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Local SEO vs National SEO. Which Should Be Your Main Focus in 2021?

Local SEO is a great way for businesses to reach customers locally. Find out the difference between local and national SEO with this guide.


For years having a robust SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy has proven to be an essential element of a digital marketing strategy that is focused on long term growth. But recently the landscape has changed, and now it can be broken down into two distinctly different areas, local and national SEO.

So What Is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)?

Let’s start with the basics (if you are already an SEO whizz then skip to the next section). SEO is the practice of optimising your business’s online presence to obtain an increased quality of traffic to your website. What’s more is the increased traffic is unpaid – which means you don’t have to pay for this, it’s free! We call this Organic.

So, where do you get this increased traffic? It comes from search engines like Google, Microsoft Bing (which powers Yahoo and Alexa) and Baidu (Chinese language). Big tech giant Apple is also rumoured to be developing its search engine, but there is no release date as yet.

But Why Is SEO Important?

SEO is an excellent source for getting free traffic relevant to your business, which converts at a much higher rate than paid advertising – ultimately leading to more sales! It can help build your brand and it can give you a significant competitive advantage. 

Benefits from SEO is unlike paid advertising (which switches off and grinds to a screeching halt), it stays in the background and never stops! While paying to advertise is an effective way to find new customers, reliance on it alone could be costly in the long term.

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The Changing Landscape Of SEO In 2021

Until recently, having a single SEO strategy was more than sufficient, to ensure your business remained prominent on search engines. As long as you continued to update any changes, you were sure to maintain your position in the search ranking.

Getting Personal

As time has progressed, search engines have become better at knowing their customers. An area that has advanced is the results provided by them, which is now personal to the customer and differs for each person (for example, showing location-based results). Businesses have had to think carefully about how they appear in the search engine for mobile and desktop. They put thought into the different keywords people may put into the search engine, which relates to their business. 

A Robust Strategy Is The Key 

Having a robust SEO strategy is a must when focusing on long term growth. There two distinct areas for SEO, this is Local and National. Tactics needed to appear nationally differ somewhat from what is required to appear locally. So, how can you tell the difference?

Let’s have a look at the search results page for the search term “iPhone”:

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National Google search for the keyword "iPhone"
  • Green = Paid advertising results (Google Ads) 
  • Blue = Organic (unpaid) results 

As you can see from the image above, paid ads are the most prominent result on the page, with organic products appearing further down the page. If you are a local phone shop, it is improbable you will appear organically for the term “iPhone”. Paid ads may provide some traffic, although it will be competitive where you are bidding against big brands for ad-space. However, you have an advantage to this if you are trying to reach people locally…and here come local search results!  

Searching With “Local” Intent 

Now let’s change the keyword to something with local intent (e.g. someone looking to buy locally). Let’s use “phone shop” instead: 

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Local search result for the term "Phone Shop"
  • Green = Paid advertising results (Google Ads) 
  • Yellow = Directory listings
  • Blue = Local search results (three-pack)

Notice from the above image how the organic results have disappeared off the page. Instead, you see something in the industry called the ‘three-pack’ – a method search engines use to display the top three results for local results, based on the persons’ searching location. You can also see how local directories have taken prominence for this term. Interestingly, this will be different depending on several factors, such as your geographic position, reviews and more. 

Searching On Mobile

When using a mobile, local search results are even more prominent, where features such as the facility to call directly from your phone or navigate to the location are activated. 

I like the ‘local element’ because it’s available for everyone and not just the big brands. It is also an area Google, Microsoft and Apple are developing by regular updates and extensive advertising campaigns highlighting the features.

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Which Type Of Businesses Should Use Local SEO Practices?

If you have a trade, local business or a physical location to serve customers, then having a local SEO strategy should be your #1 priority. Investing in this area will enable you to reach more people in your local area, paying dividends.

Types of businesses that will benefit from local SEO strategy efforts include hairdressers, plumbers, schools, builders, restaurants, accountants, beauty salons and more.

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Businesses that serve local areas such as florists can benefit significantly from having a robust local SEO strategy in place too

What Are The Benefits Of Having A Local SEO Strategy?

  • Significantly less competition 
  • More cost-effective 
  • Higher relevance as you are targeting people in your local area 
  • Can be reinforced by other local marketing efforts, such as PR, print advertising and encouraging word of mouth
  • Much easier to rank for specific keywords (to rank for a term like “plumber” nationally would be quite an undertaking and require significant time investment!)

Local SEO Statistics

Here are some incredible stats that reinforce why local search optimisation is a worthwhile undertaking:
  • 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit business locally within a day. 
  • 28% of people searching for something nearby result in a purchase. 
  • People searching on their mobile phones for “where to buy” and “near me”  (e.g. “hairdressers near me”) have grown by 250% year on year from 2017–2019. 

Sources: Think With Google and AHrefs.com

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Compared to national SEO, Local SEO is vital in reaching people in your local area. It is significantly less competitive than national SEO, meaning you can reach more people.

What About National SEO, Is It No Longer Important?

National SEO remains an effective way of reaching customers nationally and internationally. For some businesses, such as e-commerce retailers it should remain a top priority. For some companies who can serve people outside of their local area, having both a national and local SEO strategy will ensure you can compete on both levels.

Researching Keywords

When researching keywords to determine your SEO strategy, consider the different types of searches, such as national and local keywords. E.g. Near me, open now.

Businesses with multiple locations will benefit from having a local strategy for each area but on a larger scale and a national SEO strategy. It doesn’t sound straightforward, but it is once you get under the surface and become familiar with it.

Local SEO vs National SEO – In Conclusion:

Hopefully, the above has given you a basic understanding of the difference between local SEO and national SEO.

 We will be producing a separate article on optimising your business nationally, if you have enjoyed reading this article then subscribe to our blog and we will drop you an email when it is published.

Need help getting your amplifying your business locally? We offer a huge range of services to suit local businesses who are looking at increasing their online presence. For further information head over to our local marketing services page

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope you found it useful? If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave a comment or get in touch using the form below.

 

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