesses that can’t be relied upon to provide searchers with accurate results. Either way, the result for the business is the same – a lower rank.

It’s imperative that all local citations are submitted exactly identical every single time the info is listed.

Good NAP+W

Your NAP should look like this:

Local NAP Format:
(Business Name)
(Address)
(Phone)
(Website)

1. (Business Name)

• The business name should be spelled and grammatically the same every single place it appears. That means if your business’s name is “Tutti-Frutti” … it shouldn’t ever appear as TuttiFruity, Tutti-frutti, Tutti-fruity, or any other grammatical/spelling deviation.

• The business name should be congruent across all portals – business cards, emails, website, physical location, phone book, marketing materials, stationary, etc.

• Avoid superfluous information – tag-lines, legal terms (INC and LLC,) locations, and listing out services.

2. (Address)

• Use your real world physical location address. Even if you’re a subcontractor or freelancer, you need a unique address that’s strictly and exclusively associated with your business.

•Avoid P.O Box addresses. Don’t use local-only streets that can’t be validated because they aren’t on a map.

•Ensure the address is properly formatted.

3. (Phone)

• Use properly formatted local phone number(s) corresponding to the address(es) you have listed.

• Avoid toll free numbers, marketing tracking numbers, and call center numbers. Search engines will have difficulty validating your geographic location in ranking you locally.

4. (Website)

• Businesses with a single location should always use their home page in citations.

• Multi-location businesses should use the webpage with a corresponding location applicable to each listing.

• Be consistent in how you list the website, such as whether or not you use www.

Perform Updates Across The Web To Ensure Accurate NAP

Once you determine what your NAP should look like, you’ll need to spend the time to ensure that your NAP is listed exactly the same anywhere and everywhere it already appears. Start with the major players, such as:

• Your own website

• Better Business Bureau

• Google My Business

• Social media

• Local Chamber Of Commerce

• Secretary of State filing

• Various data group providers

• Various listing services

Keep in mind that, depending on how established your business is on the web, this is a process that can take weeks to months to accomplish and for the changes to be reflected. If it’s in your budget, there are agencies that provide NAP consistency services. Also remember to periodically do maintenance checks to ensure new listings remain consistent and accurate.