What’s The Difference Between SEO and Local SEO?

What's The Difference Between SEO and Local SEO?

If you’re not familiar with Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO) then you may not be familiar with how many unique types of SEO there are. If you’re looking for the cost of SEO, for example, it’s impossible to say give an actual cost because SEO can vary so much between websites.

Optimizing for an eCommerce website, for example, is very different than optimizing for a local contractor. Why? There are a lot of differences between these two types of businesses. Just as there are differences between the actual business, there are many differences in how to build their websites and optimize them for search engines.

This post takes a look at some of what makes local SEO different than regular SEO. And when we say regular SEO, that’s not even accurate because there are many different types of SEO. So, a better term might be other SEO because local SEO is just one category whereas there are hundreds of different other types of SEO.

Optimizing for search engines isn’t an easy task for the most part. That’s especially true for general websites such as eCommerce websites. The good news is that local SEO is significantly easier to do right than other types of SEO.

That doesn’t mean local SEO is easy, though. It’s not and some locations or industries can be much harder than others. It completely depends on how saturated your industry and area are. Ranking a legal firm in Los Angeles is a local SEO category but it’s challenging to rank high.

Let’s take a look first at how people search. This will make it easier to understand why local SEO is so much different than other types of optimizations.

Different Types of Searches

Google approaches each search uniquely. Some searches it’s going to provide information for you, and other searches will provide local businesses. And then there’s everything in between.

This is what we call search intent. It’s what Google perceives as the intent of the searcher. When someone searches for ice cream then they could be searching for information about ice cream or where to get ice cream. In that example, Google might surface a mix of both, information and transactional.

There are four types of search intent:

  • Informational: when you’re looking for information such as the history of ice cream.
  • Navigational: you know where you need to go and search for it like Facebook.
  • Transactional: time to buy something like a new iPhone or if you want ice cream.
  • Commercial: you’re looking for information on a product to make the final decision. Maybe you’re looking for the best ice cream flavor this summer.

Searches for local businesses are typically commercial searches but their actual search terms could be informational. For example, I want to learn what an HVAC contractor does. That’s informational but I could also be searching for an HVAC contractor.

So, the search term for HVAC contractors will turn up a mix of results from Google, from informational to commercial.

Google Search Results Search Intents

In the search above you can see that green items are commercial results, purple is informational, and blue is a mix of both. HVAC contractor is a general search, though. If the search for an HVAC contract near me then the results would be very different. They would almost entirely be commercial results because Google knows you’re looking for a contractor and not information about HVAC contractors.

In addition to those four classifications, you can break up search results in other ways too. Since this blog post is about the differences between SEO and Local SEO, I’m going to break them down into general search and local search.

General Search

Within the four types of search, Google will determine if you’re looking for local information or not. Sometimes it’s a mix, though. The search above for an HVAC contractor is a mix of both because you could be searching for an HVAC contractor or just information about the HVAC contractor job.

Anything that’s not a local search is a general search for our purposes. SEO for general searches is very different because the searches span the entire world. Local searches are much smaller in reach.

Local Search

Local searches can vary from a nation to a state/territory, to a city or community. Area searches have local modifiers in them such as HVAC contractors in Rocklin.

Some search terms Google might treat as a local search even if it doesn’t have a local modifier in it. That’s because Google knows a lot about you even without you entering any information. For one, it knows where you’re at whether you’re on a computer or a smartphone. That’s why Google shows mixed results for some searches because it knows you might have meant for local results but it’s not 100% sure. That’s why it shows mixed results, to cover its bases.

When you’re optimizing your website and online presence for local searches, the process is different than for general searches. It’s common to simply optimize for search engines in general such as saying you want to rank for HVAC contractor. That’s the wrong approach. You have to approach ranking in your local area specific to ranking in your local area rather than more broadly on the internet.

So, you’d want to rank for HVAC contractor in your city instead. That goes for tracking keywords. At the end of our affordable web design process, we ask for the keywords our clients would like to track. Poor keywords to track are things like Mercedes or Audi. Those are general keywords and would be nearly impossible to rank for.

