What is NAP in SEO and why it’s needed for Local SEO successBy Solange Messier
For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), climbing to the top of their local search results makes the biggest impact in terms of traffic and revenue. NAP listings are a critical, but sometimes overlooked, component of local SEO success.
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In this article, we dive into the role of NAP in SEO and provide tools and guidance for how to master this small but mighty component of local search.
What is NAP?
NAP in its SEO meaning is a key acronym you need to know if you're looking to boost your clients’ online presence: name, address, and phone number.
These may not sound like particularly interesting data points, but don’t let their simplicity fool you. NAP information is the foundation of local SEO. It's the basic data search engines like Google and Bing use to verify the existence and location of a business. It's like a digital ID card, and the more consistent and accurate a business’s NAP data is across the web, the better its chances are of ranking high in local search results.
NAP has gotten a little makeover in recent years and is sometimes referred to as NAPW. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as well, but it does capture the importance of an additional piece of information: W for ‘Website’.
Incorporating websites into the NAP mix provides even more valuable information to search engines, helping them better understand what a business is all about. For businesses to maximize their performance in search, especially local search, NAP(W) is a key ingredient for success.
The role of NAP in search ranking and visibility
The role of NAP in SEO is more significant than many marketers realize. Plenty of internet ink has been spilled on the importance of other, more complicated SEO-ranking factors such as backlinks, keyword research, and content creation. Given that those are more complex to execute, it’s easy for NAP data to feel like an afterthought.
However, the function of NAP in SEO is just as important as the other ranking factors that tend to go get far more attention. Here’s how NAP can impact a business’s search rankings and visibility.
- Verifies legitimacy: NAP information is the foundation of local SEO. Search engines use NAP to verify the existence and location of a business, which helps to establish its legitimacy both in the eyes of real prospective customers and from the perspective of Google’s algorithm. This is especially important for local businesses that rely heavily on foot traffic.
- Better search results: Having consistent and accurate NAP information across all online platforms and directories can significantly improve a business's search ranking. Google and other search engines interpret consistent NAP data as a good indicator that a business is legitimate, and that its owners are engaged enough to keep its NAP listings up-to-date. This indicates that it is probably a high-quality business that deserves a spot at the top of the SERPs, particularly in local search (more on NAP in local SEO in just a moment).
- More leads: Improved search rankings mean that more prospective customers will find a business when they are motivated to make a purchase. By having accurate NAP information, businesses can make it easier for clients to find and contact them, which can result in more leads moving along the sales funnel toward making a purchase.
- More web traffic: Having consistent and accurate NAP information can also drive more traffic to a business’s website. Because of the impact of NAP in SEO, search engines are more likely to show a business with consistent NAP data to motivated searchers with relevant search queries.
- More brick-and-mortar traffic: Since NAP listings are particularly impactful for local SEO searches, they are uniquely capable of driving foot traffic to businesses with physical locations.
NAP and local SEO
The role of NAP in SEO is particularly pronounced for local businesses. These are businesses that either have a physical, brick-and-mortar location that customers can visit, or that serve a certain geographic area.
That’s because NAP listings help search engines like Google determine where a business is located or operates. Google uses this local SEO NAP data to help users find local businesses that match their search query.
Use cases of NAP in local SEO
NAP local listings management can help businesses appear in geo-targeted searches. If a user searches for “brunch near me”, or “best brunch [city]”, Google draws on local SEO NAP data to show users results that take their location into account. These results appear above the general search results in what is known as the Google local pack or local 3-pack. It looks a little something like this:
The local business listings in the Google 3-pack are desirable because they tend to be seen by a very targeted audience that is ready to convert. Someone wandering around Boston one Sunday morning who searches for brunch spots and sees the three choices above is very likely to visit one of those locations and become a paying customer.
In fact, businesses don’t even need to add the name of their location to their search query for Google to understand when a search applies to a given geographic area. If that same user is wandering around Boston and just searches for “brunch” Google will still draw on local SEO NAP data to return geographically relevant results.
The bottom line of local citations
Local businesses rely heavily on local citations for SEO, which are other online mentions of a business’s NAP information. Having accurate, up-to-date NAP data across a wide range of listings is one of the best things SMBs can do to maximize local traffic—both online and in-person.
Consistency is key for NAP
Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to effectively using NAP in local SEO for local business clients. This refers to making sure the business name, address, and phone number are all listed in the exact same format across all online platforms, directories, and websites. This includes your website, social media profiles, Google Business Profile listing (previously known as Google My Business), and any other online directories or listings where your business is listed.
