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Local SEO vs SEO: What's the Difference?

Mar 5, 2018
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What is the difference between SEO and Local SEO? While they may share some tactics and best practices, getting your website to rank in local search takes a slightly different approach. In the video below, I'll share the differences between SEO and Local SEO as well as the main ranking factors that impact local search. If you are trying to drive local business to your website, this video is a must watch.




Video Transcript:

If this is your first time watching, or maybe you've been watching a while and haven't yet hit "Subscribe," please do so now. We would love to have you join our community. Today, we're going to be talking about the difference between SEO and local SEO, and really going to focus on the ranking factors for local search. We talk a lot about SEO. We talk a lot about inbound marketing, digital marketing strategies, but not everything works the same across the board, and the same goes with SEO. If you're trying to rank a local business, maybe you have a local tire shop or a local pet store, something along those lines, you're going to need to do things a little bit differently than if you're just trying to rank in the generic search. 

When we talk about generic search or SEO, we typically talk about the blue links. The blue links that are underneath Google. Now, the SERPs, or what we also call as the search engine ranking positions, those are the lists of the blue results, they've changed the way they've looked over the years, so we see some ads at the top. Sometimes we see something called a knowledge graph, which is a little bit more information, and people also ask for a question box also shows up from time to time. Sometimes we see a video, but by and large, when we're talking about regular SEO, we're talking about what's showing up in the blue links, and we're talking about usually ranking for broader terms that aren't typically location-specific. Local search is all about location. It's location-specific. We're targeting people within a certain area that we want to drive to a local store or for a business that operates locally. Maybe you do leak detection, and you show up at somebody's house, but you're still locally based. 

When we talk about SEO, we've got three core things that we know impact rank. We've talked about this in other blog posts. You've probably seen other people in SEO talk about it, but we talk about links, backlinks, which our last video was about backlinks, and if you want to know more on that, please check that out. We talk about content, so the power of having to write content and writing stuff that people actually want to read that's going to help them that Google is going to help understand your site, and then we're going to talk about RankBrain.

We've done some content on semantic search, and Hummingbird, and understanding the artificial intelligence and machine learning that's going behind how Google's going to display the results, and really it's about understanding the context of the situation to deliver the best answer with the shortest amount of clicks possible. There's a lot more that goes into it, but really we can think of RankBrain as this artificial intelligence machine learning aspect where Google is looking at the data, analyzing the data, and then delivering the results based on what the computer deems most accurate. That's continued to play a huge role in regular search. 

Now, we also have these other little dots. Right? They're pointing in. Well, these represent the hundreds of other ranking factors, schema markup and structured data. We're talking about on-page SEO. We're talking about speed, a number of things that also impact how a site ranks in typical SEO. There's a lot going on here, but when we pull up, this is kind of what we look at as the three main drivers for search. Now, if we're talking about local search, we're talking about companies that are targeting somebody in a location, so this is when that box shows up.

It's the map, or we also call it the local pack, where you would type in a term, "dentist near me" or "dentist Melbourne Florida," and a map's going to show up with a bunch of little red dots and certain dental offices are going to show up there. It's going to show me their website, usually a little bit of information. If I'm on a mobile device, it typically tells me how far away they are. It's going to give me a link to their website. It's going to give me a link to contact them or interact with them in some way, shape, or form.

What we've done here is, we've put up the top eight local pack ranking signals. Now, we pulled this list from Moz. Moz has done a big study on this. They do studies on it all the time, and we're actually going to have three infographics attached to this post. If you're watching on YouTube and you want to check out the infographics, go ahead and click the link, which is going to be in the description, and it's going to bring you to our website, which will then allow you to see these infographics, and we're going to do three separate infographics all on local search that will help you understand how local search is different and the things that you need to be looking for and using in order to rank in the local pack.

Well, the local pack can be very powerful, because it's before the blue links. This is before somebody sees a website listing. They're going to see a Maps listing, and especially today with users being on mobile phones, when they see that local listing, they're typically going to click that much quicker and sooner than scrolling down, especially if they need to visit a store. There's a number of statistics that prove that people, before they visit a local store, a brick-and-mortar location, that they will look it up online, and they will do some initial research, whether that be finding a number or finding a product or finding a location.

The number one factor for your local website when it comes to ranking in the local pack is your My Business location. Now, if you notice here, I've got a little red Google next to this. This is a Google entity, so you need to sign up for Google My Business. You need to claim your business, which they're going to need to mail you something. You can give a confirmation code. This is to keep your business location safe. It may seem like a nuisance, but it's a really good thing. This way, nobody can just claim your business and claim to be you.

Now, this local business location, you can add your hours. You can add your phone number. You can add your description. You can add the categories you're in. You can really optimize this to show people who you are. This listing is going to be powerful for a number of reasons that we're going to talk about. It's going to impact some of the other top eight ranking signals. The number one thing you need to do is have your My Business location and have it optimized, have it fully filled out. Make sure that you have it crystal clear, clean, actionable, telling people about your business. 

Now, the second factor is links. This is very similar to SEO. Links play a role, because links show Google authority, and again, you don't want links from just anywhere. You want them from quality sites. You want to make sure that you're getting links from people that are relevant, contextually relevant to your industry, and that make sense to have. 

This is the third thing, on-page signals, so again, this kind of goes back a little bit to SEO best practices. Make sure that your site's optimized, but for local search, you want to do a couple of different things. We have something called a NAP, N-A-P. Name, address, and phone number. Those three core elements are essential to have on your site when you're doing on-page optimization for a local business. People want to know where you are, people want to know who you are, and people want to know how to get in touch with you, and they want to be able to do it very quickly, so making sure that you have your name, your address, and your phone number somewhere that's visible and easy to interact with. Very important for local search.

