The Basics of Determining Your NAP and Pitfalls to Avoid

Kathryn Hillis's picture

Having an accurate and consistent NAP – which stands for name, address, and phone number – is one of the most important aspects a business needs to get right in order succeed at local SEO. It contains key information about your business that is spread across a vast local ecosystem.

If your NAP is accurate and consistent throughout this ecosystem, that information is likely to seem credible to search engines. If it is inaccurate and/or it varies throughout the web, this data is likely to be interpreted as less credible and could compromise your ability to secure high-ranking real estate in local search results.

 

A Glance at the Local Ecosystem

Without diving into too many details, the local ecosystem is a large network of data aggregators, review sites, local directory listings (like the Yellow Pages), and much more. It’s where search engines look for signals to figure out if your business is a good match to display to local searchers. Some of the major players in the local ecosystem are influential on a national level, while others are more specific to geography or industry.

local-search-ecosystem.jpg

Source: http://moz.com/blog/2013-local-search-ecosystems

 

In the United States, five major data aggregators – Infogroup, Axciom, UBL, Factual and Neustar Localeze – have sweeping influence across the ecosystem. Important secondary sources include sites like Yelp.com and YP.com among others, although the influence of these sources can vary by city and category. Beyond the primary and major secondary sources, there are also countless opportunities to build quality citations at websites specific to your city or industry, like professional association listings.

The main takeaway here is that the local ecosystem is large and complex. Within it, there are many opportunities to increase the visibility of your business, but there are also many elements to monitor for NAP accuracy.

 

How to Determine Your Business’s NAP

So, you’re ready to create and implement an accurate NAP. What now?

First, where applicable, decide on a variation of your business name and stick with it. For example, if you go by “Company X” and “Company X, LLC,” pick one for the NAP and use it consistently throughout all citations. No keyword stuffing here! If you notice a few variations listed online, we recommend going with the name that’s already listed on Google+ Local, assuming the name is correct.

Second, identify the most accurate address for your business location. More often than not, the address that the USPS has on file for your business is good to use for your NAP.   Most major aggregators will normalize your NAP according to the USPS.  If you use a different address online than the one listed by USPS, major aggregators could change it to reflect the actual address.  If this happens, your NAP is likely to have inconsistencies across the web.

Third, list a local phone number. We don’t recommend using tracking numbers, although they may seem like an attractive option for some businesses.  In fact, using tracking numbers is a mistake we’ve encountered more than once while reviewing NAPs. Read about more about NAP pitfalls below.

 

Watch Out for These NAP Pitfalls

Although the information required for your NAP may seem simple enough, it can come with some pitfalls. Here are some common mistakes that are easy to avoid.

Using the wrong city. Sometimes it’s appealing to use a different city in citations when that city is close by and more recognizable than the city where your business is actually located. Since accuracy is key for local SEO, we don’t recommend going this route. You must use the city that your business is located in.  If you want to appeal to a nearby city you can use keywords in your description of your business to help rank for that location.

Not listing a suite number. If your business is located in an area with suite numbers, be sure to list that data in your NAP. If you don’t know your suite number ask the landlord or contact your local post office to find out.  Otherwise, your business name and phone number will be tied to an address that is associated with countless other businesses, creating inconsistencies.

Using tracking numbers. In many (if not most) circumstances, tracking numbers should not be used. Using them in the local ecosystem can be especially problematic. We recommend reading Mike Blumenthal’s in-depth post on call tracking and local search for more information.

Not updating your address after a move. Sometimes business locations move, but companies don’t update local properties to reflect that fact. Make sure to keep citations up to date.  It may be necessary to contact the main aggregators to have them remove the old address across the web.  This isn’t necessary but will speed up the process of NAP confusion for your location.

Have you seen any examples of these pitfalls? Are there any other NAP pitfalls to avoid?

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Comments

  • Lindsay Wassell

    July 9, 2014

    Thanks for writing this up, Kathryn!

    Getting NAP right is a critical piece to achieving a strong digital presence for local businesses. Often, business owners don't understand the repricussions of using an address that is a little off. I've seen all kinds of examples of this out in the wild.

    A few of my favorite pitfall examples include:

    • Using a parking garage address across the street. From a customer experience perspective, this local business had the right idea. Publish the address that brings the customer as close to the store as possible AND present them with a parking spot - double win! WRONG. Instead of choosing an incorrect address that is closest to your entrance, use map marker movement features wherever you can to get your customers to the right spot.
    • Using a hip neighborhood name. Sometimes a business is in a hip part of town, within a city, and that becomes a part of the businesses identity and brand. This is great, but you can't just replace the city name with the hip name when publishing your address. Even if the USPS can find you when you use the hip name instead of the official name, it isn't usually "correct". Some data aggregators and sources will try to normalize your address to be correct. Others won't. Others still will get it wrong. This creates inconsistencies across the web and hurts the search engines' trust in the location.
    • Business hasn't moved, but address has changed. Sometimes a business is in the same place it has always been, but something about the address officially changes. A big mall might eventually earn its own zip code. A street name might be officially changed. The best thing to do in this case is to embrace the change quickly and update your NAP with the big aggregators swiftly.

     

    Happy NAPing, all!

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