Local Search is a strange place, but one thing seems to be clear: One of the single most important factors in Local SEO is something you might hear cryptically called “NAP Match” or “NAP consistency.” NAP stands for “Name, Address, Phone.” Making sure that the NAP is consistent between various local directories, and especially that it is consistent between your website and Google/Bing/Yahoo/Yelp (otherwise known as the “Gang of 4″) is one of the basic best practices of Local SEO. (You can find this and other information contained here in David Mihm’s incredibly useful local search ranking factors survey.) Naturally, you run a big risk if you choose to represent your address in a way that conflicts with Google. Unless of course you can get Google to see reason and correct their version of the address. Doesn’t that sound easy? Well, sometimes.
Correcting An Address When it’s Easy
To correct your address, you can log into your Google Places page, if you’ve verified that you’re the owner, and correct it. Or, if you don’t own the business, you can conduct a search at maps.google.com, find the listing, and “Report a Problem.” (See screen shot at left)
But, what happens when Google does NOT show your business, verified or not, in its vast and conflicted database of local businesses? How do you submit a correction?
I recently had to struggle with a situation where Google did not have the business in Places, but was convinced that the business address was incorrect. Allow me to clarify.
My client has a business location in a fairly new industrial park in Las Vegas. By fairly new, I mean it’s only been there about a year. However even that is long enough for Google to show the industrial park correctly in a map view.
Spring Valley “Trumps” Las Vegas
Unfortunately for my client, Google decided that the neighborhood was more important than the exact city in showing the address. When I Google the address for this business, notice what Google changes the city to in the next screen shot.
Now before we go any further, let me explain that the address I typed into the search field is a postal-service-verified address, and that the actual city really is Las Vegas. Spring Valley is an unincorporated township within Las Vegas, in essence a sub-division. My client needs to be recognized as being a Las Vegas business, not a Spring Valley business (I think lots of Las Vegans don’t know where Spring Valley really is, and I grew up near Spring Valley in San Diego County, so the potential for confusion is considerable).
What adds to the complication is the fact that my client’s business name was unknown to Google. When I Googled my client’s business, I got irrelevant, unrelated business results. The client has no Place Page, in other words.
In order to try and figure out what was going on, I gave it another try, but this time I omitted the zip code when I searched. Hurray! Google let me keep the city name as Las Vegas.
But wait. What’s this I see? They’ve changed the zip code to 89148. That’s not even close.
I won’t even mention the variant where Google gave me the correct city but switched the zip code to 89118, but they did that as well.
Can You Fight Google Hall?
At this point I had a dilemma. Do I create a place page using an address that Google won’t validate? I already have on client where Google simply won’t accept a correction I made to their address via their Place Page. I can’t really move forward and list the client with an inaccurate zip code, and although Spring Valley might create an address where mail will find them, it’s an unacceptable marketing and branding situation.
At this point I turned to an excellent resource for local search issues, the Catalyst eMarketing Local Search forum run by Local SEO guru Linda Buquet. My question sparked a very informative thread that reminded me of a long forgotten, and little noticed, branch of Google’s empire called Google Mapmaker. And mapmaker proved to be the solution to my problem.
I was able to log into my personal Google account, navigate to http://www.google.com/mapmaker and create a business listing at the correct address. Google allowed me to input whatever I wanted in that way. Google reviews such submissions, but I was able to attach a note explaining the situation and clarifying the correct zip and city name for the client’s business. Google reviewed and approved it within 24 hours and, voila!, my client’s business now shows under its correct and approved name. Additionally, they also immediately showed up in Places and I was able to merely claim them using the traditional claiming process.
Now that Map Maker is back on, er, my map…I can see one more option in my steadily increasing list of local SEO tools.
By the way, in our Master SEO Class we do an in-depth module on local search. The class is in a workshop format and is taught across the United States, as well as Europe, Asia, and Australia. For SEO class dates, please check our schedule. And if you are looking for specific local SEO information, I highly recommend Linda and the community at http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com.