apple orangeIf you’ve spent any time learning about digital marketing you’re sure to have come across the terms “organic” and “local” in regards to search and SEO. So what is a local search? How is it different from organic?

Today I’m going to discuss the differences, how they are related, and the important points you need to know about each of them.


What is local search?what is local search

A local search is any search that contains a geographical component. For example “Plumber in Perth” or “Electrician in Adelaide”. Any time you search for an industry or service in a particular location you are doing a local search. However, you can also perform a local search without adding a location.
For example when I search just “Plumber” in Google, I see a list of Plumbers in Perth because Google knows I’m located in Perth, and there’s really no reason I would want to find a plumber located anywhere else. Google has learnt which search terms tend to be local terms, and even without a location specified will return local search results.

A local search doesn’t just mean that Google only displays local businesses in the search results. The most important different is that there is a Google Maps section at the top of the search results that doesn’t appear for organic searches. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, it looks like this:

What makes this so important is that it appears before the regular (organic) search results. This means that having your business ranked here is actually more important than being ranked highly in the organic (regular) search results that appear below.

What is organic search?

Organic searches are when there is no geographical intent in the search. These are usually searches for information or digital goods or services where the location of the result isn’t relevant. For example searching for “How to replace a fuse” is an organic search. It doesn’t matter if I find a website located in Sydney or Brisbane – I’ll still get what I need”.

Should you be focussing on local or organic?

This really depends on the type of business you are running. If your business services a specific geographical area, local searches are most important. If your business does not service a particular area, you should focus on organic. For most small businesses, local search is extremely important.

Should local businesses worry about organic?

If there is any way for people outside of your local area to benefit from your services you should also focus on ranking organically for these services. For example if your business has a bricks and mortar location and an online store, you can focus on ranking your products in organic searches for online orders.

You can also use a blog to generate organic traffic for a local business. Some of this organic traffic will be from your local area. For example writing a blog article that ranks for “How to change a fuse” might get you some local business.

In addition, Google is now looking at traffic metrics to determine ranking. This means that even if the traffic you’re getting isn’t local, as long as you deliver a great user experience (in the form of useful blog articles for example) Google may reward you with better local search rankings.

Local SEO basics

Local SEO is a bit different from Organic SEO. For local searches geographical relevance is everything. In order to rank highly for “Lawyer Perth” you don’t just have to convince Google that you’re the best lawyer result, you also have to make Google more certain that you are located in Perth than your competitors.

The main factor Google considers when deciding how much trust to put in your geographical location is your business citation profile. A business citation is an occurrence of your NAP (business name, address, and phone number) on the internet. The more times your NAP occurs around the web the more certain Google becomes of your location.

Citations can be either structured or unstructured. Structured citations are directory listings such as and where your NAP is listed in an organised fashion. Unstructured citations are other instances of your NAP such as the text at the bottom of a press release, or an author BIO at the end of a published article.

For more information on citations see this article

After citations, on-site SEO is also important. Having your NAP clearly listed on your website along with the location in your title and headings is essential, and other factors like using a Google Maps insert and having content related to your local area also play a part.

Organic SEO basics

Organic SEO is simpler, without the geo-location factors to consider it all comes down to the relevant of your content and backlink profile to your targeted keyphrase. If you’re trying to rank for “How to change a fuse” the content on your page has to answer this question, and there needs to be powerful backlinks pointing at the page with related anchor texts.

With recent improvements in Google’s ranking algorithms avoiding over-optimisation is essential. This means writing good quality content without stuffing extra keywords in, using headings and titles.