If you are a small business owner chances are you would benefit from ranking at the top of Google or Bing local searches. But, you may ask, how do you get there? First, you might try the easy way – you can pay to be advertised on the first page of Google or Bing. Eventually, though you will realize – the moment you stop paying, the calls stop coming. And the calls that do come in from advertising may not be worth the money you paid for them. For most business owners, it is wise to combine the strategy of paying for advertising with the strategy of doing proper local SEO. In order to create a good website with strong SEO, you may wish to hire a local SEO expert who specializes in helping small businesses. For a client that comes to us for help, the first steps include finding their NAP, submitting to the big four data aggregators, and creating a strong local citations list. Today, let’s take a look at the first local SEO steps – and tips on how you can do your own local search engine optimization.
What is a NAP in SEO?
In the local SEO industry, we use the term NAP as a shorthand for “Name, Address, Phone number.” But, not just any “name address phone number” for your business will do. In order to be effective, your NAP must be identical to how Google knows you, and identical across the internet.
So, the very first thing we do when we begin working with local small businesses, in Brooklyn or elsewhere, is find their NAP according to Google. Once we find out your exact NAP, we update this data across the internet in data aggregators and business citations.
Your NAP must be exact, and never contain even one additional character.
Here is an example.
Your business is known to Google as:
Brooklyn Fashion Company
1300 East 13 street
Brooklyn, NY 11010
But your business is listed on Yellow Pages as:
Brooklyn Fashion Co.
1300 E 13th St
Brooklyn, NY 11230
As a human, you know its the same thing. But for a machine, an inconsistent NAP will almost certainly hurt your rankings. Although Google is artificial intelligence, business data aggregators are not. By making things simple for traditional computers, you are making sure that you have the best possible search results.
David Mihm, the founder of the Local Search Ecosystem, conducted a search study that found that nearly 25% of your website’s rankings are determined by the consistency and accuracy of your business’ citations. This means that if your data is not consistent, you might end up losing up to 25% of your traffic. An inconsistent NAP is one of the very costly mistakes that an inexperienced SEO person can make.
To find your NAP check your address and business name in your Google My Business listing (when you are logged out). Then, copy all information exactly as it appears on the listing. Include all commas, dots, and spaces. Your NAP is always going to be four lines. The first line is the name of the business, the next two lines are the address, and the fourth line is your phone number.
What is a data aggregator?
A data aggregator is a data mining system, designed to spread information online. Search giants such as Google and Bing go to a data aggregator when they need to learn about a business or an entity. Data aggregators are important for all searches, especially when it comes to local businesses.
Data aggregators vary from country to country.
The four main data aggregators in the United States are:
In addition to the big four, there are many other, smaller data aggregators. Often the smaller aggregators are sourcing their data from the big four. Combined, all the data aggregators and search engines create the local search ecosystem. A local search ecosystem is like a living breathing organism. It is constantly updating and evolving.
Why and how you can update data aggregators?
As a New York City business owner, you may be under the impression that when you call and update your information with a major search engine like Google or Bing, and you are all set. Yet, the truth is that old and inaccurate data remains all over the web. Maybe a citation includes an incorrect NYC address, or an old listing for your business exists somewhere in Queens. Your phone number might have a typo in one listing or your business name might be inconsistent. Even the smallest inconsistency matters to traditional computers.
Google and Bing source data from data aggregators and then use a collection of proprietary algorithms to rank your website. If your NAP is inconsistent, your ranking will suffer.
When you hire a reputable local SEO team, after we determine your NAP, the next thing we do is update all your information with the big four. The big four then distributes your updated and consistent NAP to all the smaller data aggregators and to search engines. And thus, much of your online information becomes completely consistent.
To update the data aggregators yourself, you must reach out to the big four. Some will charge you a fee for updating your data, and others may take weeks or months to approve the change. In addition at times, you’ll need to submit proof verifying your new information such as a bill with a new address or a DBA showing your new business name. If you’d like to save time and money, hiring a local SEO expert can help. Agencies have access to professional sources that will update the big four aggregators almost immediately.
