Are your business listings giving potential customers the wrong address, phone number, or other incorrect business information? Sure, the address and phone number on your website may be accurate, but if your contact details are listed incorrectly with search engines, local listing sites, mapping apps or review sites, then your business may be losing out on valuable customers. With 20% of local searches returning the wrong information, there’s a good chance that customers are searching for your business, but failing to find it because of local listing errors.

An effective local SEO is dependent upon NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency across the web. If the search engines “see” two versions of your name, address or phone number displayed on two different websites (not to mention the hundreds of sites on which it could possibly be placed), then the search engines could think that you are two different businesses. Worse, customers will become (understandably) frustrated when they head to the wrong address or try to contact your business with incorrect information.

How NAP Affects Search Performance

When it comes to local marketing success, companies are increasingly spending big bucks on keyword optimization and PPC ads, but forgetting about basics like NAP consistency. While keyword optimization and PPC ads are an important part of search marketing, in the rush to improve your site’s ranking, don’t forget about the basics.

Marketing analytics firm “Moz” recently announced the results from their “Local Search Ranking Factors” survey. NAP consistency on business websites had an 18.8% affect on determining site performance while NAP consistency on external sites (e.g. Yelp, Zagat) had a 16% affect on performance. The most significant impact: the accuracy of a company’s listing with Google Places (including NAP consistency, as well as keywords and business titles), which had a 19.6% affect on performance. All told, NAP consistency plays a role in over half (54.4%) of ranking performance.

If the NAP in your listing is inaccurate, then you may be losing out on customers without even realizing it! For example, if your address is wrong, your business will not correctly display on the map. Your customers will be sent to the wrong location, and your business may not even show up in some local search results, since Google will think that you are located somewhere else.

How to Take Control of Your Business’s NAP

Your business doesn’t need to “set up” anything to have a local listing on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local. The goal of these search engines is to populate their search results with as many relevant local listings as possible. To do so, the engines automatically generate listings for businesses, just like yours. If your listing goes “unclaimed”, then information such as industry, hours, phone number and even your business’s address may be incorrect. Worse yet, you may have multiple listings with inconsistent information, leading to customer and search engine confusion.

#1: Claim your business listings.
The first step to managing your local listings is to claim them. In fact, you may find that even within the same search engine there are multiple (and incorrect) local listings for your business. To claim your listing, request a PIN verification from Google Places and Bing Local. This verification will be sent to either your business phone or physical address. Once your listing has been verified, you will be able to make changes to the NAP data and add additional business information.

#3: Improve structured data.
Structured data is used to generate “rich snippets”, which can improve a page’s click-thru-rate (CTR). Structure data is used to identify business addresses, phone numbers and other information about your company. Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper is a useful tool for generating sample HTML code with microdata markup included. Google’s entire structure data tagging process takes about five minutes for a page or 15 minutes for a pattern of consistently formatted pages. At the end of the process, simply verify that Google’s understanding of your data is correct, and “structured” information such as address and phone number. Over time, as Google continues to crawl your site, new information such as prices, rankings or reviews will be automatically embedded in Google’s search results.

Bottom line:

NAP consistency is a make-it-or-break-it for local businesses. While other local search strategies are important, establishing NAP consistency is key to building a strong local SEO strategy.