How Inaccurate Listings Impact Your SEO
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Raise your hand if you've ever found yourself in this scenario before:
Your website is gorgeous and has GREAT content. You've crafted the perfect pitch and have optimized each page with the RIGHT keywords. You have made sure all your pages are free of technical errors and redirects that could impact your rankings. But for some weird reason, your site isn't picking up any traffic and is still on Page 3. You're frustrated and ready to give up. But before you do, we're going to have to humbly request that you hang in there, because there's a lot more to SEO than meets the eye.
Contrary to popular belief, keywords aren’t the only factor that impacts your SEO ranking. While they are important, there are dozens of other things (e.g., site age, inbound traffic, user experience) that influence how a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo ranks a website. And if you happen to be a gym, hotel, restaurant, boutique, or a business with multiple locations, there's one factor you should prioritize above all others: making sure the NAP information is correct on your Google reviews and business review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and the Better Business Bureau.
What is NAP (and why you should care)?
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. It is one of the most crucial pieces of SEO for businesses looking to upgrade their ranking in local organic search results. What does that mean? Google – and many other search engines – take geographic data into account when they display specific search results.
Google is almost unfathomably large in terms of data storage. To work as seamlessly as it does for all users, the search engine depends on data centers located across the globe. So it may be that two people making the same request are accessing different servers at the same time.
Let’s say someone in Newark, New Jersey searches for “Crossfit gyms near me.” Google takes their geographic location in consideration before directing their request to the nearest North American data center. If someone in Sydney, Australia uses the same search term, they are sent to the closest Australian data center to their location. These servers are not always identical but the search engine crawlers are constantly gathering the most relevant data and the best answer for each query.
This can lead to some inconsistent results in a global context but it also makes certain that users get those results quickly. In each case, the search engine will seek out the highest ranking results that match the geotargeted search as the most relevant.
Are Inaccurate Online Business Listings Affecting You?
With the understanding of NAP in mind, it should be obvious that accurate listings are key. According to the most current study from Moz, accurate on-page signals ranks fourth in Local Search Ranking Factors.
To keep their data centers up-to-date, Google is constantly cross-referencing information, including NAP information or your business, across the web. When Google finds inconsistencies, duplicates, or outdated information in your online listings, it makes a note of them. The more errors it finds, the less likely you are to be included in results. The bot crawlers enlisted by the search engine can’t be sure that your website is legitimate. The last thing Google wants is to direct users to spam!
Your initial search results aren't the only thing that's being affected. You’re also hurting your chances to gain new clients or followers by having inaccurate data. BrightLocal has compiled an eye-opening list of stats that outline why inaccurate information hurts online businesses with the Local Citations Trust Report. When consumers find inaccurate business information listed on websites, they are more likely to go to a competitor, less likely to use a local business at all, and far more likely to blame the business rather than the directory.
So what errors should you be looking for? We’ve put together a list of the most common errors and missing information that have been reported for local businesses online:
Make sure this information is correct – or you may find yourself losing something more important than your indexing number – sales.
How do you fix inaccurate online business listings?
First thing’s first: Check with Google. This is especially important if you are a new business or launching a brand new site. It’s never too early to get your NAP listings perfect from the start. There are several tools you can get to help with this process, like Yext and Google Search Console. This is a must for keeping your listings accurate and up-to-date!
If you haven’t already, you should claim your free Google My Business account. In the same study we shared earlier, Moz reports that almost 15% of local ranking signals comes from Google My Business. Take control of your Google listing (and don’t forget to verify your information!).
You should look into your listings on other sites and check for broken links. How likely is it for someone to seek out your business after encountering one broken link? They won’t. According to BrightLocal, that can cost you up to 70% of potential business when consumers reach frustration with inaccurate SEO information. When it comes to these listings, quality is more important than quantity. Instead of putting your business on every website out there, choose carefully! You want to reach the most potential customers without compromising your own brand.
With these tips, if something does change you’ll be able to quickly correct the listing where it matters.