Why Online Citations and NAPs are So Important to SEO
What's in a name? Well, a lot is in a name, especially when it's attached to an address and phone number online. Search engines place a lot of importance on names, and addresses and phone numbers listed online for bricks and mortar businesses. And here is why.
Your Business NAP is Important to Google!
Google, BING and Yahoo want to make sure that the address you are listing for your business online is legitimate because a lot depends on showing good quality search results for location-based keyword searches.
The search engines take into account business 'citations.' Citations refer to any reference to your business name and address on other websites, blogs, social media channels, etc. even if this doesn't include a link back to your website.
The acronym NAP defined: Name, Address, Place
If your name, address and phone number, or NAP, is consistent across a variety of online sources search engines have more confidence in knowing that your listed real physical location is "real". So citations and NAPs are important search engine optimization considerations.
Your Physical Address & Local Search Results
Let's use the example of a Vancouver dentist. If you want to be listed as a Vancouver dentist Google will take into account the physical centre of the city. If your dental office is located near what Google regards as the city centre you will often have a better chance up showing up for searches involving location-based keyword searches such as "Vancouver dentist" or "dentist in Vancouver"; especially compared to other dental offices physically located further away from the city centre. That's right! Your physical location can have a significant impact on local search results.
Search engines look for more than the physical address listed on your website. You have full control over NAP on your own website. You may be listing your location correctly but you could also be listing an incorrect address to potentially manipulate search engines. The search engines have this figured out. They are going to do what it takes to verify that the address listed on your website is, in fact, the correct physical address of your business. Google, BING, etc have actually built in the quantity and consistency of online citations and NAPs into their search algorithms.
Consistent NAPs are the Key
Having consistent NAP's listed on series of respected websites can score huge points with Google et al. Here are some examples of sites that Google typically regards as respected, authoritative websites:
- Chamber of Commerce websites,
- industry or association sites (e.g being listed on a dental association website for a dental office)
- government or education websites.
Use Online Tools to Verify Your Citations & NAPs
There are online tools that do a great job listing all of your NAP citations. Whitespark's citation finder tool is one such tool and it's pretty easy to use. Enter some location data into their citation finder tool and you will get back a list of citations pertaining to the entered business and location.
Once you get the data back from a tool like Whitespark check the consistency of NAPs. If there are websites that don't have your correct business name, address and/or phone number then you have some work to do. You should get started on reaching out to these sites or getting site access to update your citation.
Take the term 'consistency' very literally. Spelling mistakes or even small inconsistencies in your business name can have an impact on your local search rankings. If your location is listed as Road on one website and as Street on another website correcting this will be helpful.
Last But NOT Least... Your Business Phone Number
Consistent phone numbers can also be extremely important for strong local search rankings. If search engines are finding multiple phone numbers for your business location this can trigger red flags with search engine algorithms. Sometimes businesses will use a variety of phone numbers in different online locations for "call tracking". This might seem like a good idea but it can wreck havoc with your local search results. If the search engines can index various phone numbers as HTML text you potentially have a problem. For local search results it's always best to go with one phone number that is indexed by search engines whenever possible.
Cautions About Using Call Tracking Numbers Online
If you are using different call tracking phone numbers online you should strongly consider adding programming that tells search engines not to index these pages in their search results. This is most often referred to as "no-index" code.
Another option is to list call tracking phone numbers as an image and not index-able HTML text. If you do this make sure the phone number isn't listed on the images "alt" text.
Some of the top SEOs that I deal with regularly are quite adamant that you should never use call tracking numbers online. They argue that using various call-tracking numbers online is too risky. So they highly recommend that you don't use them… anywhere. Period. End of story!
Wrapping Up Citations and NAPs
It's pretty simple. There really is a lot in a name… and an address… and a phone number when it comes to your business and local search. If you want better local search results pay attention to your business citation and NAP's and focus on consistency.
P.S. Don't Forget Your Google+ Page
Google also takes into consideration the verified address on your Google+ page. You have verified your business address on your Google+ page… haven't you? If not you better get to it sooner than later.
In order to do this, you list a physical address with your G+ profile, then request verification from Google. Google sends you a post card with a PIN number to your listed address. Once you receive the postcard you go to your G+ page, enter the PIN and you are verified.
By the way, Google won't accept post office box addresses so do what it takes to get a physical address for your business.