If you’ve been actively marketing your business online, you’ve probably heard of both local SEO and organic SEO. But you might find yourself wondering what the difference is between the two.
In this post, we’re going to walk you through the difference between local SEO and organic SEO as well as how they are related.
Both start with a search.
What Is Local Search?
The main difference between organic and local search is that local SEO has a geographical component and is part of Google Maps.
If a user searches for an industry, topic, product, or service + location, the search engine knows that the search has local intent. Search engines will also assume local intent in some searches based on the user’s location, search history or nature of the question and answer that is most relevant to the user. The ultimate goal of a search engine is to answer the user’s question with the most accurate results.
Here’s how local search works:
It’s been a long day and I’m starving, but I don’t feel like cooking dinner. Who am I going to call? I search Google for “Pizza Delivery Granville Ohio.”
So, who’s coming to my rescue? Well, as you see, only three pizza places show up in the local results under the ads, followed by other organic results, all on the first page.
(And even if I just search for “Pizza” Google assumes I’m looking for a nearby pizza place.)
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the act of optimizing your business's online presence so that you show up in those local searches. We'll talk more about that later on!
Back to those search results.
If you look below those local results, you’ll see what is called the “organic” results. These are the results search engines return based on the expertise, authority and trust they have built with a business’s website. The more relevant the algorithm believes your business and content to be, the more likely it is to match you to a user’s search.
What Is Organic Search?
Organic search results contain all sorts of content from articles to videos, to webpages from a variety of sites, that algorithms have determined are relevant to the user’s search. Results can also include local businesses and may even have some of the same business websites listed in the organic results as they have in the local results. The searcher may be looking for information rather than a specific location, however both may be relevant and provide value to the user.
Back to our previous example, maybe I’m not as tired as I thought I was. I think I’ll make a pizza instead of ordering one. So, I search for “Pizza Recipe” and the search engine will try to give me the best, most relevant recipes.
So, you might be wondering how search engines determine which pizza places (local results) or recipes (organic results) are the best or the most relevant.
Search engines use hundreds of factors or signals to rank and index webpages and websites in searches, including keywords, outbound and inbound links, content and design, and the speed and usability of your website to name just a few.
Who Should Rank in Local vs. Organic Search?
Brick and mortar businesses with a physical storefront in a specific location will want to start by focusing on their presence and ranking in a local search. The searcher is likely looking for a place to go for a specific product or service, so local businesses need to show up in local searches for their industry and make a good first impression on their Google Business Profile page that includes reviews, current photos, and of course, accurate hours of operation, address, phone number and other contact information.
Additionally, when you want your business to show up for certain search terms, topics, products or services as a subject matter expert, you’ll want to invest time in developing your onsite and offsite content so you can rank higher in organic search. Local relevance is still a factor in organic search, it is simply another set of search results that you’ll need to manage with different tactics.
For example, if you sell kitchen appliances, offer design services, and have a physical location that serves a large area, you’ll want to show up in both organic and local searches. They both provide value to your business and work together to draw in potential customers.
Can/Should Local Businesses Rank High in Organic Searches?
The best of both worlds would be to rank both locally and organically. The more placements you have within the search results, the better. When your website has good content, you should think of it as a tool to help you drive new business. Having a complete and accurate listing will not only help you rank well in local searches, but it will also help with your organic rankings.
Organic SEO is the work that goes into optimizing your website and other online references so search engines understand who you are and what you're good at. Then they are able to index and rank your site, to make sure they are returning the best results possible.
To rank higher in search results, both organically and locally, your business has to be relevant to a specific search. And to show search engines your business is the right answer for a particular query, you have to state the obvious.
Why Local SEO (Local Search Marketing)
It’s important for your business to show up in relevant local searches because 50 percent of searchers visit businesses within 24 hours of a local search.
Naturally, optimizing a business for local SEO has a lot to do with location. Search engines need to know exactly where your business is located so that when someone searches for a location, the search engine can find the businesses that are located there.
To state it in simple terms, in order for local SEO to be effective, you want to make sure your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP) is consistent across local listing directories as well as your website. That is the bare minimum you’ll need for local SEO, though.
For more information on being found online, here are a couple resources:
Organic SEO has more to do with whether or not your website is relevant for certain searches.
When optimizing a website for organic search, the intention is to get the website to show up for certain searches or keywords. This could be something short like “pizza recipe” or a question spoken into voice search on a smartphone like “How to make crunchy gluten-free pizza crust”.
For organic SEO, you need to focus on important topics that are relevant to your business’s products and services, using specific keywords in headings and copy throughout your website. Don’t stuff the paragraphs full of keywords, but if you post a gluten-free pizza crust recipe, you might want to use the words “gluten-free pizza crust” a couple of times on the page.
How Do Local SEO and Organic SEO Affect Each Other?
There are certain SEO practices that help both local and organic search rankings. For instance, when claiming your business page on local listing directories like Google, Bing, Yelp and TripAdvisor, you are also adding a link back to your website.
These local listing citations (your business’s name, address and phone number) help local SEO by telling search engines where you’re located. They create links back to your website, which counts as a link building strategy that helps your organic SEO efforts since search engines take the number of backlinks into account when they rank websites in search results.
On-site local SEO (such as writing a locally focused blog post or updating a page by adding your business’s address) can also help your organic SEO. Search engines like fresh content, so while local SEO helps send out signals of local relevance, it can also help boost your organic SEO efforts.
When they’re done correctly, both local and organic SEO efforts will help improve your website rankings, but when done incorrectly, both can have a hugely detrimental effect on your digital marketing efforts.
Remember that even though SEO is optimization for search engines, it is what helps consumers find your business.
While you want to make sure search engines know what your business and your website are about, it's important to think of those potential customers who are searching for your business.
Don't just optimize so that Google knows what you do. Make sure searchers can find all the information they'll need about your business, such as exact location, hours, services, or products, etc.
RevLocal specializes in creating personalized digital marketing plans for small businesses and multi-location brands. If you want to learn more about our services, contact us or check out our other resources!