What are NAP Citations & why are they important for you to outrank your local competitors?
With the amount of acronyms and "guru" SEO speak that gets thrown around these days, it's perfectly understandable for people who are trying to understand the requirements for their business' online presence to feel a little overwhelmed.
For local-oriented businesses, having near-perfect localised SEO is one of the most important aspects to get right. This is because this type of SEO will give you the greatest conversion, as the people who are visiting your site will likely be from the location that you are based, and the location that you're targeting.
For example, if you were a power wash company located in Exeter, Devon, and the majority of your traffic, for whatever reason, was coming from Glasgow, it's unlikely that any of this traffic would ever convert. It’s very unlikely that this scenario would ever occur though.
However, if you own a national business, or planning on expanding into the national market, then the location of the traffic won't matter as much.
What are NAP citations?
NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, Phone Number, although website URL should also be added to the list. NAPs are crucial for businesses who are wanting to rank highly on local search engine results, as search engines, like Google, take this type of data into account when deciding which businesses they should show for geo-targeted search queries.
Why are NAP citations so important for local SEO?
It's widely believed that search engines will cross reference NAP data that is listed on your website or social media profiles, with data that is found on other sites, like blogs and directories. It's thought that this process helps to legitimise the business, as fake companies are unlikely to have a physical address listed, or even have consistent NAP data on the large directories.
Although consistency is the highest priority, spelling and formatting is also something that should be considered. As an example, if your company name has "Limited" in it, always write it as Limited, and never Ltd, or something similar. Sure, it means the same, but search engines are algorithms and don't have the same processing capability as humans. When all of your NAPs are consistent, all of the data that's present on your online profiles and directory entries will be exact-match and will help the search engines to understand what your business is, and what demographic it serves.
On the other hand, if your NAP information is inconsistent, then the search engines aren't going to be certain which information is correct, and which should be prioritised. Conflicting information reduces confidence and trust with these algorithms, which in turn, will mean that the search engines will favour other listings that have a more substantial presence.
Every time your correct NAP information is listed on another website, it will boost your business's credibility, which will help you to rank better for relevant search queries. Basically, for local SEO, the only way to hit that rank 1, page 1 spot, excluding all other factors that should be taken into account when ranking a website, is to have lots of well constructed and relevant NAP citations.
What types of NAP citations are there?
Although all citations are useful, being listed on different types of directories can be advantageous for telling the search engines about your niche and location.
NAP citations can be found in three different types of directories:
These directories are usually not the most powerful, in terms of SEO strength, but they are just as important as any other. These directories will be specific to the city, county or region that your business resides in, and will help to confirm your geo-location to the search engines because only businesses in the specific area will be allowed to be listed.
As an example, here is one for businesses in Somerset: isomerset.co.uk. As you can see, you have to have a physical location to be able to add yourself to the directory. Therefore, these type of citations definitely help to confirm your location, alongside the bigger nation websites.
National directories are the websites that are mainly used for citations, over the other options, and arguably give the biggest boost.
For the UK, some of the biggest and most commonly used ones are Google My Business, Bing Places, Apple Maps, 118, and Scoot. The first three are global directories, and the last two are specific to the UK.
Industry directories are usually limited to regional listings, and will specialise in a specific niche. As an example: http://www.securityplace.co.uk/security-companies - this website lists security companies within the UK. These directories are sometimes difficult to find, depending on the niche of your company or business, but if there is one that applies to you, they are definitely worth pursuing.
Adding citations together
SEO is a complicated system, and there is no one right answer, but there are certainly a lot of wrong answers. Local SEO works a little differently to regular SEO, as it takes citations into account, as well as all of the other criteria associated with ranking a website.
Concerning the three directory types we have listed above, you can really boost your online presence by utilising every one of them, pushing yourself higher than websites who have completely disregarded local SEO altogether.
Consider this; a search engine is trying to determine what business should be in the number one position for the term "landscape gardener in Bridgewater", and it's trying to decide between two websites, both of which have a decent online presence. The first website has great content, with near-perfect onsite SEO and a decent backlink portfolio. However, the other website has numerous citations. They have citations in 30 of the larger national directories, as well as a listing on a Somerset specific directory, and even have a listing on a gardening and agricultural directory. They also have a couple of reviews on Facebook and Google. Which do you think should take the top spot? The second website, theoretically. The first website would do well to rank for non-geographic keywords, or even for regional keywords perhaps, but the second website should dominate niche related local search queries every time.
Creating the perfect NAP citation
There is no secret formula to creating the perfect citation, as the most important thing is that they all match, as variations can be detrimental to ranking placement. However, the following information should be including:
- Your Name - Your name as it appears on all documents and business registration forms
- Email Address - The formal email address for correspondence.
- Company Name - Make sure that there are no variations to your company name, like Ltd over Limited. Choose one and stick to it.
- Address - The exact address as it appears on your mail.
- Suite or Floor Number - If there is one.
- City - The exact city name, without using any nicknames.
- County or State- The county the company resides in.
- Postcode or Zip - The postcode of the company.
- Phone Number - Be sure to only ever use the local variation of your phone number. Never add international codes and other such variations.
- Landing page for the location - If your business has multiple locations, have a landing page specific to the location you're building the citation for.
Consistency is key
Having exact match NAPs listed on respected websites will give you a favourable look in the eyes of Google. This is because association websites and Chamber of Commerce websites are almost impossible to get on with fake information. If your information is on these sites, it's even more important to make sure that you list your NAP information the same way as it's listed on Chamber of Commerce, for instance, as it's a great deal of hassle to get that information changed.
Consistent phone numbers are often something that's overlooked, which can be a real problem, as they are incredibly important. If search engines are scraping multiple phone numbers related to your business, it will trigger red flags without a doubt. It's common for businesses to do something called "call tracking", in which they will make several landing pages or citations with different phone numbers, so they can see which citation or landing page is performing better. From a business perspective this seems like a clever idea, but regarding SEO and search engine algorithms, it can be disastrous.
If you are doing call tracking by using landing pages, all is not lost. You can add a code to your page, known as a "no-index" code, which will tell search engine crawl bots not to index your page into their search engine database. You won't be able to do this for citations though, as you won't have access to the directories website coding. The best practice is to scrap doing call tracking altogether and to just focus on providing your potential customers with one phone number, as the risks associated with getting multiple numbers indexed are not worth the minimal statistical data you'd get from knowing which landing page your customer received the phone number from.
Wrapping up NAPs
NAPs, in theory, are incredibly simple and you do not need to be a SEO guru to make them. They are just a small amount of basic information about the location of your business that are referenced on a third party website - most commonly a directory based website. However, they can often be easily created incorrectly which has a knock on effect to your overal rankings, so it's paramount that you make sure that you're creating them perfectly, or have a professional create them for you if in doubt.