In the local search sphere, one of the most important aspects of an establishment is its unique identifier, commonly known as NAP, which stands for Name, Address and Phone.  

A citation is simply an online mention of your business NAP.

When search engines see consistent NAP citations across your website, review sites, social media profiles, and directory listings, then this acts as a positive ranking factor. However, if search engines find inconsistencies in the citations, in the interest of caution and their own reputation, they promote businesses with accurate and consistent NAPs over yours. 

Based on Moz’s Local SEO Ranking Factors, a body of research conducted annually by David Mihm, the Director of Local Search at Moz, NAP inconsistencies have been identified as the third highest negative factor affecting local rankings.

Unfortunately, some SEO companies that do not specialise in local SEO as well as businesses of all sizes, overlook this important factor to their great detriment. 

Businesses do not purposely create inconsistent citations. Sometimes, it is a product of shifting office locations, or changing phone numbers over several years and failing to update online directories.

Many times, it is as simple as not using a consistent name. If the registered name of your company is Collins Services Ltd, but all your branding is under Collins Services, it is imperative that you utilise it consistently and not switch between the two.

Equally, you need to be consistent on the address (the order in which you list suite or floor number), and phone number (with or without country code and spaces) used when creating citations.

Checking your local citations

Monitoring your citations is something every business should do on a routine basis.

One of the most convenient free tools is Moz’s local listing checker. Enter your business name and post code on the site and you will find all the iterations of your business listings.

Do not be surprised if you find multiple divergent citations.

Keep in mind that even if search engines have improved their ability to detect minor differences, you should still aim towards perfection.

Below is an example of the types of citation inconsistencies a business may have.


Fixing the citation inconsistencies

Fixing the problem begins by correcting the information with the big data aggregators, therefore a good starting point is to amend the data on Factual and Central Index. 

Once the above has been corrected, then you can move onto authoritative online directories/social media platforms:

  • Google+
  • Bing Places
  • Yelp
  • Four Square

Last, but not least, are online directories such as:

  • Thomson Local
  • Yell
  • Scoot

The above list is not an all-inclusive list of authoritative sites in the UK local citation ecosystem, however it is a good start for any business.

Do not be discouraged if even after correcting the listings, you find a few that either revert back to their previous version or you run across new citations replicated by old incorrect data.

It can be a battle at times to stay above it all, but you will come out victorious in the long run if you persevere. 


Remember that search engines just want to show the most current, relevant and accurate results to their customers. Wouldn’t you be disappointed and question the reliability of the search engine if you were constantly given incorrect business locations and data, especially if it occurred frequently?

So do your part in making it easier for customers to find you and for search engines to trust your citations. It’s a win-win for all parties.

Farooq Bhatti

Published 21 August, 2015 by Farooq Bhatti

Farooq Bhatti is a local search specialist at Caliber. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Going meta, this definition of NAP isn't mentioned by Wikipedia - a clear example of Citation Inconsistency if it's really an important issue. Follow your own advice and fix it?

almost 3 years ago


Tom Smith, Head of local search at Neesh

Great article. Citation inconsistency is a massive issue. So glad data from google plus is being purged.

@Pete Use MOZ for local Seo terms. Not sure what your point is by linking to a wiki article.

almost 3 years ago

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