Optimizing your website for search engines? It can be a complicated affair. When you’re trying to get that coveted first page ranking for your website, there are so many different things to consider, and optimization strategies change all of the time.
But the most common SEO problem is also the easiest one to solve. What is it? It’s called NAP, and by the end of this post, you’ll know what NAP stands for and how it affects your search engine ranking. But not only that– I’ll also give you actionable strategies for correcting this SEO mistake right away.
Let’s get started.
What is NAP?
NAP, SEO, SERP, LOL?
With all of the different acronyms floating around the interwebs, it can a full-time job just trying to keep up with them all. And here I am adding yet another acronym to your plate: NAP.
But, next to SEO, NAP is the most important acronym you’ll ever learn when it comes to ranking well in search engine results.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number, specifically for your business.
Why is NAP important for my business?
So, what does any of this have to do with your search engine ranking? Almost everything.
To understand why, let’s take a very brief look at the wonderful world of politics. There’s been a lot of discussion recently on the idea of fake news and how to figure out if a source is legitimate or not. However, humans aren’t the only ones tasked with determining what’s real and what’s phony. Search engines have the exact same problem.
Can you imagine the life of a search engine bot? Tasked with scanning and indexing trillions of websites (with hundreds of thousands more created each day), search engine bots encounter an unfathomable number of scams, shams, and false websites.
Now, can you imagine if the search engine presented these false websites to you when you’re searching for a product or service? You’d start to lose confidence in that search engine, wouldn’t you? And eventually, you’d stop using that search engine altogether.
Search engines want to provide their users with good quality sites that can be trusted. So, it makes sense that search engines promote businesses that they can verify.
And how do search engines verify a business’ legitimacy? You guessed it: By looking for a business name, address, and/ or phone number on your website and on other websites as well (more on this later).
NAP may not be the most exciting topic. And because it’s so simple, a lot of us have a tendency to downplay it or think it doesn’t really impact search engine rankings. But make no mistake: NAP has a tremendous impact on SEO.
NAP isn’t just something that’s nice to have– it’s a critical element to your success. Google relies on your NAP to decide if and how to display your website.
For local businesses, including your NAP is critical. Its presence will improve your ranking in local organic search results. But even if you’re a freelancer or a virtual agency, NAP remains essential and will add legitimacy and weight to your website.
And last, but not least, optimized NAP settings give you an opportunity to make it into Google’s local pack. The local pack is comprised of three listings that top regular search results. Among other cues, Google uses verified NAP information to choose which businesses will get this premium listing. So, having an updated and consistent NAP matters.
Do this to optimize your NAP settings:
Now, let’s talk about how to optimize your NAP settings on your website and beyond to improve your ranking on search engines:
Display your NAP prominently
First things first, include your NAP on your website, and make sure it has prominent placement.
Let’s use this site as an example. If you notice, in the top right of this page is my phone number.
And right there in the footer is the entire NAP: my business name, address, and phone number.
Not only is it on the home page, my business NAP is consistently displayed on all of the pages of this site. Using a footer makes it easy to add my business NAP on every page.
Use your full business name for your NAP
Don’t use your nickname or a shortened version of your name. You need to include your complete name for all of your listings, starting with the footer on your own site. For example, you don’t want “O’Shea and Michaels, LLC” in one place and “O&M LLC” in another location. Your business name should be consistent.
Use your full business address for your NAP
Similarly, you should use the same business address on your website and on your other listings. Choose a standard and use it everywhere. For example, decide if you’ll use “Road” or “Rd”, “Street” or “St”, or “Boulevard” or “Blvd”.
Keep your NAP consistent across your listings
After you’ve created 100% consistency on your website, focus on your efforts on your other listings.
The very first place to start is with Google My Business, which is Google’s local business directory. You need to set up your business on Google’s map. This is a critical step in verifying your business on Google. It can also help boost your search engine ranking.
Ditto for Bing Places for Business.
If you’d like to check your business listing, I recommend Moz Local.
After claiming your business on Google and Bing, focus on creating local citations. Local citations are online mentions of your business’ NAP. The more local citations you can generate, the more credible your business will seem in the eyes of the search engines.
You can accumulate local citations in a variety of ways, primarily by getting listed on local business directories, general web directories (such as Yelp and Yellow Pages), and also social media (Facebook and LinkedIn).
Your name, address, and phone number on other listings should be completely identical to your NAP on your website.
What are the Biggest NAP Mistakes?
The biggest NAP mistakes? There are two that I see quite often: a change in your business name or a change in your address.
As I mentioned earlier, using a nickname or a shortened version of your name can be detrimental for NAP settings. Don’t use different business names for different directories.
Also, if you move offices– and even if you change your website domain and everything else remains the same– make sure that you update your NAP across all your directory listings. It’s a pain, that’s for sure, but it can cause big problems for you when you have multiple addresses out there.
In some cases, these variations may not confuse a human eye, but it will confuse search engines. For search engines, each NAP variation will be considered a new, different entry. And you could be losing an opportunity to legitimize your business with local citations.
Start building your local citations with these resources
How do you gather local citations?
Check out my guide for getting listed in business directories.
Wrapping It Up
If you’re looking for tangible results, start with NAP. NAP is, without a doubt, the most important issue you should address to optimize your site for search engines. Correcting this simple SEO mistake can take you from being totally invisible online to even reaching the summit of visibility– Google’s prized local pack.
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Before you go, here are a few additional resources I know you’ll love: