NAP Analysis: Citation Consistency Tips for Local SEO

What is a Company NAP?
NAP means Name , Address , Telephone number. Essentially, it’s your web based stuff. How your NAP appears on the web will affect your ranking of organic search results and significantly influence where you rank in the results of Google’s local chart. Below, a pretty example of a NAP …

Your NAP should be listed on your website and social accounts, but it may also appear in online directories, many of which focus on local business data. This includes sites like Yelp, YellowPages, CitySearch, your local chamber of commerce, Super Pages, Foursquare, and even sites specific to your niche/industry.

Every occurrence of your business details on a directory or local listing site is referred to as a “citation” (more precisely a “structured quotation,” but for simplicity’s sake we’ll stick w / using quote). You are going to want to keep track of all the citations.

Why NAP Consistency is Key for Local SEO

90% of local experts say accurate citations are Critical or Very Important to local search ranking
Source: Bright Local 2020 Expert Local SEO Survey

Top 50 Local Map Ranking Factors — Coming in at #2 was Consistency of Citations
Source: Moz 2015 Local Search Ranking Survey

Your company’s web-wide citation accuracy lets search engines determine where you are geographically appropriate for different local search queries. This is especially relevant with local SEO, as Google uses the NAP information that it collects about your business to introduce you to web surfing customers in your area.

So, say you’re selling pies right down the road from someone searching for “pie shop near me”. If search engines can associate you with that location, you get an edge over Pie Monopoly, Inc distributing from the next state over. However, for Google and Bing to be able to recognize where you are, your business data and citations need to be clear and consistent.

The more consistent your business data is, the more confident Google will be in the validity of your NAP, and the higher you rank in the Local SERPs (search engine results pages) and Map results.

NAP Analysis: Steps for Citation Consistency/Accuracy

Step 1) Confirm All NAP Information
Step one when creating or fixing your online business data is to confirm that you have one set of information that accurately represents your company’s location.

Note: For multi-branch companies, each branch should have it’s own unique NAP.

Make note of any previous addresses, numbers, and names that your company has had. If you switched phone numbers two years ago and never did any online clean-up, odds are that old number is still floating around the web with your name attached to it. Knowing what inaccurate information there might be lets you go straight to it, rather than having to wait for it to sneak back up on you.

So, if you were once Pete’s Perfect Pies and then Pete left to pursue another passion, you’re going to want to go back and find any listings that still have Pete in the name. Yes, it’s tedious. Yes, it matters.

Step 2) Search, Search, Search
You want to record carefully where your NAP company is described on the Site. To do this, simply search for your business using different combinations to find any NAP citations you don’t know about. But first, we need to make sure that we have all of the old and inaccurate business data found and registered.

Basic Company Search

Start basic by searching your company’s name. Go through the links that come up and see if any have old or missing “AP” information. Make sure you document all old or incorrect phone numbers, addresses, and even company name. Once you’ve combed through all the citations brought up by the name, move on to…
Basic Phone Number Search
Search your company phone number (perhaps combine with your city). This will bring up any variations of your company name that are out their listed with your number. Do the same with your address. Go through until you feel you’ve seen every listing out there. Again, document all old/incorrect business data you see.
Search Combinations for Locating more Incorrect Information

Find even more NAP variations with the data you’ve already collected. Take an incorrect phone number you’ve found, search the phone number and filter out the correct company name to find even more potential company name variations — so 555-123-1234 -“Company Name”. The negative in front of company name (in quotes) will return results that include the phone number, but do not include that specific company name. Do the same type of search for all phone numbers, all addresses, and all company names to discover more incorrect/inconsistent/outdated business data.

Locate Citations
Once you’ve collected and documented a list of phone numbers, addresses, and business names, you’re going to want to perform multiple searches for each one. Search an incorrect phone number + your company name, and do this for all documented data until you’ve located all citations.
NAP hack: You can run a Whitespark search using these same bits of information. Whitespark has a great Local Citation Finder that can help you find existing business listings. We recommend its use in conjunction with manual Google search for ultimate thoroughness.

Step 3) Lock Down the Main Players (Local Data Providers)
Pay special attention to the sites that serve as data aggregators/providers for other directory and local listing sites. These are sites that other directories pull information from to fill their own set of listings. You must isolate and correct these; otherwise, you could be fixing information on smaller sites that are just going to go back and pull the same incorrect information again.

Some of the biggest ones you’ll want to check: Acxiom, Express Update (infogroup), Factual, Localeze (Neustar)

Here’s a great chart from Moz showing how local company data flows throughout different sites.  Check out Moz to learn more about the main local data providers and who powers who

There may also be aggregators for directories specific to your industry. For example, NPPES aggregates information for many healthcare provider directories.

NAP Hack: Search “site: Your Company Name” in the Google search bar to try to see if you are on a specific site directly from Google. This is perfect for fussy search-bar folders. It also helps you to find results from searching your NAP pages, rather than trying to get the name exactly as it is listed on the site of the directory to make it appear.

Note: Keep in mind, this method will ONLY show pages that Google has in its index. It’s still quite possible for a duplicate listing to exist on a site, and NOT have that page show in the search results.

Step 4) Sniffing Out Duplicate Listings
On some local & general business listing sites, it is possible for there to be more than one listing for your business. These duplicate listings can pop up if you, a customer, or an employee goes in and creates a listing on a site without checking to see if you’re already listed. Or, the site may pull from aggregators and create individual listings for each correct and incorrect NAP they find on your business. However the duplicates got there, you want them to go away. Not only are duplicate listings often hosts to incorrect information, they make you look spammy to Google and hurt your credibility.

NAP Hack: Make sure you are not missing duplicate listings when you check Google for your current quotes. Often when you browse, Google hides identical listings from you because it’s hoping you don’t have to see the same thing twice. Check to see if you get the following message at the bottom of your search results page to ensure this doesn’t happen. Click on “check again” and you will get the full list of results.

View Omitted Search Results for Potential Duplicates

View Omitted Search Results

Step 5) Keep Track of it All (Thorough Citation Documentation)
It’s easy for bad information to multiply on the web. Keeping track of where your information is listed can help prevent you from getting overwhelmed.

Of course, there are factors that will influence how many listings your business has floating around out there. Company size, past information, if you’ve worked with a marketing service in the past, and which aggregators have your information can all influence your presence. If you’re a brand new company, you get a cleaner slate–but check and see if your number and address were formerly associated with another business so you can dissociate yourself and prevent any Google confusion. No one is immune to NAP inaccuracy!

I like to have a complete portfolio through the directories and the web for each client’s citations. A color-coding scheme is a useful way to keep track of the publications are reporting the right NAP information that is wrong and which ones you are updating. Now the method of updating of quote is a whole ‘no other story … we’re going to save that for a later article.

NAP Analysis: Citation Consistency Tips for Local SEO