What are business citations?
A business citation is essentially every time your business is mentioned online. A business citation does not have to include a link. Unlinked information still contributes to the search result. However, the most powerful business citations include your precise NAP and a link to your website. If your NAP is inconsistent in business citations, that link has a little less juice and is less valuable to your website.
What is the difference between a structured and an unstructured business citation?
Business citations occur as two types: structured and unstructured.
A structured citation includes your NAP and a link. These are the most powerful citations, and they are found on Yelp, Yellow Pages and other directory listing websites.
A structured citation should always be complete.
An unstructured citation is the mention of your business on a social media page, a news source or blog. If you gave an interview, for instance, and the reporter used your business name in an article, this is an unstructured citation. This type of citation is still helpful because Google’s Artificial Intelligence scans them, and views them as a source of credibility. But we have little control over how an unstructured citation appears.
Why and how should you update a business citation?
Links are like votes of confidence for Google. The more powerful the link, the more power your website has, and the higher it appears in search engine results. Therefore, when we start working together we will create many powerful links, using (in part) structured business citations.
The third step of our SEO process is to update (or create) your local structured citations. Our structured citation list is always evolving, but it includes close to a hundred business directories across the internet. You might have heard of many – for instance, Yellowpages is a well known one. And some are very small, so you may not have heard of them at all. No matter where the citation is, we locate it and update it. If you do not have a citation yet in a powerful directory, we create one for you. Every structured citation will include a link and your NAP – thus making it more powerful and consistent.
It is also important to keep in mind that some citations are considered “spammy” and will send bad link juice to your website. An experienced local SEO expert knows which ones are good and which ones will hurt you. If needed we can work on removing bad citations, often build by unethical SEO experts or even competitors.
To update your own citations you’ll need to use some specialized tools. Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush are all paid tools (from $99 to $300 a month) that can be used to find your existing citations. You will then need to log into each directory individually (if you do not have a login and password you’ll need to contact the website to locate those first) and update your NAP, your link, and your description. You will then have to wait for your citation to be indexed by Google. You should also double-check to make sure you do not have a “spammy” citation that is sending bad link juice. If that’s the case, you’ll have to contact the company and ask them to remove citations. Alternatively, you can hire an experienced local SEO company that will do the work for you. Keeping your citations updated is included in our retainer fee and can save you dozens if not hundreds of hours of work.
The role of an SEO expert in your small business
The very first step to creating a customer generating website is ensuring you NAP is consistent across all data aggregators. Next, we create powerful backlinks using citations across the internet. If needed we update your existing links and work on removing spammy directories. But all of this is only the first step of optimizing your website for SEO.
SEO does not stop at NAP, data aggregators, or citations. In addition to other factors, Google also checks the overall quality of your website before serving it to consumers.
Google uses many factors to decide how good your website is. Just a few of these factors include websites that link back to you, the speed of your website, mobile compatibility, your online reviews, how long customers stay on your website. Another important concept that can help you rank well is incorporating the right keywords into your website content. When done correctly, creating great keyword-rich content can skyrocket you to the top of the search. When done incorrectly, it can destroy your credibility with all major search engines.
In addition to keeping your website up to date, it is just as important to keep your Google My Business listing optimized for searches. More than 30 percent of people who contact a local business, will call one of the first 3 listings they see in the GMB.
However, just because you see your company in the #1-3 spot in the GMB doesn’t mean your customers will. At Brooklyn SEO pro we use special tools to keep track of your GMB spot the way your customers see it. This means we can quickly respond to changes in your listing’s status.
Brooklyn SEO experts use a holistic approach to take care of your website and GMB listing. Brooklyn SEO Company’s staff spend hours each week uncovering the latest changes to Google so that we can implement the changes on your website and in your GMB, in order to and keep you ahead of your competition.
There is far more to getting to the top of Google than data aggregators, citations, and NAP. But, those three are a great start. In future articles will look at all the different techniques we use to help keep your website ahead of the competition and on top of local SEO – in New York City and the world beyond. If you’d like a free evaluation of your website, we are happy to help.