Although many of us could use more sleep, NAP in this context means your Name, Address and Phone information. Pretty basic stuff, but it turns out to be very important in getting your business found on the web. Abbreviations, phone number formatting and other slight differences in your NAP across listing sources can hurt your visibility on the web.
When someone types a search in Google, Bing, Yahoo, or one of the many other search engines, a number of factors determine which results to show and how to order them. The sites returned have to match what the user types in, but if I Google “pizza near Collegeville,” there are 374,000 search results. What gets one business on the first page and another on page 12?
It depends on what you are searching for, but according to Ed Parsons of Google at a recent conference, about 1 in 3 search queries on Google now have local intent. Local search results are ranked somewhat differently than more general searches. I have written before about how important it is to claim your Google Local Page (formerly Places), and that is still one of the highest factors in Google’s local rankings.
Citations are Important for Local Search Results
Local search results from all the search engines also rely heavily on citations to determine which local results to show. A citation is the name of your business along with the address and phone number (NAP) listed on various third-party information providers like Yelp, Superpages.com, YP.com and Express Update USA. Citations can also come from local business directories like the Chamber of Commerce, industry specific directories, or listing your business on local news sites like Patch.com. Citations help establish credibility and validate that your business is part of a local community.
Your Name, Address and Phone are a unique identifier for your business. The search engines rank a business higher when there are more citations that all have consistent information about your business. When there are variations of your business name, address and phone across citations it dilutes the confidence the search engine has in your business. In some cases different variations are considered as different businesses.
Consistency of NAP is Key
Check your listing in the various directories and make sure that the NAP is consistent. Variations like abbreviations, using different phone numbers (800 vs local), or including a suite number on some listings but not others, can all negatively affect your visibility on the web.
You should claim your local listing with Google Local Places, Bing and Yahoo, but also check the following sources and make sure that you are listed and have the proper information in a consistent format for each one.
Claim Your Listings
Here is a list of some of the more widely-used citation sources:
- Urban Spoon and OpenTable (for restaurants)
- Yellow Pages
- Express Update USA (formally infoUSA)
- Trip Advisor
- Dex Knows
- Insider Pages
- Judy’s Book
- Merchant Circle
It can take months for changes to your listing to filter through the web and be reflected in your rankings, so a good time to start is now!
[Photo Credit Flickr: Richard Stowey CC License]