Understanding the difference between Local SEO vs. Organic SEO is important for national brands, local businesses, and pretty much anyone else that wants to market themselves online. But unless you’re already familiar with SEO, it can be tough to understand this distinction and why it’s so important.
At Qiigo, our work with national brands and local businesses has given us a unique understanding of both organic and local search. Below, we’ll examine the difference between these two services, along with how they can be used to support one another.
Local SEO: Putting Your Business on the Map
When you enter a search query into Google, one of the first things its algorithm checks is whether or not the search has “local intent.” This is another way of saying that someone’s looking for search results that are relevant for their local area.
An easy example of this is when a person adds “near me” to the end of a search query. If you’re based in Atlanta and you search for “hairdresser near me,” you expect Google to send you information about hairdressers in Atlanta. If someone in Seattle (or Denver, or Boston) makes the same search, they will also expect search results tailored to their local area.
Google has a number of ways to determine whether or not a search has local intent. A few quick examples include:
- The query contains a city name, a state name, or a phrase like “near me.”
- Google recognizes the query as one that typically has local intent (e.g., “pizza delivery”).
- Your recent search history indicates that you’re looking for local results.
When Google identifies local intent, it will adjust its search results based on whether or not they have local relevance. Many times, it will also display a “Local Pack” with its top local search results from Google Maps.
Local SEO involves optimizing your website for these types of search results. If you run a local business, you want to market yourself to local customers. If your hair salon is located in Castleberry Hill, local SEO will help you rank better in search results for users in Atlanta.
For brick-and-mortar businesses and individual brand locations, SEO should focus on local optimization. Customers from Seattle (or Denver, or Boston) aren’t flying hundreds of miles for a haircut, so you don’t need to worry about appearing in their search results. Instead, you can focus your efforts (and money) on reaching as many local users as possible.
Organic SEO: The “World” in Worldwide Web
“Organic SEO” is a tricky term, since the vast majority of SEO — including local SEO — can be considered organic. But typically, when people say “organic SEO,” they’re referring to traditional search engine optimization.
To understand the difference between local and organic SEO, let’s take another look at Google. When you search “best laptop for windows,” Google’s algorithm won’t detect local intent. So instead of providing you with customized search results for your location, it will show you the same search results that it would show another searcher in a completely different city.
Because of this, organic SEO tends to be much more competitive. With local SEO, you’re only competing for searchers within your geographic area. With organic SEO, you need to compete for searchers across the U.S., as well as in other English-language countries.
Needless to say, most local businesses stay away from organic SEO. The level of competition makes it far too expensive. What’s more, the vast majority of traffic will be from searchers 100+ miles (or 1000+ miles) away. In place of local businesses, the competition for organic search results tends to come from national publications, e-commerce stores, and larger brands with a nationwide footprint.
Coordinating Organic & Local SEO for National Brands
At Qiigo, our work with national brands leaves a lot of room for crossover between organic and local SEO. On a brand level, we employ organic SEO strategies to boost awareness and drive traffic to brands’ national websites. On a location level, we use local SEO to target queries with local intent and drive customer traffic directly to brick-and-mortar locations.
National brands can benefit from using a single digital marketing partner for brand-level organic SEO as well as location-level local SEO. The simple reason is that organic and local SEO efforts have a symbiotic effect.
If your brand has a strong organic search presence, that will give a boost to local search rankings for individual locations. If your brick-and-mortar locations start achieving high rankings in local search results, this will often boost organic search rankings for your brand as a whole.
While it’s important to know the difference between organic and local SEO, national brands should avoid an “either/or” mindset. Instead, embrace a “both/and” SEO strategy, one in which the brand and its locations are supporting and strengthening one another.