Home Digital Marketing Local SEO vs. Organic SEO

Local SEO vs. Organic SEO

by Maja Teagle

When you’re trying to increase your business’s visibility, the internet is an invaluable tool. In theory, you can reach millions of people from all over the world. However, there are several important questions you should ask yourself when it comes to digital marketing:

  • Do you really need to reach a wide variety of people or just a targeted group?
  • If a targeted group better serves your purposes, who does this group include?
  • What is the best way to reach this group?

Your answers should determine your marketing strategy, specifically whether to focus on local SEO vs. organic SEO. While these two practices have a lot in common, they have very different goals.

What is the Difference Between Local SEO and Organic SEO?

One of the main differences between local SEO and organic SEO is that a local SEO strategy focuses on geographic or location targeting to rank higher for specific regions.

This includes capturing “industry + location” or “near me” search queries. 

Organic SEO, also referred to as national SEO, doesn’t focus on the geographical component and instead aims to increase a website’s rankings on Google and other search engines.

The SERP (search engine results page) also differs between organic SEO and local SEO. Websites can still rank in the traditional positions for organic search, but local SEO can get your business ranking in the Local Map Pack (aka Google Maps). The example below shows the local SERP for the search query “best coffee near me.”

Coffee Shops SERPs

Ranking in both spots on SERPs can get you twice as much visibility!

An organic SEO strategy vs a local SEO strategy is also based on different ranking factors. There are overlapping ranking factors between both that hold a high value, including link building and website authority development, but local SEO places a higher emphasis on location-specific keywords, positive business reviews, citation building, having an optimized Google Business Profile listing, and several other localized ranking factors.

Why (and When) Should Businesses Use Local SEO?

Depending on your industry, your company may already be part of local search. Search engine algorithms often scan for local results whether the user specifies it or not. For example, when users type “fried chicken restaurant,” the algorithm narrows the search to places closest to their location. While there may be far-away fried chicken restaurants with better organic SEO, that probably won’t satisfy users’ needs.

Businesses that have a physical location that customers can visit or businesses that can deliver a product or service to a local audience should be incorporating a local SEO strategy into their marketing plan.

Generally, locations are towns or cities, though some enterprises may opt for states. It all depends on your business’s goals (more on that below). For example, a carpet cleaning company is more likely to choose a city. Realtors, on the other hand, may choose a county or state. Just like with organic SEO, you should consider the searcher’s need and intent when defining your location.

What are Your Business Goals?

Did you know that 97% of people using online search are actually looking for local businesses? And now that businesses are starting to reopen their doors once again to customers, 74% of consumers prefer a hybrid customer experience of both in-store interactions and online shopping.

Online-based and location-based businesses have very different goals when it comes to conversion, but the differences aren’t quite as stark of a contrast as once before. Companies that deal in e-commerce want customers to make their purchases online. The interaction begins and ends on the internet.

If you’re location-based, an online visit is only the beginning. Your conversions may include customers taking another step toward forming a relationship:

  • Calling your business
  • Submitting a contact form
  • Visiting your location

Local search can help you encourage these actions by literally putting you on the map.

What are the Benefits of Local SEO?

  • Capture business from people that are looking for your product or service right now
  • Increase site visibility while also increase foot traffic to your physical location
  • Delivery or service-based businesses can now rank on Google Maps even if you don’t have a physical storefront for customers to visit
  • Local SEO can be less competitive than national SEO (depending on your industry)

A thorough and well-executed local SEO strategy can make you show up on Google Maps in addition to the organic SERP positions. Rankings in the local map pack (aka Google Maps) are more prominent on the page, as they’re near the top. Oftentimes, they’re above even top links.

If you can make it onto the map pack, this gives your business a major competitive advantage. Google Maps usually only shows three options at a time, with the rest hidden unless the user clicks for more. This means users are more likely to look at the visible links.

How Do You Implement These Strategies?

One aspect of implementation is quite obvious: keywords. You should include location names when practicing local search. Organic SEO, on the other hand, is more about finding key terms that drive website traffic. Both must align with user and search intent.

It’s essential, however, that you don’t focus on keywords alone. The quality of the content also matters. After all, that’s how you gain organic backlinks and build authority. Whether it’s local SEO vs organic SEO, link building and positive signals pointing back to your website make all the difference.

Organic SEO

For organic or national SEO, you want people to link back to your pages and to pass along their own website authority to your site. Why? Link building serves as a vote of confidence to search engines that your website is worthy enough to be linked to and mentioned, especially if it comes from a highly trusted website. As a result, search engine algorithms are more likely to reward and rank websites with quality backlinks over those without.

What’s the best way to take advantage of this? There are a few options:

  • Create great content that offers value to searchers
  • Partner with influencers to mobilize their base
  • Appeal to your own base with community-centric posts

Local SEO

While backlinks are essential for both organic and local SEO, you should prioritize other ranking factors to increase your local search performance. 

  • Directory and Citation Building: Citations are your business NAP—name, address, and phone number. Directories are where citations are listed. Google Business Profile is technically a free directory provided by Google and businesses should definitely take advantage of it, but there are many other directories to be listed on. Getting featured in relevant directories for your industry gives your business exposure to prospective customers that are looking for a need that you can fulfill. This can also help with local search by showing your prominence on search engines.
  • Positive Reviews: Google places a high value on both the quality and quantity of your business reviews. Prioritize generating as many authentic, positive, and detailed reviews as possible to earn trust and authority with search engines. This has a direct impact on your local rankings.
  • Location-Targeting Content: Another important aspect to a local SEO strategy vs an organic SEO strategy is to create content that showcases your location-targeting keywords in a way that won’t hurt your organic performance in the long run. It’s easy to run into a duplicate content situation, especially if you have multiple locations throughout the state or city that all serve the same purpose.
  • Google Business Profile: This is essential to create if you want to perform well for local search (and it’s free)! Previously known as Google My Business but has since been renamed to Google Business Profile, it’s a free business listing on Google that can be optimized to increase your local SEO rankings.

Local SEO vs Organic SEO—Which Should You Use?

The answer to this question depends on your business structure and goals. For example, local SEO doesn’t make sense for a fully online company. On the other hand, organic SEO may not make as much of a positive impact on a plumbing business.

Unfortunately, not every industry is as cut and dry as the above examples. You may want to boost foot traffic as well as e-commerce. What should you do then?

First, know that you can optimize your website for both organic and local SEO strategies! The two can really benefit each other, especially if your business can deliver on that hybrid customer experience people are wanting now. 

However, if you have specific goals in mind, you may have to invest in one practice over the other to make the most impact in a specific timeframe. If your goals are to dominate the local competition and capture a local target audience, you need to ramp up your efforts with a local SEO strategy now!

If you’re confused or strapped for time, Manta can help! Learn more about our small business SEO services delivered by trusted and experienced SEO experts at a rate that won’t break the bank.

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