What Are the Differences Between Organic SEO and Local SEO?

December 27th, 2023, 10:00 AM

For businesses trying to get more leads online, search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most powerful tools to master the use of. But in order to do so, it's important to understand the different types of SEO, especially the two big ones: organic SEO and local SEO.

While these two types of SEO share the common goal of enhancing visibility of a website or another online asset, such as a business listing, their approaches differ in focus and methodologies.

It's true that you can sometimes employ similar strategies for both local and organic SEO, but certain methodologies typically work better for one than the other. This is particularly true when it comes to local SEO — an optimization that works for a hyper-focused local SEO strategy doesn't always make sense for a more general organic SEO strategy.

What Is Organic SEO?

Organic SEO forms the foundation of a website's overall search engine visibility. It revolves around optimizing various elements of a website to improve its ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant keywords. 

Unlike paid advertising, organic SEO doesn't involve making any direct payments to search engines for a top position in search results. Instead, it relies on a meticulous and multifaceted approach to enhance a website's credibility, relevance, and user experience, which search engines reward with better rankings.

Key Components of Organic SEO:

1. Content

At the heart of organic SEO lies high-quality, relevant content. Search engines, particularly Google, prioritize content that satisfies user intent and provides valuable information. Creating well-written, engaging, and informative content can significantly contribute to a website's organic search visibility.

2. Keyword Optimization

Understanding the keywords your target audience uses is crucial for all types of search engine optimization. Integrating these keywords naturally into your content, meta data, headers, and even URLs helps search engines recognize the relevance of your pages to specific search queries.

3. Backlink Building

Backlinks, or incoming links from other reputable websites, are akin to digital endorsements, which signal to search engines that your content is trustworthy and valuable. Building a diverse and authoritative backlink profile is another key aspect of organic SEO.

4. Technical SEO

Ensuring that your website is technically sound is imperative for organic SEO success. This includes optimizing site speed, improving mobile responsiveness, and implementing proper URL structures. Technical SEO enhances the user experience and makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your pages.

5. User Experience (UX)

A positive user experience is not only crucial for keeping visitors on your site, but also contributes to organic SEO. Search engines reward websites that offer a seamless and intuitive user experience, including easy navigation, clear calls-to-action, and fast-loading pages.

What Is Local SEO?

While organic SEO casts a wide net to capture a national or even a global audience, local SEO is tailored to enhance visibility within a specific geographic area. In reality, local SEO is a subtype of organic SEO that focuses only on improving visibility within local search results.

Local SEO strategies are especially pertinent for businesses with physical locations, including retailers, restaurants, and service providers (both those with brick-and-mortar locations and operating within a certain service area). 

The goal of local SEO is to ensure that when users search for products or services in a specific location, your business appears prominently in the local search results. Because of this, local SEO can also benefit large enterprise organizations and multi-location businesses.

Key Components of Local SEO:

1. Google Business Profile (GBP) Optimization

Because Google currently has an 80%+ market share of local search, Google Business Profile is the most important element of local SEO to put effort into. 

Since the top results on Google when people search for local businesses are almost always from Google Maps, claiming and optimizing your GBP listing is the best way to try and earn one of these coveted positions in the local rankings.

GBP optimization involves things like ensuring that your business information, including address, phone number, and operating hours, is accurate, getting more positive reviews (and responding to them), and uploading photos and other media.

2. Local Citations

Consistent online mentions of your business's name, address, and phone number (NAP), as well as other business info, on various platforms, such as online directories and review sites,  are known as local citations and can also boost your local SEO.

Accurate and up-to-date information across the web establishes your business's legitimacy and relevance in the local context, which Google and other search engines factor into their ranking algorithms.

3. Localized Content

Tailoring your content to address local interests, events, and trends is crucial for local SEO. This includes creating location-specific landing pages, blog posts, and social media content that resonate with your local audience.

4. Local Link Building

Building local backlinks from reputable sources in your community reinforces your business's local authority. This could involve collaborating with local organizations or other local businesses, sponsoring events, or participating in community initiatives.

5. Local Reviews and Ratings

Encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google Maps, Yelp, Tripadvisor, and other industry-specific review sites not only boosts your reputation, but also contributes to your local SEO efforts.

Local SEO vs Organic SEO: What's the Difference?

By now you should understand that local SEO and organic SEO are not mutually exclusive, as local SEO is really a subtype of organic SEO that focuses on a more targeted, local audience.

Whether you decide to use organic SEO, local SEO, or both really comes down to what type of business you want to improve SERP rankings for. 

For example, 100% online ecommerce businesses that ship nationwide or worldwide would typically focus all their SEO efforts on more general organic SEO strategies. 

On the other hand, retailers that have brick-and-mortar stores, service providers with physical locations, and service-area businesses all rely heavily on a local customer base to keep the lights on, so they would want to skew their SEO strategy more towards the local side of things.

Key Differences Between Organic SEO and Local SEO:

1. Geographic Focus

Organic SEO targets a global or national audience without specific geographic constraints, while local SEO concentrates on improving visibility within a defined geographic area, typically relevant to businesses with physical locations or local service areas.

2. Scope of Keywords

Organic SEO focuses on a broad range of keywords relevant to the overall theme of the website and local SEO emphasizes location-based keywords, incorporating city names, neighborhoods, and other geographic identifiers.

3. Google Business Profile

While having a GMB listing is beneficial to organic SEO, it's not the central focus of organic SEO efforts. Local SEO, on the other hand, prioritizes GBP optimization as a fundamental component.

4. Backlink Strategies

Organic SEO seeks diverse and authoritative backlinks from other globally- or nationally-relevant websites, while local SEO emphasizes local link building, focusing on connections within the community to establish local authority.

5. Content Approach

Content written for organic SEO is designed to cater to a broader audience, addressing general industry topics and trends and incorporating broad, often short-tailed keywords. 

Local SEO instead involves creating content that specifically resonates with local audiences, incorporating information about regional events, news, and interests, as well as locally-relevant keywords, which tend to be more long-tailed.

6. Reviews and Ratings

While positive reviews contribute to the overall credibility of a business, they are not a primary focus for organic SEO. Conversely, local SEO places a significant emphasis on acquiring positive reviews and high ratings on local review platforms, especially Google Maps.

Wrapping Up

Mastering the nuances of both organic SEO and local SEO is essential for businesses aiming to thrive in the competitive online landscape. While organic SEO lays the groundwork for large-scale visibility, local SEO hones in on specific geographic markets. 

The divergence in strategies, from keyword optimization to backlink building and content creation, underscores the importance of tailoring approaches to SEO based on business objectives. 

Whether seeking a broad online presence or targeting a local customer base, a thoughtful blend of both SEO types may be the key to unlocking sustained success in the ever-evolving realm of search engine rankings.

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