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Local SEO vs Organic SEO: What’s the Difference and do I need both?

Today, more than 90% of consumers search for businesses, products, and services online, starting their quest with search engines.

Organic SEO (search engine optimization) helps increase your rankings, making sure you meet them at the top of the search results.

But what if you are a local business owner, trying to boost traffic/drive people to your physical location? What’s the difference between local SEO and traditional, organic SEO and which one should you use?

In this article, we are going to answer all your SEO vs. local SEO questions and see how you can use both for your business. Each discipline comes with its own distinct strategies and when they dovetail with one another, they can become even more powerful.

It all starts with a search

Most online experiences start with a simple search. Each search can be Local or Organic in nature.

The main difference between organic and local search is that a local search has a geographical component. For example, if a user searches for “pizza near me” or “Vintage clothes in Paris”  the search engine knows that the search has local intent.

Local search & Local SEO

Here’s how local search works:

I am heading to a dinner party and decide to stop along the way to buy some flowers for the hostess. I search Google for “flower shop near me” (in fact, even without the near me specification, Google assumes you’re looking for a store nearby).

As you see, only three flower shops show up in the local results under the ads on the first page.

This is called the Local Pack, and it includes the three most relevant results for the local search performed by the user – with a drop down menu, ‘more places’, containing further options.

According to a survey conducted by Moz, only 8% of consumers are clicking on ‘more’ results while 44% of consumers will make their decision based on the first three local results. This means that if you are not in the top three of the local listings, you will miss out on potential foot traffic. 

Local SEO is the act of optimizing your business’s online presence so that you show up in those local searches. 

Organic search & Organic SEO

Organic SEO is intended to improve performance in organic searches. Organic searches happen when search engines decide there’s no local intent in the search: the searcher is looking for information rather than a specific location. Search engines are then seeking out relevant and trusted content, rather than relevant and trusted locations.

Therefore Organic SEO is the process by which businesses seek to improve their ranking on search engine results pages to drive targeted traffic to their website. This is achieved by paying attention to website structure and creating content that matches the search intent of the user.

Organic SEO can have a geographic component, but that’s not a prerogative.

Example of an organic search: “Flowers to bring to a dinner party”.

Local SEO vs Organic SEO: do I need both?

Both organic and local SEO are equally important for any business looking to drive more in-store traffic.

If you have a business with a brick-and-mortar location, you want to rank high in local search. Someone who is searching for you is likely looking for a business they can visit soon, and you want to be the business they find first. Local SEO is for any business that serves a local area.

However, if you aren’t worried about location and simply want your business to rank for certain keywords, organic search is what you are looking for. Essentially, if you want people to go somewhere specifically in the world, work on local search. If you want people to go somewhere online, organic search is going to be what helps you out.

You may wonder if there is any point in ranking well organically if you are a local business. The answer here is that it depends. A business with multiple locations may want to hit some targets on the organic search front. If you have a single location and simply want foot traffic, focusing on local SEO may be all you need.

Best practices for Local SEO

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 most relevant businesses that are located there.

But how to optimize a business location on search engines?

To state the obvious, 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.

Beyond those essentials, you can (and should) optimize your listings to keep your profile up-to-date and relevant on the main local directories.

Ensure that you:

  • Verify your listing
  • Provide accurate and up-to-date information
  • Include your logo, hours of operation, acceptable payment methods, the product or service you sell, and plenty of images

As for the NAP, the key here is to make sure that every single entry is EXACTLY the same across all platforms. It can be a bit time consuming, so you might want to use a tool – like  SO Connect Listings – that can help to make this a little less daunting.

Check our guide for complete and up-to-date listings everywhere and take definitive control of your online information.

Reviews are key

Last but not least, prioritize Reviews

Many times already, we have stated the importance of online customer reviews for your business (85% of customers rely on online reviews as much as personal recommendations!).

But getting your customers to write glowing reviews for your business doesn’t just encourage more local customers to buy from you, it also optimizes your online presence.

When search engines are trying to figure out what the best results might be for a certain search inquiry, they’re going to look at a number of factors in their algorithm and the number of reviews you have on Google, Yelp and Facebook are all going to be part of that consideration process.