The Telephone Number – and its Impact on Local SEO

There’s been a lot of conversation lately about the use of call tracking numbers and their risks to local marketing through the disruption of a business’ NAP (Name | Address | Phone) – the key elements for driving online visibility for small business.

The telephone number seems to be at the heart of the conversation, so perhaps a detailed overview of the components that make up a business’ telephone number and how those connect to the business’ physical location would be of benefit.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here – HowStuffWorks did an excellent job at identifying the segments of a telephone number and even goes as far as drawing parallels to it and to the vital elements of a business for local marketing – their address(as an element of NAP).

Consider this phone number for reference: 123-456-7890

  • Area Code (123) – the first element of a phone number – this designates a specific geographical region, such as a city, county, or part of a state
  • Prefix (456) – The second part of a phone number is the prefix, which “originally referred to the specific switch that a phone line connected to. Each switch at a phone carrier’s central office had a unique three-digit number. With the arrival of computerized switches, many systems now allow local number portability (LNP),” says HowStuffWorks. [To clarify: LPNs allow you to move your phone number to a different switch – as long as it remains local.] As the area code relates to a broad geographical area, the prefix draws a closer connection to the real business.
  • Line Number (7890) – The last of the telephone number sequence is the number string assigned at the switch level to the phone line that you are using.

“Think of the three parts like a street address, where the area code is the city, the prefix is th­e street, and the line number is the house,” says HowStuffWorks.

Telephone numbers carry strong and irreplaceable local identifiers that authenticate local businesses.  Replacing them with a non-local number or a non-local tracking number will surely mitigate the intended market value of a properly optimized NAP as well as send mixed business citation signals to search engines.

Search marketing aside, I’m sure there are some places where call tracking numbers (CTNs) could actually be beneficial for businesses, like print marketing, PPC (the use of CTNs are actually on the rise here, as have prices to use the new PPC phone extensions), television, and radio.  Enterprise and franchise businesses may also benefit, but on a different scale.

CTN’s have marketing potential – just not on the internet.  Just calling it how I see it . . .

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