google search page

Most people do not realize that Google uses multiple algorithms to provide search results, so it is important to understand the difference between them when you are trying to optimize your site. If you want your site to be seen by potential and current customers, you need to optimize your website for the right algorithm. So how do you know which type of SEO to do to make your website more search engine friendly?

Both Traditional SEO and Local SEO have the same goal: to improve your site’s visibility to get as many people as possible to discover, contact, and buy from your business. If you don’t know much about SEO, it can be hard to determine which you really need. So what makes them different?

Traditional SEO doesn’t have a geographic focus

With traditional SEO, there is no geographic focus – the business needs to show up everywhere, to all potential customers. One of the easiest ways to differentiate is to consider whether or not the business does face-to-face business with clients. If not (think a traditional eCommerce site), then traditional SEO is what’s needed. With traditional SEO, visibility in search results is primarily determined by the content on your site and links from other sites pointing to your site.

Let’s do a search for a “Toyota Rav4 steering wheel cover.” The user is clearly interested in purchasing a steering wheel cover for their Rav4. Amazon is the first result displayed for this search. Amazon is an e-commerce site that doesn’t do face-to-face business with customers. It does not matter where the buyer is located, so there’s no geographic focus to the search results.
toyota rav4 steering wheel cover search

Rocket Mortgage, an online mortgage broker directory and learning center, is another great example. Rocket Mortgage helps users find brokers on their site and publishes a wealth of useful content about home buying. Rocket Mortgage needs traditional SEO since they are not catering to one specific geographic region, but instead, wants to reach all people interested in a mortgage or learning more about home buying steps.
google search broker directory

Local SEO targets search results in a particular area

Local SEO is needed by any business that does face-to-face business with customers in a certain geographic area. The face-to-face interactions could happen at a brick-and-mortar location (like car dealers, attorneys, or restaurants) or by serving customers at their locations (like a plumber or electrician).

With Local SEO, the goal is to increase search visibility in a specific geographic area. With Local SEO, the physical location of the searcher in the real world will influence the results displayed in searches. Local search queries often include geo-modifiers after the search term (like the name of a city or a phrase like “near me”), but they don’t have to include location modifiers. Google has studied searcher behavior and has realized that searches in certain verticals will always have local intent.

You can test this yourself and see how it works. I did a search for “Toyota dealer Pittsburgh” (where I live) and for “Toyota dealer” (without a geo-modifier).  Both searches returned the same results:

So which type of SEO does your business need?

First, think about the geographic focus I mentioned above – do you do face-to-face business with clients in a certain area? If so, you need Local SEO.

If you’re still not sure, do a Google search for a few of the important keywords you’re targeting. If Google displays a map pack for any of the queries, that shows that Google has assigned local intent for that search – which means it’s using the local algorithm, and you need Local SEO. If you don’t see any map packs, then you should instead focus on traditional SEO.

If you’re still not sure which type of SEO you need, you can always call us. We’re happy to help educate you and answer your questions, or even explain how we’d approach the SEO for your business.