SEO vs Local SEO: What’s The Difference and What Should You Use For Your Business?

What is the difference between SEO and local SEO?

At its core, SEO refers to the process of enhancing the quantity and quality of organic traffic flowing to your website. Quality traffic comprises visitors who are genuinely interested in your offerings, while organic results denote unpaid content that appears on search engine results pages (SERPs).

On the other hand, local SEO is a specialized subset of SEO that zeroes in on the geographical elements of search. This approach optimizes your website for local search results, not only bolstering your site's visibility and traffic but also attracting foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar establishment.

Importantly, local search competition is less intense than battling for high-value keywords with online purchasing intent, making it easier for your business to stand out locally.

As a business owner, you can boost the organic traffic your website gets when customers in nearby areas perform online searches.

Suppose your business is dependent on physical locations, and you want to expand your reach to more customers across various devices and communication channels. In that case, it's advisable to integrate a local SEO strategy into your current SEO strategy.

Understanding How Search Engines Work: The Fundamentals

Before diving into the distinctions between organic and local search, let's gain a basic understanding of search engine operations.

While the inner workings of Google's algorithm remain a mystery, we can still provide a rudimentary overview of how search engines like Google function.

In essence, a search engine's process can be distilled into three simple steps: crawl, index, and retrieve.

Think of search engines as colossal online libraries teeming with content. They operate by crawling websites (following links), processing information page by page, cataloging their content alongside similar resources, and indexing those pages for users to discover during their searches. When users input queries into the search bar, the search engine retrieves the most relevant content from its index to display on the SERPs.

Understanding how search engines work is essential in grasping the importance of optimizing your site's content. This ensures that search engines value your content as highly as you intend it to be for your target audience.

But what sets local search apart from regular organic search, and how does this impact your SEO strategy?


It's important to understand the difference between these two types of SEO because one will work better than the other depending on what you want to accomplish with your website.



Deciphering Local Search: Intent and Nuances

While organic search results are determined by their relevance to users' search queries, links, and other ranking factors, local search focuses on delivering geographically relevant information based on the local intent behind users' queries. Every company needs a Google Business Profile if they want to acquire quality organic traffic from Google Maps.

Organic search caters to a broader audience of both informational and transactional searchers (from featured snippets for common questions to e-commerce stores). Local search, though still serving informational searchers, harbors a stronger sense of purchasing intent within users' local search queries.

Users conducting local search queries seek businesses or places they can visit in person or services that come to their homes. Examples include local doctors, in-home healthcare providers, plumbers, lawyers, and restaurants. So, what characterizes local search intent for users?

Typical local search queries include modifiers such as:

  • [term] + city
  • [term] + near me
  • [term] + closest to me

These modifiers help filter users' search results based on their location, willingness to travel, and search urgency. However, recently these modifiers have been less prevalent in users' queries.

Google has implemented neural matching for local searches, enabling their search engine to better comprehend the meaning behind keywords that might imply local intent and match them with the most relevant local search results, even without explicit indicators like a business name or specific locations.

This means that instead of using longer-tail keywords like this:

[term] + city

You can now simply enter a single keyword, and your intent will be understood:



Distinct Local SEO Strategies

Any SEO strategy should involve technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO to maximize your website's potential and achieve the best results. Although general and local SEO both require a similar plan to optimize your site for search engine ranking, there are key differences in the areas to focus on for a successful local SEO strategy.

Strategies for local traffic demand a more customized approach, such as incorporating location-specific keywords into your web copy or featuring reviews from local customers on your site.

Developing an efficient and prosperous organic SEO strategy involves several elements. According to research, 70% of marketers believe that SEO is more fruitful than PPC (pay-per-click advertising).

Local SEO can integrate the efforts found in off-page and on-page optimization but in a more targeted way that caters to the location and local customers. These strategies not only affect your customers but also each other.

A local SEO strategy for a brick-and-mortar store should involve:

  1. Creating and optimizing Google My Business
  2. Building an online presence through directories and local listings
  3. Generating various types of content (social media, blog, customer photos)
  4. Tracking visitor and customer data
  5. Increase Google My Business Reviews and Reputation management
  6. Having a mobile-friendly site (make sure that your website works on mobile devices)
  7. Having a dedicated location-specific "About Us ‘’page

Enhancing your website's relevance and credibility regarding a specific topic is the key to boosting your rankings in organic search ranking.

When to Focus on Local SEO

If your business is a brick-and-mortar location with a large, active local community and customer base, investing extra effort in a local SEO strategy is crucial for your business's growth and success.

The Google Local Pack refers to a set of local business listings that are located near the user and appear at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) when a person enters a query with local search intent.

When a user conducts a local search related to your business, you want your business to consistently appear in their search results and within Google's local pack. This is especially true if you operate a local store with multiple locations.

Utilize behavior-tracking tools such as Google Analytics to help determine whether you need to invest more effort into your local SEO strategy to boost your ranking in localized SERPs. Online reviews can also provide valuable insights that can help you determine where your site visitors are coming from.


Measuring Success: How to Find Your Local Traffic

Behavior tracking tools are the first step in understanding which traffic to your site comes from local visitors and which does not. You can find your local traffic from a few different tools, all within the Google family: Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Business Profile Insights.

Google Analytics

By default, Google Analytics shows you traffic from all over the world. Within Google Analytics, you have two options for examining your local relevant traffic versus all traffic.

