Why NAP and User Experience are Crucial for Local SEO

NAP consistency is an important part of Google’s local search and local pack algorithms, which means creating citations with a consistent NAP across your Google Business Profile listing and other online directories and sites can influence your local ranking.

However, having a consistent NAP is also important for the user journey because online directories and bookmarking sites aren’t just used by Google, they’re also used by humans.

Maintaining a high level of consistency and accuracy reduces the risk of errors made by search engines mechanically processing the data.

It also reduces the risk of user friction if a potential customer trying to contact your business comes across an incorrect phone number, opening hours, or email address.

And if Google comes across five different versions of your business hours, which one should it believe?

Conflicting information can erode Google’s confidence in your location data, which doesn’t mean your listing is considered the best result for a relevant query.

Keeping track of where key business information is listed and how accurate can be a difficult task, even for a single location.

When you manage multiple locations with multiple addresses and phone numbers, even with the use of enterprise software, it becomes increasingly complex.

This work is also changing, now that Google wants business owners to manage their Google Business Profile (GBP) from the Google Maps interface and large multi-site businesses from the Profile Manager. business.

When the user journey begins

Many people consider the user journey and brand experience to begin when the user makes the first request by phone or email, or spends a lot of time on a company’s website.

However, the journey begins much earlier.

Google data shows that there are five touchpoints that most often lead to a purchase/positive action on the site:

  • Used a search engine.
  • Visited a store or other location.
  • Visited a retailer’s website or app.
  • Visited another website or app.
  • Used a card.

The user journey begins when they first see your brand in the search results list, in the local pack, on a map, or in your physical store.

This is where consistent NAP becomes important because users need consistent information to progress through their journey.

We often assume that users find our local businesses and brands through our websites, guest posts and outreach activities, and our Google Business Profile listings.

Users, however, find our brand through a variety of online portals, including the directories where we build our citations and listings.

Influencing the user journey at a search step

When users conduct their first searches, it’s your first opportunity to make a good impression and become part of the user journey.

If you appear high in the local pack or in the SERPs, you want your users to click on content that both provides value and satisfies their user intent.

Lazy local pages don’t help anyone

In many cases, when a website “localizes” it means generating local content and local pages.

These are executed with varying degrees of effort, care, and detail, but in the end, lazy local pages don’t help anyone.

A lazy local page is a doorway page; a thin page that offers little value to the user and is there for the sole purpose of trying to rank for local search terms.

Google doesn’t like doorway pages (because they provide a poor user experience) and rolled out a doorway page “ranking adjustment” algorithm in 2015.

Possum’s 2016 update also helped combat poor quality and spamming, but it’s a tactic that has persisted. In many verticals, they are still effective (until something better comes along).

The official Google support documentation defines doors as:

“Sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in users’ search results, where each result ends up taking the user to the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.”

Even if you rewrite all the content on those pages making sure they are not duplicated, but all carry the exact same message with a different city targeted, they offer no value.

However, it depends on the niche and in some smaller niches Google may still rank doorway pages for lack of competition and other viable options.

It boils down to two concepts that Google uses in its Quality Rater Guidelines document: the “beneficial purpose of the page” and whether the page is “a good fit for the query”.

Even if the company does not address the local physical aspects of the query, but provides content that suggests it covers the physical location and provides value (and a positive reputation value proposition) to users searching for X in Y, when Google is void of other options that meet physical location preferences, Google will rank the content.

Create good local value pages

Granted, it’s much easier for businesses with physical stores in the locations they want to target to build high-value local pages.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done for businesses that offer a local-oriented intangible product or service.

Google’s search quality guidelines define content in two parts:

  • The main content.
  • Supporting content.

This is how you should look at local search.

When someone in London is looking [plumbers in london]Google needs to break the query down into major and minor sections, as well as research the intent of the query.

He can do this thanks to the abilities obtained in the Hummingbird and RankBrain updates.

With [plumbers] as the main part of the query, and view the search results page of [plumbers]Google sees a single dominant interpretation of the query, and that’s someone looking for a plumber (service), and returns a combination of local business websites, aggregators, Map Pack (local to my IP address ) and the Google local services carousel.

[in london] is then the modifier.

It is a secondary signal to reinforce with Google the accuracy of the results sought.

Add this modifier for me (using [plumbers in horsforth]), Google gave more weight to aggregators listing multiple plumbing companies in the area and apparently lightened individual company sites.

This makes sense from a user’s perspective as it gives me easier access to multiple options from a single click versus multiple clicks.

The main content of your website should reflect the products/services you offer, with supporting content elements adding value and topical relevance around the location.

This can be implemented non-commercially through the blog, in the form of guides or additional resources.

Coherence of the NAP

As mentioned earlier, NAP consistency is important as directory listings, and the citations we build aren’t just used by search engines. Potential customers also find these details.

An inconsistent or inaccurate NAP can lead to frustrated users and potentially lost leads.

Common Reasons for an Inconsistent NAP

From experience, an inconsistent NAP can be caused by a number of human errors and business changes, including:

  • Changing the business address and not updating citations, directory listings, etc.
  • Have a different store address than the registered business address and use both online.
  • Generation of different phone numbers for attribution tracking purposes.

Not only can all of the above cause problems for your local SEO, they can also cause a number of user experience issues – and poor user experience leads to lost sales and damage to your brand.

The user experience extends beyond the local pack and SERPs to your website, how the local journey is handled, and whether it can satisfy all local intents.

Being able to accurately track and report on the success of marketing activities is essential.

However, there is a case of “over-reporting” and “over-attribution” in some cases, especially when it comes to local SEO.

Google Local Pack: User Experience and Attribution

Google’s local pack works on a different algorithm than traditional organic search results and is heavily influenced by where the user is searching.

The Google Business Profile has an attribution problem, and more often than not many clicks from GMB listings are classified as direct traffic rather than organic traffic in Google Analytics.

The solution is to use a parameter:

?utm_source=GMBlisting&utm_medium=organic

The setting won’t cause NAP/quote consistency issues, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Having a consistent NAP means you’re more likely to appear in the local pack, and if you’re in the local pack, studies have shown you’re likely to get a high percentage of clicks on the results page.

If you’re likely to get a lot of clicks, that means many users expect fast-loading pages and important information to satisfy their search intent.

Directory assignment

This is a more common issue I’ve encountered on the work agency side, as well as one I’ve been asked to implement while working on the client side.

To track marketing efforts, I have known organizations that generate unique phone numbers for each directory they submit the business to.

  • Benefits: You can fairly accurately gauge the ROI of your marketing efforts.
  • The inconvenients : You end up with a lot of published citations with an inconsistent NAP.

Also, many directories like to generate Google business profile listings based on the data you enter, as a kind of “added service”.

This leads to multiple Google Business Profile listings being generated for individual locations, with different phone numbers and sometimes different map pin locations.

This is bad for the user experience as they are faced with multiple choices for a location with only one being correct.

This is manageable by declaring the fake listings to be duplicates of another and asking Google to merge them. See ‘How to remove or merge duplicate Google Business Profile listings’ for more information.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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