In Local Search, a business’s online thumbprint – or unique identifier – is its NAP. NAP stands for Name, Street Address, local Phone number (with area code). If Google sees the same NAP combination in most of the online places that it trusts for information about businesses, then all is well. But if there is enough inconsistency in what Google sees at these trusted places, then it suppresses the Maps rankings for that company location.
Google is simply protecting its searchers from seeing information that it is not sure is correct. It’s also protecting itself because if it gained a reputation for displaying inaccurate details about businesses, searchers would quickly gravitate away from using Google Maps and favor another map service that is perceived to be more reliable.
The consequences of NAP inconsistency are well known among those specializing in Local SEO. In David Mihm’s latest Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, NAP inconsistency is rated as the number 3 factor that can negatively affect your Local rankings on Google Maps and Consistency of Structured Citations is the number 3 positive ranking factor.
Unfortunately, most small business owners are not aware of the problems caused by NAP inconsistency and many SEOs who do not specialize in Local Search do not take it as seriously as they should. Even those who realize its ill effects often don’t have knowledge needed to correct it and business owners who invested heavily in promoting multiple phone numbers and fake locations across the internet over the years are reluctant to expend the resources needed to clean up the mess that was made.
As with other things in life, realizing that you have a problem is the first step in resolving it. Here are 3 easy-to-use tools that you’ll find helpful in checking to see if you have a problem with NAP inconsistency:
If, in the past 5 years or so, you have moved your business, changed your business address, changed business phone number or used more than one phone number for your company, then you should use all 3 of these tools to discover if you have a problem with NAP inconsistency.