Option 1: Segmenting

  1. From the Google Analytics home, click Audience and then Overview directly below.
  2. Click Add Segment and then + New Segment.
  3. Click Demographics. For a focus on your Location, capture the city in which your business is located. Narrowing down the location to the city can leave you blind to other opportunities.
  4. Click Save.

Now you have a segment dedicated to the region in which you conduct business, but now it's time to see which visitors are coming in organically and which are not.

  1. Repeat steps 1-3 above.
  2. Click Traffic Sources.
  3. Under Medium, enter Organic.
  4. Click Save.

From here, you can compare local organic traffic to all other traffic in your region and observe how they differ in interactions (such as which blog posts they read and how they navigate your site).

Option 2: Geo-location

You can also get a visual overview of where your site visitors are located through Google Analytics' Geo-location feature.

  1. From Audience, click the Geo drop-down menu then click Location.
  2. Choose the Organic Traffic segment.
  3. Begin clicking on the map in the area you want to focus on. The more concentrated the color, the more visitors to your site from that area.

Google Search Console


Measuring local search performance in Google Search Console can be challenging, but there are several techniques that we can recommend to help with this issue.

  1. in the Performance > search results report, you can apply filters for specific queries that are local, such as "near me" or a blank query, and then track their performance. You may also discover other queries with "local intent" and monitor their performance as well.
  2. You can use UTM parameters on the website URL in your Google My Business (GMB) profile. This allows you to track when your GMB listing appears and when it is clicked.

To avoid any issues with your search listing or other traffic reports, use lowercase parameters, maintain source=google and medium=organic, and use a canonical tag to avoid creating duplicate pages. For example, use This way, you can track when your GMB URL is displayed or clicked on in GSC and web analytics software like Google Analytics.


Benefits of SEO

The benefits of SEO include:

  • Increased website traffic
  • Improved visibility in search results
  • Increased brand awareness
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Long-term return on investment (ROI)

SEO can be a highly effective way to drive organic traffic to a website and improve its visibility in search results. With the right optimization tactics, businesses can achieve a high ranking for relevant search queries and reap the benefits of increased traffic and brand awareness.

Benefits of Local SEO


The benefits of local SEO include:

  • Increased foot traffic to local businesses
  • Higher conversion rates for local searches
  • Increased brand awareness in local markets
  • Higher ROI for local businesses
  • Competitive advantage over other local businesses

Local SEO can be a highly effective way to drive foot traffic to local businesses and improve their visibility in local search results. By optimizing various elements of a website and leveraging local listings and reviews, businesses can attract more customers and gain a competitive edge in their local market.

Which One is Better?

The answer to this question depends on your business needs and goals. If you are a global business with a broad target audience, SEO may be the better option. If you are a local business looking to attract more customers and improve your visibility in local search results, local SEO may be the better option.

Ultimately, the best approach is to combine both SEO and local SEO strategies to achieve the best results. By optimizing for both global and local search queries, businesses can attract a broader audience while also targeting potential customers in their local market.

It is important to note that SEO and local SEO are not one-time efforts but rather ongoing processes that require continuous optimization and monitoring. By staying up to date with the latest optimization tactics and trends, businesses can maintain a strong online presence and achieve long-term success.

Start with Local SEO for Your Local Business

If you depend on a local customer base, it's crucial to build your authority with local SEO before broadening your efforts to global SEO. When you're ready to serve a nationwide or worldwide market, you can strengthen your local SEO with global SEO.

Expanding Beyond Local SEO

If you're targeting a larger market than your local area, you need to rank for keywords that will attract a broader audience to your site. Growing traffic for a nationwide or global market takes effort, including investing in advertising, content marketing, and social media, and establishing yourself as an expert in your business area.

Help your potential customers by solving their problems, answering their questions, and being a trustworthy resource. Delight and surprise them, and provide a place for them to gather as an online community.

Although it may take some time to build a website that does all of this better than what's already out there, combining local and general SEO efforts will help everyone find what you're selling.

For example, suppose you sell shoes from a storefront in Cincinnati and have an online store. In that case, you want customers from your neighborhood to walk into your store and purchase shoes. But you also want to attract customers from all over the country because you have the best online shoe store that can service a wide audience. To ensure that everyone can find your store, you need to combine local and general SEO efforts.


In conclusion, while SEO and local SEO share some similarities, they are fundamentally different in their target audience, keyword focus, optimization tactics, and competition. Both approaches have their own benefits and are best suited for different business needs and goals. However, the best approach is to combine both SEO and local SEO strategies to achieve a strong online presence and attract a broad audience while also targeting potential customers in your local market.

Have you already started a strong SEO campaign?


What is the difference between SEO and local SEO?

SEO focuses on optimizing a website for global search queries, while local SEO focuses on optimizing a website for local search queries.

Which is better, SEO or local SEO?

The answer depends on your business needs and goals. If you are a global business with a broad target audience, SEO may be the better option. If you are a local business looking to attract more customers and improve your visibility in local search results, local SEO may be the better option.

What are the benefits of SEO?

The benefits of SEO include increased website traffic, improved visibility in search results, increased brand awareness, higher conversion rates, and long-term return on investment (ROI).

What are the benefits of local SEO?

The benefits of local SEO include increased foot traffic to local businesses, higher conversion rates for local searches, increased brand awareness in local markets, higher ROI for local businesses, and a competitive advantage over other local businesses.

Can I combine SEO and local SEO strategies?

Yes, combining both SEO and local SEO strategies can be highly effective in achieving a strong online presence and attracting a broad audience while also targeting potential customers in your local market.