Do You Know the Difference Between Organic SEO and Local SEO?

local seo“78% of small businesses believe new customers find them through search engines.” -

Although SEO continues to be an evolving practice, there are some basic distinctions between local SEO and organic (traditional) SEO.

Local SEO has a geographical component which organic SEO does not necessarily have. It is the practice of building signals of relevance around a specific location; a brick-and-mortar business.

Organic SEO is a marketing practice that revolves, more or less, around a website. This website can be a full-fledged Internet-based business which may or may not have a geographical location. In addition to brick and mortar businesses, bloggers, Internet marketers, affiliate marketers and other Internet-only businesses use organic SEO to improve their rankings and increase traffic.

Organic SEO can be influenced by location, but it is not attached to a brick and mortar business.

In traditional organic SEO, search engines are looking for relevant and trusted content. For local SEO, search engines are seeking out relevant and trusted locations.

What types of businesses should be implementing a Local SEO strategy?

Recommended for YouWebcast: The Art of Community Development: Turning Brand Awareness Into Sales

A plumbing company in Portland, OR
A coffee shop in Seattle, WA
A law firm in Boston, MA
A real estate company in Las Vegas, NV

You get the idea.

Citations vs. Links

Links have often been described as the currency of the Web. Links are a means to an end as they can lead to both higher rankings and increased traffic. Link building and politics have much in common as a link is largely considered a “vote” in the eyes of the search engines.

With respect to local SEO, links are not always considered links in the traditional sense. This is where citations come into play.

Citations and links are not the same thing.

Citations are nothing more than references of your name, address, and phone number (NAP). Common places business citations can be found are Yelp, Yahoo! Local, SuperPages and Merchant Circle. In the “eyes” of Google and friends, these citations increase the relevance and validity of your business within a specific city or region.

In the local algorithm, citations are not necessarily a “vote” for a particular business (like a link is with respect to organic SEO), but they do serve to validate that a business exists at a specific geographical location. This helps to make a business more relevant for particular searches which may relate to that business.

For example, if you are a pet store in San Francisco, a strong citation profile can help improve your chances of getting in the Local results for phrases such as “pet store in San Francisco” or San Francisco pet store.”

Local SEO and organic SEO do not always target the same position in the SERPs (search engine results page).

With organic SEO, the goal is simply to rank as high as you can for certain keywords. In addition to on-site SEO practices, organic SEO involves various link building/attracting techniques and has little to no need for the creation of citations.

With local SEO this can still hold true, but trying to “crack” into the local results is, more often than not, the main goal of any sound local SEO strategy. To see what I mean by local search results just do a quick search for Plumber or Lawyer + your current location:

For example, a search for “Plumber Portland OR” produced the below results.

organic seo vs local seo

You will notice that there is a group listing of local plumbing companies with their corresponding business location on Google Maps.

This is where citations can do wonders for small businesses. If you want to get your business listed in the local search results, then you need to have a sound local SEO strategy that involves the creation of citations using best practices.

Comments: 3

  • Pim says:

    Nice basic article. But the next step is if you are a company with only one physical location but a much larger service area. How do you cope with that?

    Most businesess are making lots of city landing pages for all the areas they are active. But that seems a little bit odd to me.

    Got tips?

  • Darren Merrion @ SEOTalk says:

    Hi Nick

    Great informative article

    Hey Pim,

    if i could answer your post, I have personally experienced this myself, Google does offer the option to select your servicing areas in local.

    With regards to landing pages and adding cities, it is something you can do but be careful, try to make it as informative and unique as possible as Google is fully aware of these types of pages and is starting to penalize web owners for trying to influence search results by putting every city or location in their website.


  • Richard Masters says:

    I agree this an important distinction. I am surprised the importance of creating a Google Places listing is not mentioned. This is now done via G+. It also requires the location to br validated bu Google before it is listed.
    It is also instructive to understand that Google assesses every query and decides its underlying intent. If it believes it is geographical it returns local listings but if it is not it returns generic listings. I have not checked but i suspect this is even more sensitive in the post Hummingbird world of semantic search.

Add a New Comment

Thank you for adding to the conversation!

Our comments are moderated. Your comment may not appear immediately.