Consistent NAP data sends a clear message to search engines and prospective customers about the legitimacy and location of a business. It helps establish a business as a high-quality recommendation that deserves to show up in local search rankings.
The effects of inconsistent NAP information
On the other hand, inconsistent NAP information leads to confusion and mistrust among potential customers as well as search engines. Search engines like Google use NAP data to verify a business’s location and authenticity, determining the relevance of that business in local search results. If a business has inconsistent NAP data, it doesn’t matter if they have a ton of listings. In fact, all those inconsistent, mismatched listings can actually hurt the business from an SEO perspective.
Inconsistent NAP data can also confuse potential customers who are trying to find a business. If the business address is listed differently on different platforms or websites, extra friction is created for the prospect. They now have to verify which address is correct, and many may just move on to a more reliable business.
So, how can businesses ensure they maximize the benefits of NAP in SEO?
Tips for optimizing NAP
Luckily, with the right local SEO tools, it’s easy for agencies and SMBs to take control of their NAP local SEO listings and optimize for SEO success. Here’s how it’s done.
Be consistent with NAP data
One of the most important things a business can do to optimize its NAP listings is to be consistent with how the business name, address, and phone number are presented. Choosing exact formatting for this information and using it consistently across all online listings, including websites, social media profiles, and any other online directories or listings, is a must.
Create formatting standards for NAP data
It’s one thing to decide how NAP data will be presented, but another thing altogether to ensure that it’s always replicated the same way. To ensure compliance over time and across different teams, it's a good idea to create internal guidelines for writing NAP data.
This should include the exact format for your business name, address, and phone number, as well as any other important details, such as the abbreviations used for your business name. By creating these guidelines, businesses can ensure all team members use the same format when writing NAP data, without the need for extra oversight.
What does this look like in practice?
Guidelines can include whether an address will use the word “Avenue” or the shortened “Ave.” They might also include whether a phone number is written with dashes between digits or with parentheses around the area code. For example:
(123) 456-7890 or 123-456-7890
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to format NAP listings to match how they appear in Google Maps. This means that ‘street’ is generally abbreviated to St., Avenue to Ave., and so on. Phone numbers generally appear with parentheses around the area code, like in the first example above.
Add NAP data to website headers, footers, and the contact page
Businesses should ensure NAP data is visible and easily accessible on their website by adding it to the header, footer, and contact page. When Google’s bots crawl a website, these locations are where NAP data is expected. Placing NAP data in these key locations on a website helps Google verify the location and relevance of a business. It also helps customers quickly and easily identify the contact information and location they may be looking for.
Create a Better Business Bureau listing
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a trusted source for information about businesses, and having a listing with the BBB can help improve SMBs’ online visibility and credibility. To create a BBB listing, businesses can simply provide their NAP information and any other relevant details, and the BBB will create a listing that is visible to customers and search engines.
Use Google Business Profile
Google Business Profile is one of the most important online directories for local businesses. By creating a Google Business Profile, SMBs can improve their online visibility, boost local SEO rankings, and collect more reviews where prospective customers can see them.
List on multiple directories and sites
Finally, it’s worth noting that when it comes to NAP in SEO, it’s a bit of a numbers game. More is better, provided that the NAP listings appear on reputable websites and are consistent. Google Business Profile, Facebook, BBB, and other top players are important, but having many listings, even on less well-known websites, is ultimately a plus for local SEO performance.
Tools and services for managing NAP
Managing and monitoring NAP manually creates a lot of opportunities for error. That’s where a listing builder can make all the difference.
Update listings automatically
Vendasta’s Listing Sync Pro enables SMBs can use to update their listings across the web from a single, convenient dashboard. Listing Sync Pro identifies errors and duplicates so that they can be corrected before they impact local SEO performance. Plus, listing updates made in the dashboard get instantly pushed out to listing websites, so there’s no lag.
Full-service listing management
If your clients want a more robust solution, white-label listings management enables agencies to offer full-service listing management under their own brand, delivered by a team of experts working under the agency banner.
Combine with reputation management
Bundling listing tools with other reputation management tools, like review management, can maximize agency profits while helping SMBs effortlessly climb to the top of local search results.
Frequently asked questions
Is NAP a ranking factor?
Yes, NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) data is a ranking factor for local Google searches. This means that having many NAP listings that are consistent with each other can help businesses appear in geo-targeted search results.
Why is NAP important for Google?
NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) data help Google determine which businesses are legitimate and reputable. This informs which businesses appear at the top of local search results, driving targeted local traffic to businesses with accurate NAP data.