What You Should Know About SEO
By Vlad Rascanu
SEO is a rapidly evolving environment and search engines are constantly striving to provide users with the best possible results for their search queries. As of February 27, 2012, Google released an update (more commonly referred to as “The Venice Update”) which established a number of differences between local SEO and organic SEO.
Let’s get one thing strait. Both organic and local SEO are ultimately about providing people with the best possible user experience, no changes here. The differences are more on how those best experiences are calculated for local searches and organic searches.
The key difference between organic and local SEO
To put it simply, all the best practices of Organic SEO (quality link building, high domain authority, outstanding content, social proof, etc.) primarily revolves around your website. If you are a marketing agency, an online retail store or any business that wants to reach consumers from all over the place, then organic SEO is the way to go.
In case of local SEO all the factors contributing to high rankings in local search results (see below) are based around a specific physical location (or a number of locations). Local SEO is primary beneficial for small businesses or businesses that are largely focused around a specific physical location (like a restaurant chain in Boston for example).
Citations vs. links
Links are basically how search engines determine whether your website holds any value for users and their search queries or not.
Think of links as a vote of trust and reliability towards your website. The more votes you have from authoritative websites, the better online reputation you will gain. Needless to say that the quality of links outweigh quantity any day. Quality link building is how you improve your organic SEO.
Citations on the other hand are nothing more than just mentions of your name, address and phone (NAP) in various business listings and directories like Yelp, Yahoo!, Local, etc. The more citations your business has, the more trustworthy your business is for a given region/location in terms of local SEO.
Citations aren’t counted as votes like in the case of organic SEO, but they provide proof that your business exists at a specific geographic location. Depending on a number of factors (Google+ reviews, content quality, domain authority, etc.) you will get a position on local search results.
If your NAP appears in different listings, it’s important to have the exact same information in all of the listings. Inconsistent NAP makes search engines think that your business information is less reliable. Even a slight difference will be seen as confusing: “350 Broadway N#214, NYC” and “N#214 Broadway 350, NYC” are basically the same thing to a human eye, but totally different for search engines.
Local SEO and organic SEO examples
Adding a specific location in the search bar helps narrow the search results from global to more localized ones, which in turn, helps local businesses get found online, despite the global competition.
For example, if you live in NYC and search for “Italian food in NYC, Manhattan” this is what you get:
Both screenshots refer to the same search term. The left one resembles the local search results located at the very top, right under sponsored content (if there is any regarding the search query). The right screenshot resembles organic search results.
Notice how there is a list of Italian restaurants accompanied with their NAP, corresponding locations on Google Maps and positive online reviews for local search results. This is what local SEO looks like compared to organic SEO. Keep in mind that you will not get the same local search results if you live in LA or Chicago for example. Local SEO is all about the searcher’s current location.
Here is another example for the search term “Beauty salon in Los Angeles California:”
I want to bring your attention to something here. Notice how “Soleil Beauty Salon” is the result on both screenshots. This means that the beauty salon is investing in local as well as organic SEO. Those guys really know the differences and how to handle them.
Speaking of differences.
Here are how different factors influence your local SEO in contrast to organic SEO:
|Local SEO||Organic SEO|
|+Algorithm focus mainly on location and NAP||+Algorithm focuses mainly on content|
|+Search engines index locations||+Search engines index site pages|
|+Citations are the main signal||+Links are the main signal|
|+NAP consistency in different listings||+Diversity of content/keywords|
|+reviews concerning NAP||+Social proof|
|+Google and trusted local listing directories||+SM engagement, comments, shares, mentions…|
|+Steady reviews/a history of positive reviews||+Consistent fresh content|
Local SEO vs. Organic SEO: which is better for your business?
In an ideal scenario, you want to utilize both organic and local SEO, regardless of your business or industry. It will increase your chances to appear on SERPs (search engine result page) and boost your website and NAP visibility, allowing access to as many potential customers as possible (remember the beauty salon example).
However, if you are a startup or a small business, investing time and resources in both local and organic SEO can oftentimes be costly. The best advice would be to focus on one or the other, depending on your business type and target group of consumers.
Vlad Rascanu is a seasoned SEO expert and the founder of 80 Proof Digital, a marketing agency mainly focused on enterprise level SEO. Over the past 10 years, Vlad has helped hundreds of businesses increase their customer base and profits. Follow Vlad on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.