SBSM Mailbag: Does Google Normalize NAP Data? (Name, Address, Phone)

Filed in Google, Local Search by Matt McGee on October 26, 2012 10 Comments

Earlier this week, I invited readers to submit questions that might become good topics for future articles … and you responded! A few of you submitted very specific questions about local SEO and local search, which would normally be fine except for the fact that I’m not doing much local SEO these days!

So, for this first question, I’ve enlisted the help of Professor Maps — AKA Mike Blumenthal, who I assume/hope you know as a prolific & expert local search blogger and small business owner himself. Mike graciously replied to this question from reader Kris D.

Kris asks: To what degree does Google normalize NAP data? Given the following addresses as a general sampling:

123 US 19 #L
123 U.S. 19 #L
123 US 19 Ste L
123 US Highway 19 Ste. L

Will Google recognize that these are all the same locations for a unique business?

I recently noticed that Google+ Local picked up a review from a directory listing that had the #L in the address even though I have been using the Ste L style suite spelling. Additionally, some directories such as Localeze and some of the other big players (CityGrid, Google+ Local) use different data sets with slighly different spellings that are not changeable and some don’t even recognize the suite info at all. The reason for the question is that I do not want to charge for a problem that does not need to be fixed.

I shared this question with Mike via e-mail, and here’s his reply:

Google does an excellent job of normalizing NAP data.

A simple mind experiment demonstrates this fact. Most small businesses are very inconsistent with how they represent their NAP. As you point out, the primary data suppliers also handle specific fields differently. Between those two facts, the vast majority of businesses have some inconsistencies. When Google discovers trusted NAP information that it can’t reconcile with an existing listing, they create a new listing in the index.

If Google were not able to normalize this data correctly, then virtually every listing in Google would show duplicates. They don’t. In fact, as a percentage of the total number of businesses in Google’s local index (somewhere north of 100 million), very few on a percentage basis have duplicate listings. So, for the most part, the algo handles those minor discrepancies well.

That being said, you don’t want to tempt fate. Whenever possible, seed consistent NAP and pick your NAP based on how Google represents the data in their index (i.e., the address information matches how Google shows the address on their map). This will minimize problems.

The only time I would worry about the situation would be if the business is consistently experiencing duplicate listings flowing into the index. Then you need to commit the time to solve the problem.

Kris, I hope that answers your question. And thanks for sending it in. If any other readers have questions I might be able to turn into future articles, see this post. Just keep in mind that very specific local search questions aren’t in my wheelhouse these days. Best to visit Mike’s Blog and send him a note if need be.

(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

Comments (10)

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  1. Kris says:

    Yes, that puts things in perspective. Thanks for answering my question. I appreciate it.
    Kris

  2. Nyagoslav says:

    Great answer by Mike!

    One more situation which might be worrisome is when your business address has been updated in some of directories’ map databases, but hasn’t been updated at Google. Then you might need to do some MapMaker editing. If it’s the other way round, though, you might very well be out of luck.

  3. Thanks for the info Mike. I just have one clarification…when you say,

    “pick your NAP based on how Google represents the data in their index”

    what do you mean precisely? Are you saying go to Google Maps, enter the business name and see how the address shows up on the Google+ Local Page and use that?

    I’ve noticed that Google prefers to spell everything out – even if you don’t have it spelled out in the dashboard. So if you have State ST NW in the dashboard, it usually shows up as State Street Northwest on the page itself. Given that, would it be best to spell everything out for the NAP on other directories?

    Travis Van Slooten

  4. Ben Bowen says:

    This was helpful! Our companies’ name is Ross NW Watergardens. However, in some citations it has been spelled out- “Northwest”.
    I spent many hours fixing most of these, but some have alluded me. I have noticed though, that google seems to recognize that NW = Northwest even as part of our name.
    Still, it has worried me!

  5. Props to Nyagoslav for directing me to this article. Great read, thanks for the advice!

  6. Sorry I am late to the party. Matt told me he was going to publish and then I forgot to check.

    @Travis

    Great question. I am particularly referring to the address part of the NAP. If when you go into Google Maps and you type in the address and Google comes back with a different address, then use the Google address if possible. It isn’t always but if it is a question and you can use Google’s resolved address then you are further ahead.

    Google tends to spell out the address in the suggested drop downs in Maps but I am referring to the address result itself.

    For example this search for 201 East State Street” returns 201 E State Street. Use the later.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Mike – are you accusing me of not following up to let you know that the post was published?? If you are, I’m probably guilty. :-) Sorry about that. Thx for helping with the original question, and for chiming in again here in the comments.

  7. Justin Liles says:

    I’m glad you answered this question for the masses. I’ve heard this question asked a bunch of times by clients that are concerned that they don’t have “Exact Match” when it comes to the “minor” details of their business address across the web. Thank you for putting this post together.

  8. Mike Blumenthal says:

    @Matt
    Not at all. I normally follow your posts closely, knew this was coming but dropped the ball when the time came.

    Again sorry for not coming by sooner.

  9. Thanks for clarifying this. My address is a suite number. Some citations list it is ste even though I always use a mere comma and nothing else. I should have know the google gods would be smart enough to figure it out.

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