What is Your NAP and How is it Helping You?

business signWho doesn’t love a good nap? Sadly, in marketing, the kind of NAP we’re talking about involves less of a couch and more of a comprehensive digital strategy for you business. But if you don’t care about your NAP because you think it’s a snoozefest, you may end up missing out on sales leads, customers, and a lot of important traffic.

NAP: Name, Address, and Phone Number

Why would it matter to have your name, address, and phone number identical across all sources? Isn’t close enough good enough? Well, here’s an example.

address locationI had a friend who worked for a store in a mall that was part of a buyout between one company and another. The company that got bought out retained some level of responsibility with store leases and assets, but the actual goods inside of the store—including marking, branding, employee uniforms, and displays—were all for the other company. This meant that the sign over the doorway to the store read the wrong name for well over a year. As you can imagine, this caused an annoyance for the employees who were frequently asked if the store was what the sign out front said or what the inside seemed to indicate. Plus, it’s confusing for customers. When I would search for the business to find the correct phone number or address, lots of conflicting information came up. What information is right?

This is a NAP problem. It’s usually the case in real life that you don’t see as many NAP issues as you do digitally. Generally what the sign says is how you refer to your company when people walk in the door. There is frequently a disconnect, however, with digital representations of companies. Maybe because people think they need keywords in their business name that don’t actually belong there, or they have someone help set up their digital pages who doesn’t know the company, but the problem of having your name, address, or phone number wrong in various listings across the internet can be a big problem. Here’s why:

You want people to be able to search for your business online.

on page formattingThey may want to get driving directions, reviews, information from your website, or maybe they just want to find you on Facebook and get to know more of your personality. If your name is different on your website, social pages, or directory listings, people may have trouble finding you. Often when I have to search for businesses, it takes some time to discover if the place I’m looking at is correct. And if someone isn’t very invested in finding you, but would otherwise be a customer, it’s a problem if they get tired of looking and just settle on another business instead. That’s a huge missed opportunity.

You want search engines to understand your digital presence.

yellow pagesThere is some debate about whether social media following matters for your website SEO, but it seems that as search engines get better at indexing social media content, we may see social media followings have a greater impact on website SEO—but this would require you to have your name, address, phone, and URL listed correctly in multiple places. Also, if your listing through Google My Business is different than what’s on your website, which one is right? Search engines can have problems distinguishing this and may end up showing both, or in the case of having multiple Google+ pages with conflicting information, Google may prioritize something like an old business address or old business name because you did not remove the incorrect listing.

People and search engines are the real reasons that you need your name, address, phone, and your website URL to be correct. You don’t want people to show up at your old address, call the wrong number and think you’re closed, or be directed to a website that doesn’t exist. And you don’t want search engines confusing your listings, reducing your traffic, or displaying the wrong information.

What is the best way to assess and fix any NAP problems?

address signStart with your website and any social media sites you use. You can easily make all of those correct and uniform. Then search your business name and see what comes up. Usually you can claim your business through places like various yellow page sites, Yelp, Foursquare, and places like Yahoo and Bing maps. If you do have to claim these in order to change the information, that’s okay as long as you aren’t asked to pay a fee.

I’d suggest that you don’t pay an “SEO” company to fix your listings for you. There are a few websites that say they will, for a fee, find and fix all of your business listings. Be very careful about signing up for these services! Google the company and read reviews first if you really think you don’t have time to look up your own listings, or don’t have someone on staff who can take a little time ever week to look and make sure all of your listings are correct. There are several companies that will sign you up for these services, create incorrect listings with your information, and then charge you to fix them. There are also directory sites that will refuse to change your information unless you pay a fee. Ignore them. If your website has good SEO, your Google listing is optimized, you use Facebook or another major social site like Twitter or LinkedIn, and you have a handful of reputable directories that appear when someone searches your business name, those small, scammy websites aren’t going to show up high enough in a search to matter anyway.

Your NAP consistency is important. Like I said above, don’t worry too much about really small sites that may have incorrect information, but take 20 minutes once every week or two and search your business name. Go through to see if your listings are correct on the first page or two, and then don’t worry about it. If you set up your website, social profiles, and other business listings with an identical name, and all correct contact information, you will save yourself a lot of time and headaches in the future!