One common mistake for SEO beginners is not understanding the difference of local and generic SEO, and which is the right one for their businesses. So, this guide will attempt to address that issue, and we will discuss the key differences of the two different SEOs, and how to apply each to your businesses.
Before Google’s Venice Algorithm, local and generic SEO were two totally distinct things. There were two different search results for “local” searches and generic searches.
However, that is no longer the case. Through the Venice algorithm in 2016, all search results are now highly localized. What’s ranking high in NY can differ to high-ranking websites in Virginia, CA or other state for the same keyword.
Does it mean you can disregard local SEO and focus on organic SEO instead? On the contrary, this change will increase the competition for local SEO, and if you are a brick and mortar business, you will need to focus more on building your local SEO and Google Maps ranking.
So, what are the key differences in local SEO and generic SEO? Here are a few important ones.
Arguably, the biggest difference between local SEO and generic SEO is who should use them. Brick and mortar businesses like restaurants, law offices, car rentals, real estate brokers, etc should obviously focus on local SEO strategies to target local audiences.
However, companies with local branches will also benefit from local SEO, in conjunction with building organic SEO for the brand.
On the other hand, non-‘local’ businesses promoting products or services such as international brands, manufacturers, news websites, portal, and platforms (stock market, etc. ) will benefit more from generic SEO strategies.
Some businesses like E-commerce websites will need both local and generic SEOs.
Another major difference between the two is keywords. Some specific keywords are ranked locally, meaning it will rank differently across different cities. On the other hand, some keywords are generic.
For example, keywords like ‘SEO’ and ‘News Today’ are universal. Meaning, wherever you search for that keyword within the US, you will get the same result. So, focusing on these keywords will mean a national-wide competition.
To determine whether a keyword is ranked locally or globally, you can use various SERP competition analysis tools available.
On the other hand, some keywords are ranked locally. The obvious examples are keywords like ‘restaurant’, ‘car wash’, ‘spa center’, and many more. The search result rankings won’t only differ in Google Maps ranking, but also in organic search ranking.
Since the competition for local keywords is smaller, the difficulty in outranking the first-page sites is also generally easier.
If links are the main sought-after commodity in generic SEO, citations are the commodity of local SEO. However, that’s not saying backlinks are not important for local SEO. According to SEO expert Mike, not only it is just as important in determining Google Maps ranking, building local SEO links is way harder than organic SEO.
What actually are citations? They are simply references to your name, address, and phone number, commonly mentioned by NAP in the world of local SEO. Yelp, Yahoo!Local, Merchant Circle and several more are common directories where you can get high-quality citations.
Citations are not only important for your local SEO ranking. Nowadays, brick and mortar industries are so competitive you won’t be able to compete without citations
Due to the importance of citations, it is very important to maintain consistency with your NAP listings. Meaning, in every directory and citation, your name, address, and phone number should remain the same. Also, if you have address or phone number change, make sure to update all your NAP listings.
With organic SEO, the main goal is very simple: getting as high as possible in search rankings. What about local SEO? While high SERP with a specific keyword is still important, it is often not the only goal.
With local SEO, your main is to get listed on the local listing. Local SEO is about getting listed with consistent citations at every other place where your potential audience will look. So, local SEO is not only limited with high Google Maps ranking but also niche forums and directories, depending on your industry.
Although the essence of both SEOs is similar, we will need to take a different approach with each of them. With organic SEO, our focus should be on-page optimizations like keyword usage, and off-page optimizations like getting backlinks.
On the other hand, although those things are also important for local SEO, your approach should be a little different. With local SEO, you will first need a Google My Business listing. Then, you will need to get listed in all the important local directories of your niche. Only after all that, you can focus on on-site and off-site optimizations.
With both, however, the key to success remains the same: consistency.
Businesses that go for organic SEO is usually a more universal brand where a high rank in specific search keywords is the most beneficial way to drive traffic and increase brand recognition. On the other hand, brick and mortar businesses that are tied to a specific location will want to focus on local SEO, where the main aim is to rank in that particular location and get listed on local directories.
Above, we have mentioned that the competition for local SEO is generally lighter than organic SEO. However, that doesn’t automatically translate to an easier effort. There are a lot more details to focus on with local SEO, like maintaining consistent NAP listing, trying to get citations, and getting good reviews.
So, both SEOs come with their own different challenges, and we will need different approaches for both strategies. How can you tell whether local SEO or organic SEO is the best for your business? Simple, if your business is providing your services to only a particular area, local SEO is better for you. Refer to our guide to local SEO strategy if you want to learn more about improving your local ranking and traffic.
If you are looking for an experienced SEO consultant to take your website to the next level, look no further. I’ve been creating and implementing digital marketing campaigns for small and medium sized businesses since 2008.
I specialize in organic and local SEO, web design, digital strategy, keyword research, paid search, lead generation, conversion optimization and content marketing.
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