Better choices for keywords would be Mercedes auto body repair in Tustin or Audi dealer in Miami, FL. Those are good local searches and will increase the chance of ranking for a search. Optimizing for Mercedes or Audi will accomplish nothing because nobody who’s searching those terms is likely looking for your dealership. They are likely looking for the Mercedes website which for you to rank for would be extremely difficult anyway.

What’s The Difference

Hopefully, that makes things a bit more clear about the huge difference between local SEO and general SEO. Local SEO has a local modifier in it and is very specific. General SEO has broader searches, is typically more competitive, and can cover a lot more types of searches.

You can determine how to optimize your content for local SEO by thinking about what types of local modifiers people might use with your content. Even if they’re not specifically using those location modifiers, for many local searches Google will pretend like they were typed in and show local results.

That’s why a search for HVAC contractors turns up general results and local results. For the local results, Google pretends that the searcher put the area they’re located in the search also.

Local Marketing Is Different

Local SEO is one part of local marketing and there are some shared components of general marketing. They are approached with a local twist, though. This will help you understand the parts of local marketing that contribute to local SEO.

Local Marketing Focus

How well your business ranks in local searches depends a lot on this list of items. No single task is a complete strategy nor will it help you rank. It’s a holistic approach that requires each piece to contribute to the overall better ranking of your business in local search results.

  • Citations: these are business listings on directories or websites, they’re an extremely important foundation of local marketing. We have a list of business directories you can get free citations from.
  • Reviews: reviews prove to potential customers that you’re trusted and they create fresh content for search engines to attach to your business.
  • Local links: backlinks from local sources help establish your business locally, online. We have a list of suggestions on how you can get local backlinks.
  • Local social media: share local-specific information and also tag relevant local areas or use local hashtags.
  • Website optimized for local terms: a quality website that’s optimized for local searches still plays a vital part in your search ranking.
  • Local advertising: local service ads and locally-tuned ads are a great paid way of driving customers to your business.

As you can see most of these marketing ideas have a local twist to them. Marketing for a local business is very different than general marketing, therefore needs a specific strategy just for local.

Now, what about general marketing?

General Marketing Focus

You’ll see some similarities in general marketing to local marketing but specific aren’t as important.

  • Backlinks: backlinks are essential for a non-local website to rank. While they’re important in local marketing, they need to be local links and they’re not quite as important.
  • Content: content is king in marketing. That means blog posts, social media content, videos, and more. Constant content production is essential.
  • Social media: most social media platforms are pretty broad and don’t cater to specific areas. So, general marketing is more successful on social media given its global platform.
  • Ads: advertising until you rank for general keywords is essential for general marketing. It’s almost impossible to rank immediately for high-competition global or national keywords.

As you can see there are similarities. But, local marketing is very different. You have to be very specific in optimizing for keywords down to the city or even neighborhood.

Wrap Up

As you can see there are some dramatic differences in how to approach optimizing a local business’s online presence. It’s a big mistake to go broad in terms of keywords when being specific is more helpful. Optimizing content and tracking your ranking online depends entirely on choosing the correct keywords.

Separating search into two segments is the most helpful for local businesses since the internet and search engines are global. It’s essential to understand that and approach your marketing in terms of local, not global.

A global search term is Mercedes and people are looking for the official Mercedes website or information about Mercedes, it’s not a search term that should ever be bothered with by a local business. Local search terms are more specific and it’s where the gold is for local businesses. Focusing on a search term such as Mercedes auto body repair in Fresno is infinitely more valuable than even Mercedes auto body repair.

Auto body repair where!?

Always focus on what someone would be looking for specifically and the location where you want to rank. Google doesn’t inherently know therefore it’s your job when doing local marketing to be specific and tell search engines exactly what you’re going to help their searches with.

Now that you know how to approach local SEO differently, it’s helpful to use a local marketing automation tool that helps you approach it more effectively.

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