The fourth is going to be citations. Now, these are other local listing sites. Your citation, again, is your name, address, phone number, as well as your URL, and you can have these on sites like MapQuest, or Yelp, or Facebook, My Business. There's a lot of different areas where you want to claim or add your citations. There's a lot of niche directories maybe for plumbers or daycare centers, things of that nature where you can also go and add your business to, and you're going to have these citations. These citations act sort of like a link. When Google goes out and they look at your address and they look at your location, they're going to search the web, and they're going to look for citations that verify that information.

Now, here's something that's very critical that a lot of people miss. You want to make sure that your information on your citation matches the information on your Google My Business page, that the name is the same, exactly the same, that your phone number's the same, that your address is the same, that your URL is the same. This is going to really be one of those pieces of information that Google's going to base information off of, and if it's different all over the web, it's going to be very confusing. They're going to rate your site a lot lower. They're going to rate your My Business profile a lot lower, so make sure that when you're filling out citations or you're claiming citations that you make sure that you don't have duplicates, that you don't have random listings out there, and that all your information is synced together in one place. If you're having trouble with that, send us a comment below. We can definitely help you get straightened out when it comes to citations.

Now, the next piece of information is review signals. You need to have reviews. You need to have good reviews. Again, I put Google by this. You can send people to your Google My Business listing to add reviews. Encourage your clients who have had a good experience to give you a review. Now, here's the sad part. People are way more likely to give you a negative review than a positive review. Why is that? Well, if we have a bad experience, we're typically angry about it, so what do we want to do? We want to tell people how angry we are. We're going to find the listing and add a bad review. A lot of times if we have a good experience, we expect it to have a good experience, so we say, "Hey, thanks. Yeah, you did your job. Why should I do anything else?"

What we want to do is encourage people, maybe go above and beyond in service and then make it very easy for them to add a review to our site. has a free tool that you can use where you find your location on Google, your My Business location, and it sets you up with a review link generator. Free tool. Very easy to use, and it makes it a one-click step for your clients so that they can leave reviews. Now, you also want to get reviews on Yelp. You want to get reviews on Facebook. You want to get reviews on some of the other sites as well. Google can aggregate those in and show them in your My Business listing, but predominantly these reviews are going to be a lot of the time on your Google My Business location.

Behavioral signals. That's the next thing. This is the amount of people that click on your listing. How many people click on "Find more"? How many people click on your website? How many people click on your phone number? Google is tracking this information, and they're going to use it when they're ranking you. If you aren't getting a lot of clicks, you're not getting a lot of action, they're going to say, "Well, maybe people don't like your business, so now we're going to rank you lower," so making sure that people are clicking on. This is why it's so important to have your My Business location filled out all the way so that you can give people an opportunity to interact with you.

The next is personalization. This is something that's completely out of our control. This is based on the user's search history, location, things of that nature. If they're closer to your business, maybe you're going to show up a little bit higher. They're further away. You may not show up for them at all, so this is an area where we don't have a lot of play, but it's still important, especially if you're in a downtown location. If you optimize all these things that we talked about above, you're going to have a much higher chance of getting found by those potential searchers.

The last thing is social signals. Again, I put Google in there, and I put Google+ in there. Now, Google+ is not necessarily the world's favorite social media platform, but it's still used by a lot of people, and more importantly, Google uses it when they're looking at your local listing. They're going to look at Twitter and Facebook, but they're going to pay attention to their own network. There's a reason they haven't shut it down. Google+ is essential if you have a local business. It's also tied to your My Business page, so your Google+ business and your Google My Business, it's all in one ecosystem. When Google gives you these tools, use them. Fill out your information. It's going to help you, especially when we're talking about local SEO.

I hope this gave you a little bit better of idea the difference between search, SEO is what we normally do from like an organic ranking, non-location style, to local search, which is much more targeted at a local community, local businesses, interacting with a community, within a certain parameter. When you want to show up online, when you want your business, your local business, to really connect with people looking for you and your area, these eight practices, these eight signals, are essential for you to get found.

Take the time, fill out your My Business profile. Do the research. Start to make sure that all of these are areas that you can control, that you do control, and that you really take the time and the effort to make sure that your citations are clean, that your listings are right, and that your My Business profile is completely filled out, and then interact with people. If they add a review, thank them for adding a review. If somebody didn't have a good experience, try to make it right. Don't argue with them, but really try to admit your mistakes, maybe if you didn't even make them, but empathize with them, and try to show people that you care.

It's going to help build up your profile here, and it's going to really help you show people that you're human, that you want to do business with them, and it's going to go show Google also that you care, which can very much help you if you want to get a little bit higher in those ranking spots. I hope you learned something today, and if you did, or maybe you have another question, please comment below. We would love to continue the conversation with you after the video. Until next time, Happy Marketing.

Looking for more insight on Google Maps? Check out this Google Maps Marketing Guide

Local Search Infographics:

The local organic ranking factors cover what is most important when wanting to rank for a location modified keyword. This would be any keyword with a city or region attached to it, for example, "SEO Melbourne, FL." The factors above pertain to the links below a map or a local search results page that doesn't have a map/local pack. 

These are the ranking factors that we went over in the video. As we discussed, these are what impact your ranking or visibility on the map or local pack. While Local SEO and SEO do have a lot in common, Local SEO has very specific and important differences that are essential to success. 

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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