A few months ago I wrote a post discussing the NAP (Name, Address, Phone) profile and other important factors for ranking in local search results. Today I want to discuss why the NAP profile is so important and what you can do when you realize your profile is messy.
First off, let’s look at why a clean and consistent profile across the web is important. To do this I find it best to try and see things from the eyes of a Google. The Google bot is constantly crawling billions of web pages collecting data as it goes. When it comes to brick and mortar businesses the data points are used to build an information profile. The search engine will aggregate all the collected data and determine a few things.
- Authority – This is determined by the number of citations a business has across the web and where the citations are coming from. Quality and quantity both matter here. A citation can come in a structured form such as a local directory or in an unstructured form such as content in a blog post, forum signature or a press release.
- Association – The accumulation of data will give search engines an idea of what websites and social media profiles the business is associated with. The more authority these profiles have the more trust the search engine will have in the business. It is always best to link up your website and social media profiles across the web to make this picture as clear as possible for search engines.
- Confidence – When all the data is collected the search engines are going to look at the consistency of the data. They will determine what information they think is accurate and assign a confidence factor to the profile.
So for the purpose of this post we are going to hone in on #3 above — Confidence. Google’s sole job with search is to provide relevant and accurate data to its users. They do not want to look stupid and will not prominently display your business information at the top of search results if your profile data has 3 different business names, 5 phone numbers and a variety of address locations. They might have an idea which pieces of data are correct but they certainly do not want to hinge their reputation on a guess.
So what does all this mean?
Well, it means your NAP profile needs to be as spic and span as possible all across the web.
The Bad News: Most insurance agents do not have a clean NAP profile. To make matters worse the problem is often exacerbated the longer you have been in business.
The Good News: Most of your local competitors are probably in the same boat. If you do something about it you might just rise up from the local search ashes (i.e. page 2 and beyond).
So right about now I’m sure some of you are wondering how in the world you should have known to keep an eye on this 10+ years ago when you started your agency. I get it and it stinks. The only thing you can do now is try and fix it. I have gone through numerous NAP profile cleanups and while it can be painful and frustrating it is always worth the effort. In fact, right now I am in the process of a hellacious cleanup for my IMP case study. The agency involved has been in business for 10 years and has just about every issue you can imagine.
How to Clean up a Profile
To begin a NAP profile cleanup we first need to get a baseline ranking in Google local search results. To do this simply search for your city/town name and insurance. An example would be “Chicago Insurance”. This search result should net a local result pack and will have a link to display more local (maps) results. (see image below)
If your business is displayed in the local result pack on page 1 you are doing well. If you are not in the top spot there is still room to grow by cleaning up or adding more citations. If you are not on the first page keep browsing until you find your business. Anywhere past page 2 is going to require some work.
The next step you will want to take is to do a free scan with Yext and GetListed.org to see where your agency stands with the top citation sources. Both of these sources offer some great information for free that clearly point out where you need to get started. Yext offers a service that will sync your business information with 40+ of their top partners. The service costs just under $500/year and is worth the price (I have two paid accounts with them).
After doing the initial scans I would also suggest searching your business name, your business phone number, and your business address each in quotations (separate searches) in Google. An example of this would be “Acme Insurance” or “555-555-5555”. The search results will allow you to find local listings and profiles that have inaccurate information. I recommend starting by logging each profile that needs to be updated in a spread sheet.
The next step is to use the local citation finder at whitespark.ca. This tool will crawl the web and show you a ton of profiles with your business information you probably would not have found on your own. This tool will show you profiles that need to be fixed as well as profiles that are correct. You can also use it to and you can also see where you stand against your competition and find additional citation sources by researching their profiles. The pro tool costs $20/month but just month of service should be plenty to get the information you need.
Once you know what you need to fix it will be time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Many local directories will allow you to claim or edit a listing. These sites will require some sort of confirmation which typically involves calling your business phone number or an email confirmation.
Once you get past the “nice” directories you will most likely find a lot of lower tier directories and scraper or parasite sites that do not have an option to edit a listing. This is where the cleanup process becomes very time consuming and annoying. I typically hunt down the site contact information and write an email requesting the information be removed or updated with the correct info. If you do this be sure to include a link to the listing and your correct information for them to use. My first email is typically very cordial and polite.
If the listing is not updated in a week I will follow up with a more stern email suggesting the listing is causing confusion to my clients and sometimes threatening legal action.
It is up to you how far you want to take things but I typically stop after the second attempt because it is not worth the time. Some of the incorrect citations will not get fixed. As annoying as that might be you can overcome them and stack the search data profile in your favor by building more correct citations to your business.
When it comes to building citations to your business there are 5 initial sources to look for.
- Top search engines and social properties
- Top local directories, yellow pages and review sites
- National business data aggregators
- Niche industry directories
- Local directories focusing on your community
Below are examples of the most important sources for each category. If you have an insurance agency make sure you are listed correctly on each of these sources.
Search Engines and Social Properties
- Google+ Local Page – This one can be tricky because Google is moving all Places pages over to Google + Local. If you don’t know if you have a page or not just visit the link here and follow the steps. If Google has already created a page for your business you will want to claim it.
- Yahoo! Local (Managed by Yext)
- Bing Places
- Facebook Local Place Page – Select the Local Business or Place option.
- LinkedIn Company Page
- Twitter – Add your NAP to the bio field.
Local Directories, Yellow Pages and Review Sites
- Best of the Web Local
- Patch.com – If available in your area
These services feed listings to other directories. If you business is already listed be sure to claim it and make any edits necessary. If you are not listed, then add your business.
Niche Industry Directories
These are good directories for insurance agencies to be listed on.
- Insurance States
- Captive Profile – If you are with Farmers, Allstate, State Farm or another captive carrier that offers an agent profile page make sure your information is structured in the same format that is used on Google (if you are listed). This is one of your most important citations.
These will vary based on your location so there are not any specifics links we can mention here. Some good places to start are your local chamber of commerce, the Better Business Bureau and local newspaper sites. You can also do a search for your town/city + directory or businesses and you will often find more sources.
By simply taking action on information in this post you will be on your way to creating an excellent online profile and increasing your local search rankings. For more information on this topic I suggest you also take a look at a recent infographic and post published by Yext titled The Cost of Bad Location Data.
I hope this post has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.