A simple tweak that will improve the Google ranking for small businesses – getting all mentions of your business details consistent across the net.
In today’s competitive environment, small businesses need to establish a strong online presence to attract and engage potential customers.
One crucial element of a successful online strategy is maintaining consistency in your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) across various online directories and websites.
If you run a small business that primarily looks after people in your town rather than internationally, you want your business to appear high up in Google (… Bing, Yahoo etc.) search results when someone types in your town and your service.
This is termed local search and there are some tweaks that even the smallest business with no more computer skills than the ability to type their name into the search box of Google, can do to help improve their local search results.
In this blog post, we will explore the importance of having a consistent NAP and the positive impact it can have on your business’s reputation, search engine rankings, and overall online visibility.
A quick lesson on Google Search
Have you ever wondered how Google finds your website and works out how important you are relative to other businesses?
At the simplest it sends out little web crawlers or spiders that scour the net, jumping from link to link like an ADHD adult dosed up on Red Bull. Eventually, the spiders follow the links and get to your site.
The other way it finds you is by looking for all mentions of your business on other website pages. These mentions may or may not include a link to your site, and Google draws conclusions about who you are, where you are and what you do on the basis of what it finds.
But what happens if your name is spelled differently in different sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Google My Business? Or you have moved address a few times? Or you changed your phone number because you lost your mobile?
As clever as Google is, this type of thing confuses the heck out of it, and it thinks that there may be either more than one of you, or that you have a number of different branch locations, or that each location is a totally different business.
The most common response from a confused Google is that it bumps you down the rankings because it hasn’t the time or inclination to work your business out.
Consistency is Vital
The big message here is don’t confuse the robot. You need all of your details to be 100% consistent across the web. Small businesses need to make sure that your:
- Business name is spelled consistently (no abbreviations)
- Your address is correct
- Your phone number is correct
- Your website URL is current (and uses the https and not the http link)
- Any descriptors or categories for your business are consistent.
The more stable and consistent you can make it, the better Google likes you.
1. Building Trust and Credibility
Consistency in your business’s NAP information across online platforms builds trust and credibility among consumers. When potential customers find consistent information about your business, such as your name, address, and phone number, it instills confidence and reassures them that your business is legitimate and reliable. Inconsistencies, on the other hand, can confuse and frustrate customers, leading them to doubt your business’s authenticity.
2. Enhancing Local SEO
Search engines like Google consider NAP consistency as a critical factor when determining search rankings for local businesses. Maintaining accurate and consistent NAP information across various online directories, review sites, and social media platforms signals to search engines that your business is trustworthy and credible. This consistency helps search engines associate your business with the correct location and deliver accurate results to users searching for products or services in your area.
3. Avoiding Duplicate Listings and Confusion
Inaccurate or inconsistent NAP information can lead to the creation of duplicate business listings across online directories. Duplicate listings not only confuse potential customers but also dilute the strength of your online presence. Having multiple listings with varying NAP details can mislead search engines, leading to a drop in search rankings and diminished visibility. By maintaining consistent NAP information, you can reduce the chances of duplicate listings and prevent confusion among your target audience.
4. Streamlining Customer Experience
Imagine a potential customer finding your business on an online directory and noting down the address and phone number. However, when they visit your website or try to contact you, they find different information. This inconsistency can frustrate customers and make it challenging for them to engage with your business. By ensuring consistent NAP information, you streamline the customer experience, making it easier for them to find, contact, and interact with your business across various platforms.
5. Establishing a Cohesive Brand Identity
Consistency in your business’s NAP details contributes to a cohesive brand identity. When customers encounter consistent information about your business across different online channels, it reinforces your brand’s image and creates a unified perception. A cohesive brand identity not only improves recognition but also fosters customer loyalty and enhances the overall reputation of your business.
How Messy Citations Happen
So how consistent are your details across the web? Most businesses have their websites correctly updated with their current details, but the problem starts when they get off their website.
Maintaining consistency across the web may be challenging, as your business information can be found on various social media sites, review platforms, and directory listings.
These sites gather their content through direct submissions, customer entries, site owner additions, or content scraping.
As you search for your business online, you might come across numerous listings that you haven’t seen or had any involvement in. It becomes crucial to regain control of your digital real estate by seeking out and updating your directory listings.
Audit and Update Process
To ensure consistency, conduct regular audits and updates of your NAP information across online directories and websites. Here’s a step-by-step process to guide you:
Step 1: Get organised
Create a spreadsheet to simplify the audit process. Include columns for the URL of each listing, your username, password, and any additional comments or details.
One last column is for you to note if the site allows reviews of businesses and if reviewing is common on the site – just so you can watch & respond to any reviews that are there or are added. Actively responding to reviews is positive both for your customers and for Google. Be active!
Step 2: Conduct a Google Search
Search for various permutations of your business name, address, PO box, phone number, and old address. Search using the “exact match” approach where you put quotes around what you are looking for.
Search for your name; your business name; your address; your PO box; your old address; your phone number; your mobile number.
Copy each URL of your listing or mention you find into your spreadsheet, with a short note on whether or not the details are accurate.
Step 3: Claim Your Listings
Most sites have a method on the site for you to “claim your listing.” Usually, there is some form of verification process where you need to confirm you are the owner — generally via clicking an email link or via a phone call.
One word of warning. Doing this process will bring down unlimited call centres on your head trying to upsell your listing. Be polite and stick to sorting out the details at this stage. Only put money out if this was part of your marketing plan and budget for the year (… being blunt, it rarely is for small businesses – so don’t get talked into it).
Step 4: Update your details
Once you’ve verified ownership, go through each listing and ensure that your details are accurate and consistent across all platforms.
Handling Problematic Listings
If you come across duplicate listings or discrepancies in location or spelling, take steps to merge or delete them. Duplicate listings can dilute your online presence and impact your search rankings.
Maintaining consistency in your business’s name, address, and phone number across online directories and websites is vital for success in today’s digital landscape. By establishing a consistent NAP, you build trust and credibility, improve local search engine rankings, prevent confusion, streamline customer experience, and create a cohesive brand identity.
Make it a priority to regularly audit and update your NAP information to ensure accuracy and consistency, and watch as your online visibility and reputation soar, ultimately driving more customers to your small business.