How Local Search Works
Google’s 2014 Pigeon update completely changed the way that the search engine giant handled local search. They went from relying almost entirely on traditional search factors like content on the site and offsite links to focusing on information from local directory websites. Google uses Yelp and similar directory sites to get an average rating of local businesses. These sites also help them to get reviews of local businesses from users. Both the ratings and the reviews are used to determine a website’s rank. Websites with numerous positive reviews get a higher rank than those that have negative reviews or relatively few ratings.
Faced with this new landscape, many website owners have resorted to a number of tactics to boost their rankings. Tactics such as using awareness campaigns to encourage users to leave reviews are effective for getting positive reviews; however, websites that fail to get good search rankings often have a more serious problem in the form of NAP inconsistency. Good reviews will be of limited benefit if your NAP is not consistent and accurate.
The Importance of NAP for Local SEO
Google uses this information to gain a better understanding of your business. Google must be able to understand and categorize your business for you to see an improvement in your website’s rank. Google’s goal is to provide searchers with information on legitimate businesses. A search engine that offers links to unreliable, potentially nonexistent or fraudulent businesses would be of no value.
In order to verify that a business is legitimate, Google crawls the Internet for information. Google’s spiders are looking for mentions of the NAP and a few other data points. Google’s spiders are focused on detail and will spot even minor inconsistencies in citations. Inconsistencies can occur for various reasons such as:
• Your business recently changing locations
• You inherited a phone number with a dirty history
• You hired SEO professional to create citations and list your business in directories
• Your business name has multiple variations
Keep in mind that business data spreads around the Internet quickly. A single incorrect NAP listing can wind up being replicated on multiple business directory websites. The result is that incorrect information about your business is propagated all over the web and found by Google’s spiders. Seemingly insignificant differences in listings of a business’s name or phone number can result in a lower ranking. The more erroneous citations there are, the worse it will be for your business.
How to Find Out if Your NAP is Consistent
You can do this by searching for the name of your business along with the city in which it is located. If you see any differences between the listings, then your NAP is inconsistent.
Fixing NAP Inconsistencies
Inconsistent NAP information is difficult to fix due to the speed with which it can propagate. However, you can start by changing your information on the websites of the authoritative data providers and on business directory websites. There are services that allow you to do this relatively easily. Note that only updating the Google My Business listing is not enough as Google will still be getting wrong information from all the other sources. This can result in more serious problems later on.