You’ve probably come across the terms Local SEO and Organic SEO. However, while you might have a general idea of what they mean, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.
It is important for any business entering the digital marketing to fully understand the differences between local SEO vs organic SEO. If you want your online campaigns to be effective, you need to understand how they work and how success can be measured.
Let’s start with the differences:
Local SEO vs Organic SEO
Let’s start with the fundamental definitions of both Local SEO and Organic SEO so you can start to see the foundational differences. We’ll cover the detailed differences and why they are important further down.
Organic SEO is a term for all the natural, non-adbuy ways of making your website rank higher in the search results. Specifically, searches performed on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo! and so on.
It can be a website for a business, a personal blog, a news website, an e-Commerce store, and so on. The point is to make your website and the content it contains more friendly and crawlable by the bots search engines use to scan websites.
A high-quality structure allows search engines accurately know the content and quality of your site.
Local SEO is based off of Organic SEO, but has a strict geographic or location-based focus. Every part of Local SEO is built on making sure your local, brick and mortar business appears higher on location-based searches.
So when a potential customer searches for a type of business near them, you will appear higher in the local results on Google Maps, Bing Places, and so on. General websites or personal blogs will not gain as much benefit from Local SEO.
Based on these definitions, we can establish the fundamental difference between Local and Organic SEO: local SEO is about optimizing for locations, while organic SEO is about optimizing for content.
They both have to do with optimizing your website and online presence for search engines. However, they deal with different rank factors and different positions in search results pages.
Now it’s time to go more in depth into each to really get a clearer understanding of what they involve:
As we touched on above, Local SEO is all about optimizing your business’ presence online for local searches. That means when someone in your city or town searches for a business like yours, you want to appear higher in the local results.
Here is an example of what local search results look like:
There are a few important things you can notice in this screenshot:
- The search includes a location — Chicago
- The results are about a specific type of business — restaurants
- This particular search and the results are also based around the “best”, and the results are sorted from best rating to worst
In general, optimizing for Local SEO is based around building citations, optimizing your website content with local keywords, and generating positive reviews. If you want to learn more about how to optimize your local business, you can read more in our local SEO guide.
But why should you care about Local SEO? It has a number of benefits to your online marketing efforts:
- Citations give more visibility online and improves local rankings
- On-site optimization improves traffic for relevant local searches
- Content marketing and link building can improve prominence and relevance
- Reputation Management builds trust in your business and drives traffic and sales
- Users searching for your type of business in your area represent your best source of potential customers ready to become your customers
In essence, Local SEO can have a major impact on driving more foot and digital traffic to your store. When done right, you will get more leads and more sales from local customers. You can also start establishing more of an identity within your community of trust and expertise.
This all touches on the central features of local SEO: the locations, types, and quality of businesses. These are what you need to focus on optimizing for your business so it appears higher on relevant and local searches.
Organic SEO is all focused on relevant and authoritative content. When someone types an organic search into Google, they are searching for content and information. It could be a food recipe, the latest news on a given topic, or a guide on how to perform tasks around the house.
Here is an example of an organic search and the organic search results looks like:
Organic SEO is based around keywords and links. With keywords, you optimize your website content to use specific words and phrases that people use in search engines. That is what tells search engines that your content is relevant to what the user searched for.
The other part is the links your website earns. You want other websites, especially if they’re topically relevant to your website, to link to you. This helps establish to Google that other people and websites thought you were relevant and authoritative enough to send their users to you.
This touches on the two central elements of Organic SEO — relevance and trust. Making your website more topically relevant and trustworthy is what will improve your organic search rankings.
But what are the benefits of Organic SEO? What can it do for your business’ online marketing?
- SEO targets quality and relevant traffic that will be interested in your content
- You don’t need to pay for ads in SEO, it’s all free to do yourself if you have the time
- SEO gets more clicks and traffic than paid advertising does online
- SEO can greatly help your business’ PR by ensuring positive stories rank high when people search for you
- You can rank ahead of your competition so you get more traffic and more people viewing you as their go-to authority on your area of expertise
What’s the Difference Between Local SEO and Organic SEO?
With the fundamentals of Local and Organic SEO established, let’s look at the differences between them.
Local vs Organic Audiences
The first significant difference is the audience for local vs organic searches and what their intent is when they perform a search.
Local searches are from people who are actively shopping for a product or service close to them. They will specifically include the type of product, service, or business and either the name of their city or the term “near me”. They fully intend to pick a business and make their purchase, usually on that same day.
Organic searches are usually from people who need an answer to a question. They are doing research, not necessarily to make any transaction. They want to know facts and information that will solve their current issue. However, they might be willing to sign up for a newsletter or to download a PDF guide on that topic.
Local vs Organic SERPs
Next is the difference between the search results and rankings. Some searches on Google, for example, will show a mix of both local and organic results. However, Local SEO will not target the same results or positions as Organic SEO.
Local SEO is focused on ranking higher in Google Maps, Bing Places, Apple Maps, Yelp searches, and so on. These results specifically list local businesses. The search results includes links to websites, but also contact information, pictures of the store, business category, and more.
Organic SEO is used to rank higher in the main search results of Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and so on. The results can contain either your home page, or deeper pages on your website such as blog articles, specific informational guides, and more.
Local vs Organic Content
Content is a key part of both Local and Organic SEO, but in very different ways.
Local SEO is concerned with content being focused on location-based information. That can include your business’ city, town, state or region, country, postal or zip code, streets, intersections, and more. Highly-localized content is what helps attract a local audience, and establish your geographic focus to search engines.
Organic SEO is concerned with content focused on families of topics and the group of keywords that appear in natural content for that topic. For example, if your business is an HVAC company, you want to have content that focuses on air conditioning and furnaces. However, you also want to focus on related parts, warranties, brands, products, and more.
Local Citations vs Organic Links
Citations are to Local SEO what backlinks are to Organic SEO. Both serve as a foundational element for the respective SEO’s optimization strategy.
Local citations occur when your business gets mentioned online, usually with your business name, location address, and phone number. You will commonly find citations included on local business directories and review websites, such as Yelp, Google My Business, or Angie’s List. They can also include things like your hours of operation, parking availability, and more.
Backlinks, meanwhile, you want to come from other relevant and authoritative websites. You want to have a mix of links to various pages on your website, and you want the anchor text to include important keywords.
Both Local SEO and Organic SEO serve important but different purposes for businesses. Both are based on similar concepts of optimizing your business for search engine rankings. However, there are important differences between the two that you need to know if you want to invest in either.
Any local SEO study will tell you how it helps you attract more customers in your area to your brick and mortar stores. It focuses heavily on developing your connection to your location, so that search engines are sure that you belong in local searches.
Organic SEO is improved when you focus on your website content, what keywords it uses, and what links you have from other websites. It attracts people who may be interested in information or solutions that your website can provide.
Each serves different purposes, but it is important for your business to invest in both as they can support each other. Your local customers will also want to trust your expertise, which your informative content can do. Meanwhile, people who find you through your content may also turn into valuable customers.
When done together, you get the best of both worlds.