Local Search vs. Organic Search: How to Spot the Differences

Local search versus organic search is an ongoing question, especially for those new to Internet marketing and the online space. For a lot of people, search engine optimization is like a maze they have to get through before it begins to generate traffic for them. Spotting the difference between local and organic search is pretty obvious once you know what you’re looking for.

The Main Difference

The main difference between organic and local search is the location element. Local search is reserved for exactly that, local businesses and locations, while organic search is for a wider national or even global audience. For example. Vick-Strizheus.com is global, so you won’t find any tags or other information that optimize this site for local. For the most part, local SEO is for physical locations for goods and services.

The Advantage of Local Search Versus Organic Search

The cool thing about local search is that your business has the ability to be front and center with other local businesses and it’s a level playing field as of this writing. I did find out recently that Google is testing ads for the Local Listings Pack (the three listings under the map in search results), but it’s not official yet.

The main advantage to local optimization is that local businesses with trusted websites can rank quite well without a lot of hassle. Organic sites don’t appear in the Google Local Listings Pack, so the competition is stripped down to just your local competitors.

More Differences Between Local and Organic Search

There are several difference between local and organic search since there are 2 distinct approaches to optimizing for each. So, aside from location:

  • SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) Position – Local and organic SEO may not achieve the same SERPs position. Even though you may be on the first page for local search doesn’t mean you will rank on the first for organic
  • Backlinks versus Citations – For organic search, backlinks are wanted to achieve a better ranking. You want other relevant authority pages to link to your website. For local, you build citations in lieu of backlinks. Citations are local listings for your business on sites like Yelp, YellowPages, Foursquare, etc.
  • The Approach – Organic SEO requires on and off page search engine optimization efforts to achieve success. It is a ton of work. However, local SEO doesn’t really start on your website, but with a Google My Business listing. From there, it’s all about citations and reviews

Which Is Best For Your Business

You may want to concentrate on one, the other, or both. It depends on the reach your business has. Let me break it down for you like this:

Organic – best for businesses with multiple locations, a national or global reach. For example, Ace Hardware needs organic SEO, but Bob’s Hardware of Kalamazoo needs local.

Local – best for businesses that operate a physical location. For example, your local boutiques, plumbers, restaurants, etc. need local SEO.

Both – Some situations do call for both. For example, if you run a graphic design agency, you want to be searchable by your local community as well as across the globe since your products are mostly digital. Another example would be a chain store like Walmart. They need to appear in the local results as well as organic.

Wrap Up

Local search versus organic search can be confusing. I hope this post will help clear it up for you. A word of caution, watch out for local companies trying to sell you search engine optimization services. Do your due diligence before you hire someone. Search engine optimization can be tedious and just as it has the power to make your business, it can also break it if some shady SEO company builds spammy links or something else Google might frown upon.

Reading a few articles like this one and this one can help you know enough to not get ripped off. Let me hear what you’ve learned in the comments!