NAP – What is it and Why do I Care?

NAP is a core concept for the online marketing of every business customers physically visit. NAP stands or name, address phone number. Getting your business to consistently appear across the local, mobile and social web is critically important for businesses which want to attract new customers via digital channels.

Why is NAP so Important?

For every legitimate business trying to find new customers online there are dozens of scammers. Platforms like Google, Facebook and local citation sites have developed some fairly advanced ways to separate the real from the fake. One of these is to look for consistent information across platforms.

The foundational data point for local businesses is name, address and phone number. I refer to NAP as a data point, instead of three data points, because algorithmns have advanced to the point where they can identify a group of data and analyze it as a whole. This is why 100% consistency across important platforms is key.

Canonical Data

What I mean by canonical data, is the exact set of data which will be actively pushed to the important data publishers. The first step is to define your canonical data. It doesn’t much matter at first whether you write your address as 178th Pl or 178th Place. What matters is that once you write it one way, you always write it the same way. Same with business name. You might be “Reliable Plumbers” or “Reliable Plumbing Company” or “Reliable Plumbing Co LLC”. It’s less important which of these variants you choose and more important that platforms can find that exact name, with the supporting address and phone number, across all platforms.

What’s the Benefit?

The primary benefit of making sure your business name, address and phone number are consistent across platforms is authority. When your NAP shows consistently where it needs to, it’s easy for Google to believe that when a customer calls you or visits your location, they will get whatever service your website and business listing advertises.

This might seem incredibly small and simple, but the fact is that when Google sends a customer to a business that doesn’t exist, the customer isn’t mad at the business, the customer is mad at Google. Google has learned that businesses with consistent NAP across relevant platforms are much less likely to produce a mad customer than those which don’t.

OK, I’m sold. I want a consistent NAP. How do I get one of those?

That’s a little bit simple and a little bit complicated. I’ll describe the simple part in detail in a moment. The complicated part is choosing which platforms matter for your business. While this is important for any business, it will vary enough that you will want to invest in understanding the important data partners for your industry. Google My Business is a core element for everyone. Local B2C service businesses have one set, B2B have a different one, and there’s also a lot of value in niche sites for may verticals. In any case, the most important part about listing with any data publisher, is ensuring:

  1. You get the correct data published
  2. You have the ability to update the data later

The first step of this is setting up your Google My Business. While you can get by with just a canonical name, address, and phone number, I highly recommend having a few other elements available to make your profiles more robust including:

  1. Contact Email
  2. Business Website
  3. Business Hours
  4. Large Logo
  5. Small Logo
  6. Icon Logo
  7. “Our Team” photo
  8. Additional photos and video content if available

Again, the most critical part is to actually write out your business name, address and phone number exactly as you want it to appear online. Some mistakes can be corrected later, but the internet has a nasty habit of keeping a permanent record of typos (covfefe anyone?) so getting it right the first time has benefits. A key consideration is that many aggregators and smaller business information publishers crawl the web and publish information they find automatically. Since there are too many of these to manage manually, ensuring only correct information gets published in the first place is the best way to avoid problems.

Once you’ve gathered and standardized this information, it’s time to publish it. Google My Business is the most important platform. Once you have a Google account created, just go to google.com/mybusiness and set up your account. Different businesses will want to use different processes for posting information to other platforms. For instance, a restaurant will get enough value from Yelp to want to handle that platform manually, so they’ll use basically the same process for Yelp they used for Google. For a lawyer, Yelp won’t be as important, so maybe that business will use a multiple listing service like Universal Business Listing ** UBL is fully shut down, updated post on 1/21/20 to remove link to UBL website** or Moz Local to make your business information available to dozens of sites at the same time.

So that’s the NAP

Businesses which standardize and publish their consistent name, address and phone number across the web gain a substantial authority boost. Google and other platforms see this as a key indicator that a business is authentic and reliable. Publishing this data with the partners that are important for your industry and making sure you retain control of the profiles to make future updates will give you a significant advantage in your marketplace.

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