In 2020, we’re always looking for the new shiny red ball in the SEO industry. Recent news regarding featured snippets and links in PDFs being treated as nofollow links is all great. But sometimes. it seems like the industry as a whole is overlooking traditional and obvious ranking signals in favor of new and exciting methods and techniques.
NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency is one of those traditional ranking factors which I don’t think we pay enough attention to.
What is NAP Consistency?
NAP consistency refers to the name, address, and phone number of a business being consistent on a number of third-party citation websites. These citation sites are important sources of information that Google crawls for local business information as they attempt to determine the legitimacy and accuracy of a local business that their users are searching for.
If you have a business name, address, and phone number listed on your website, that same NAP should appear on your Google My Business profile, as well as on important third-party citation sites such as:
- Facebook business page
- And a host of other citation sources.
If you have a different phone number, or missing suite number, or missing “LLC” on a variety of citation sources, this could negatively affect both your local AND organic search engine rankings.
Does NAP Consistency Only Affect Local SEO Rankings?
So if you recently changed your business phone number, you can just wait a few months to update it everywhere because it won’t make a huge difference to actual organic rankings, right? It just affects local rankings?
While NAP consistency has almost always been referred to as a local ranking factor, there is quite a bit of data and client case studies that we’ve been working on over the past few months that might suggest otherwise.
Moz does a “Local Search Ranking Factors” study every 2 years, and in the 2018 version you can see that NAP consistency is listed as the 8th most important local factor, but the 24th most important organic ranking factor.
The majority of organic ranking factors that are listed in the study are related to links and domain authority, but not much importance is given to NAP consistency on citation sources for organic search rankings. I believe this has changed over the past year or so.
SEO evolves just like every other industry, but as SEO professionals we are always trying to make sure we stay ahead of the curve. We want to make sure we stay updated on BERT and A.I., but sometimes I believe that we lose track of the core focus of SEO.
Going back to 2005, search engine optimization (SEO) has always been about optimizing a website and doing more than your competitors. The early days of SEO were basically all about optimizing page titles, meta descriptions, alt image tags, and meta keyword data. But, as someone who has been doing this for a long time, I always thought during those early days: “what will happen in 5, 10, 15 years when everyone is able to easily update meta descriptions and page titles? What next?”
During these years, link building methods evolved. Free article and press release sites, directories, and blog commenting were easy ways to obtain Dofollow links in bulk, and from a wide variety of domains. But after the first Penguin update launched, it was the beginning of the end of bulk link building. In comes content as the main focus, along with citation building and mobile-friendliness.
As we continue to look for new and evolving ways to perform SEO on a website, it’s easy to lose focus of the main goal of SEO: to make sure your (or your client’s) website is more optimized than your (or your client’s) competitors, from an on-page and off-page perspective. In other words, make sure your (or your client’s) load times, mobile-friendliness, link profile, on-page optimization, content, and every other ranking factor is optimized better than your competitors.
Fast forward to 2020, and I do sincerely believe that NAP consistency is important for both local AND organic rankings, as Google continues to battle spam and filter out websites and local businesses which they see as less legitimate.
Why do I believe that NAP consistency is important for both local and organic rankings?
I have two recent client case studies that have inspired me to write this post.
The first is a personal injury law firm who recently added a second office location. This transition was a bit on the difficult side, but because they’re one of our longest and most favorite clients, we had no problem with assisting them with the transition.
The law firm was moving their previous office to a new city, with a new phone number. They then wanted to add a second location in the city they were currently located, in order to maintain their presence. The move involved two new addresses, and two new phone numbers.
Luckily, the client uses Yext, so we were easily able to add the new office location’s new name, address, and phone number to the majority of important third-party citation sources. Same goes for changing the address for the existing location in the city they were already located in, along with the new phone number.
However, fast forward to 2 weeks after rolling out a new phone number and we noticed a drop-off in both local and organic rankings. We identified a number of important citation sources where the phone number needed to be changed. BBB, Facebook, Youtube, Justia, LinkedIn, the list goes on.
We updated the phone number across the majority of citation sources last week, and after checking search engine ranking reports yesterday, we’ve noticed a dramatic increase in ORGANIC search rankings. There were some improvements to local rankings, but the most noticeable difference came on the organic side for both of the client’s two office locations.
The second case study is actually our business office address. We moved a few months ago, updated the address on our Google My Business profile but didn’t spend much time updating the address on important third-party citation sites because we were spending the majority of time on client work. I decided last week to keep the old address listed and use it as a “by appointment only” address, updated the Google My Business address to our old location and noticed an immediate improvement in both local and organic rankings, but the most noticeable difference was definitely on the organic side. Organic traffic, rankings, and inquiries all improved.
So does Google only use NAP consistency when determining which websites or businesses to include in the local “Snack Pack”? In my opinion, no. While the case studies I presented are still on the early side, it’s always been theory of mine that Google uses NAP consistency as a ranking signal, and one that might be a lot more important than you think.
How do I check my NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistency?
If you’d like to see how your business name, address, and phone number appears on third-party citation sites, here are a few ways to check:
- If you’ve changed your business phone number, do a Google search for the old # to see what citation sources still list the old information.
- WhiteSpark Citation Finder is a useful tool, it allows you to search for a business phone number or name to see which citation sources you’re listed on. We have been a long-time Whitespark user, if you’d like for us to run a check on your business simply email us and ask.
- Request one of our free local SEO audits, which include important third-party citation data, along with consistency. We can check to see which citation sources you’re listed on, along with name, address, and phone number included in the listings. Simply request your free local SEO audit here.