NAP and Citation Consistency at the Heart of Local Search Ranking - How to Rank Better on Local Search Engines
Maintaining up to date information about your business on listing websites sounds important, but did you realize that it could be a major part of maintaining a good search engine ranking?
Your Business's Website May Be Overlooking One HUGE SEO Error
By this point in your business's lifespan you've probably begun to learn about the importance of SEO or "Search Engine Optimization." You've at least heard the term thrown around on occasion in one article or another. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, let's catch you up to speed quickly. An "optimized" website is one which meets a specific set of criteria search engines use to decide which websites are placed near the top of the search results. If you've ever typed keywords about your business type and location in a search bar and could not find your business's website it's probably because your website isn't optimized to these standards.
If you are familiar with SEO best practices at all, you might know that it is important to use keywords on your website and in your page headers. You probably know that the names you give your pages and the articles on your business's blog affect how visible you are in the internet marketplace.
You may have read our post about how online reviews affect SEO and followed our advice for getting good reviews to boost your company's reputation as well as your search engine ranking. You may have even enlisted some of the advice we've given along the way on our posts about SEO in general. You might think that, thanks to the few SEO techniques you've taken on when working on your website and your blog, you've done all you can to drive traffic to your website (and ultimately your business). Guess again.
There is one HUGE wasted SEO-related opportunity your business may be overlooking: Citation and NAP Consistency.
The Rise of Local Search Engines
You may not have guessed it, but citation and NAP consistency are actually two key ingredients to your local search engine rank and they aren't just going to affect your general search engine ranking, they will even affect your ranking on specialty searches such as Google+ Local. Unless you operate fully as a web-centered business you need to take advantage of local searches like Google+ Local to ensure that the people who are actually in the vicinity of your business are able to locate you (preferably before they locate similar businesses in the region).
A recent study conducted by the staff at SearchEngineLand.com shows just how important other businesses and search consultants believe these services are for the operation of small local businesses. They found that 64% of respondents believed that Google+ Local (as an example) has a good or excellent return on investment. Harnessing this type of return could be a key part of setting your business apart from similar businesses in your local area. Even if you don't have a lot of direct competition, these kinds of services can drive more business to your door by bringing in tourists and newcomers. Getting this type of return, though, relies heavily on your website's citation and NAP consistency.
Why Citation and NAP Consistency Are Important for Local Search Engines
More and more people are turning to specialized searches like these instead of just typing a business category and location into a standard search bar, because they know that they are bound to get more accurate results - provided, of course, that the businesses using those search services have entered accurate information.
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone number. Search engines use this information to decide which categories you fall into when people search for you using basic searches and, most importantly, when they use local searches. Just like the way relevant and proper use of keywords gets you inched up the search results for topic searches, accurate NAP information gets you placed closer to the top of a local search.
Citations, in this instance, refers to other places where your business is described, for example in your advertisement listings on other websites, your Yellow Pages business profile, government business listings, or your Facebook page. Since search engines rely on computer programs and algorithms to do most of the work, they crawl the internet looking for information about your business when deciding your search ranking. To determine how reputable your business is they check those web citations against your own website's NAP information for consistency. The more mismatches they find the further down the search result you fall.
In that recent study by SearchEngineLand.com search consultants with experience working with a total of over 3000 small businesses reported that the largest problem they found on their clients' websites were inconsistent citations and NAPs.
So, the moral of the story? It is important to stay on top of all of your business listings across the web to ensure that your information is accurate and up-to-date at all times if you want to guarantee the best search listing for your company.