Admittedly, I would enjoy the standard use of the term ‘nap’ right about now, but here I refer to some industry jargon; a company’s NAP is…
* Phone number.
My name is Rich, I’m the guy who looks at most of your websites to help you promote them, and I could really use your NAP.
As simple as it is to include set of information may seem, this often is overlooked. I have talked to people who complained nobody contacted them through their website, only to see the website had no contact information! A more common issue is that the NAP information is provided, but not consistently. Ensuring that your business is easy to search for is especially crucial in this day and age, with so many businesses in so many databases. Not using consistent NAP information can create variations of a business’ online identity, which makes it harder, in some cases impossible, for search engines and other sources to verify your information.
I’ve already addressed the importance of consistent use of your (and/or your business) name in the blog article, What’s in a Name.
While clearly your business name is important, it is also important to use it consistently. If you go by William Shakespeare, don’t have half your promotion read “Bill Shakespeare.” If you run AwesomeCo, don’t have a sign that says “Awesome Company, Inc.” This will likely confuse people and work against you.
While crucial to most business promotion, business addresses tend to be the most commonly omitted piece of information in websites and other online promotion. Most weeks, roughly 10% of the client websites I see are submitted without addresses or phone numbers. Sure, on a selfish level, this makes my job harder. But when you consider my job is to promote our customers’ businesses, it means that customer is making it harder for me to promote them! I spend a lot of time working with customers just to figure out if this information was omitted due to privacy concerns or simply forgotten.
Sometimes, a business owner gets preoccupied with online promotion and forgets that the point of any promotion is to get and keep more clients. If your end goal is someone to come to your office, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to get there. There are several reasons why your address is crucial:
1) Your address is uniquely yours.
In addition to your name and phone number, the address is one of the unique bits of information that makes your business distinct and notable. Having your address listed on your website helps search engines, not just to specifically connect to your location, but to generally establish that you exist. It also helps to distinguish you from businesses with similar names; Chopsticks Restaurant on Hawthorne Blvd. (a family friendly eatery in South East Portland) is not to be confused with Chopsticks Karaoke Bar on Burnside (a fairly rowdy place in North East Portland), for instance.
2) Your address helps describe your business
Sometimes your physical location is worth noting even if clients don’t come to you. For instance, even if you do home visits, or exclusively counsel people by phone or Skype, the state you are certified in might be relevant because of licensing concerns or insurance reasons.
Another example might be cultural. Even if my schedule or lifestyle means I want to consult with a doctor or talk to a therapist via skype, I likely want to find someone who has some basic understanding of my concerns. One client was a counselor who lived in a small town in Alaska, who specialized in online therapy for others who lived in small towns in Alaska. In addition to his training, he specifically understood the climate, the unique situations of Alaskan daylight (or lack thereof) and other factors of a specific sort of lifestyle. An equally qualified counselor in New York City who might do online counseling focused on people who have a hard time leaving their apartment
This is less common of a concern than the others, but worth noting. In general, more kinds of information you provide about yourself, the better.
3) If you don’t share your address, let people know
Sometimes I contact a client because they don’t publicize their address only to realize that they only do house-calls, Skype counseling, etc. These are valid business models, but if your website doesn’t say this, your potential clients may not realize how your business works.
* If you do house-calls, office visits, etc, make sure to denote that you come to your clients and what the terms are.
* If you do counseling or consultation by phone or Skype, make sure to note if you do this exclusively, or in conjunction to office visits. Make sure that a client knows how to go about this process.
* If your main duties are more likely to be giving lectures or workshops about your field than seeing clients in an office, make sure this is clear on your website.
* If you do see people at your office, but prefer to keep the location private for whatever reason, make sure that the lack of address is decided. You don’t need to say “since I work from home, I keep my address hidden”, but instructions such as “Call or email me to set up an appointment at my office in…” and provide at least a general area, “downtown Akron” or “Central SE Portland”, etc. While not as precise as an actual address, a neighborhood or general location can still go a long way to help with search engines. At the very least, it’s best to include your city, state and zip code. Whatever your situation is, your website should be able to answer a client’s questions and give them the means to contact you.
* Also, if there is some reason you keep your address private, make sure you’re actually keeping it private. Be careful when filling out forms, you wouldn’t want to fill out any form with your address without carefully reading what the form is for.
We do cross-check to make sure any publicity we do matches the information on your website, but you’re your own best line of defense, and not every company pays as close attention to such matters. In my job duties, I see a lot of private information people willingly put online, not realizing what they were getting into.
4) Your address is how people find you.
Some of our customers have told me that they don’t want to have their address on their website, because that would limit clients to the surrounding area. While this makes sense in theory, it is actually not he case. Most services in the healing arts are more likely to attract local attention; unless you are already known on a regional or national level, you’re unlikely to get cross country interest unless you work in a very specific field.
If your work is such that you travel to clients or work remotely, you should definitely indicate that on your site, but it’s no replacement for having your physical address listed. Search Engines and potential clients both are trained to look for location in a specific format, and having an actual address in a standard format, ideally on your sidebar. It’s a quick, simple way to make your business easy to find and learn more about.
On the most obvious level, your address is where you are. If clients want come to see you, they need to know where to go. Some of our customers think it’s enough to have clients email or call them for directions.
Also, consider how people look up information online. More and more, search engines are tailoring their results to a user’s location even if a user doesn’t specifically include that information in their search query. As more and more people turn to online directories, Google Maps, and location based apps on their smartphones to learn about businesses in their area, it’s crucial that people know you’re in their area. If I want, say, sushi for dinner, I don’t look for sushi as a general concept online, I want to know where I can get sushi nearby. This is impossible if the restaurants don’t list their addresses.
I personally don’t see this come up as a concern nearly as much as names and addresses do, but the information above also applies to phone numbers. If, for some reason, you have multiple phone numbers, keeping on consistent for all promotion will help keep your information straight. While toll free numbers are useful, conventional wisdom is that a local number can be more helpful for listing purposes, as it ties to a specific locale. That being said, I have yet to see a toll free number be problematic when I create listings for a customer.
One issue with phone numbers, and for that matter, email addresses, for businesses with multiple practitioners is to make sure you have one all-purpose mode of contact information. For instance if AwesomeCo is made up of myself, Tim, Ryan and Taylor, we could very well have unique phone numbers and email addresses for each person. While useful, this can be confusing to a prospective client, how would they know which person is best to call? In cases like this, I advise that there be one phone number, and a general email address such as “[email protected]” or “[email protected]”, be used for promotion. Even if all contact goes to, say, Tim, the client feels like they are contacting a business, not a random part of it. This also helps if Tim leaves the company later on.
Little things can make a big difference; taking the few extra minutes to double check that your basic information is correct, consistent and clear can end up with huge effects, like a minor difference in what direction you start a long journey. And with that, I might take that other nap I mentioned.
Rich M – CoachingWebsites Listings
Email any questions to [email protected]