NAP is an acronym that stands for “Name, Address and Phone Number.” It’s a core concept in search engine optimization because Google uses NAP when ranking local results. 

If you operate a local business, either in the form of an independent outlet or a chain of local branches, it’s essential that your website and business profile are NAP-optimized. Failure to do so will result in lost rankings, traffic, and customers. 

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about NAP. We’ll define key terms, explain why NAP is important within the broader field of SEO, and show you how to optimize for NAP. 

What Is NAP?

In an SEO context, NAP refers to the information that local businesses include in their various listings across the web. If NAP references are consistent across different sources, Google knows that they are correct and can confidently display a company’s details to searchers. 

What Are Citations?

To leverage NAP ranking factors fully, it’s necessary to understand how the broader search process works. Local search results – also called the “Local Pack” – are shown in a dedicated section before generic search results. A map is displayed above local business listings. 

Google first determines if a keyword has geographical or “local” intent. That is, if the searcher is looking for a result tied to a particular location, such as a hair salon or bookshop. This is known as “geo-targeting.”

Google then algorithmically ranks business profiles in local results according to a range of local factors. These include keywords in an organization’s Google Business Profile, past customer reviews, the user’s IP location, and NAP citations.

A citation is a business listing published on a third-party site. Nation-wide and global business directories like Yelp have extensive collections of business entries. But local online publications are also taken into account. 

Why Is NAP Important for Local SEO?

Google looks at two NAP-related factors (among a myriad of other ranking elements) when determining where to rank a local business: the number of citations and their consistency. Having a large number of consistent citations across the web is the ideal outcome from an SEO perspective. 

If Google finds discrepancies in data when comparing different sites and business listings, it can’t be sure of the information it displays to searchers. 

It’s also worth keeping in mind that NAP consistency is important from a user experience perspective. Customers often use third-party sites to check a company’s name, address, and phone number. A lack of consistency across listings creates confusion and interrupts the buyer journey. 

What Are the Consequences of Poorly Optimized NAP Listings?

Consumer behavior data shows that a typical customer will interact with a business across multiple online touchpoints—including its Google Business Profile, Google Maps, its company website, and third-party directories—before making an in-store purchase. 

To successfully complete their journey, a customer requires access to consistent information across all touchpoints. 

For example, let’s say an internet browser encounters your brand through an ad on a website. They then use Google Maps to check the location of the nearest store before visiting your website to browse products. 

Finally, they decide to visit your store to make a purchase, checking the address in your business listing in Yelp. If the addresses displayed in Google Maps and Yelp don’t match up, it is more difficult for the customer to make a purchase. This increases the likelihood that they will lose confidence, abandon the customer journey or report a low level of satisfaction. 

How to Optimize NAP for SEO:
A 5-Step Guide

Optimizing NAP information for SEO is both a straightforward and ongoing process. It’s important to ensure that current citations and new citations are correct and up-to-date. 

Take the following steps to optimize your NAP details for search:

1. Display information clearly and correctly on your “personal assets” 

First, check NAP information is visible and free of errors on your website and Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business).

Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to determine which Schema.org markup to use. 

2. Ensure that NAP citations are consistent across the web 

Google cross-references NAP citations on different websites, so ensure consistency across sources as best you can.

In particular, check popular business directories like Yelp, Yahoo Business Listings, Facebook, and so on, along with local listings in your area. Numerous tools can help to find your listings across the web.

3. Continue to add your business to directories 

NAP consistency is a key ranking factor. But it’s also essential to think about citation quantity. Continue to add your business to established directories to increase the number of citations around the web. This strategy will positively impact your local rankings. 

4. Follow best local SEO practices for multiple locations

If you manage multiple locations, follow best practices for local SEO, with separate site pages for each store and unique business profiles. 

5. Remember to update all listings if your NAP changes 

If you change your company’s name, address, or phone number, modify all listings across the web. Keep an up-to-date database of listings to streamline the process of updating NAP details. 

6. Avoid using different numbers for tracking purposes 

Sometimes, businesses will use unique phone numbers to track traffic from different directories. This approach is best avoided as it can result in Google treating each listing as a separate location. 

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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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