National SEO vs. Local SEO

Not all SEO is the same. There are two very different major categories, and while they share some similarities, they have some distinct differences as well.

I’ve worked front-and-center in both industries, so I have first-hand experience on how to handle them appropriately.

What is National SEO?

Most people usually just say “SEO” when referring to national search engine optimization. This is the type of work that’s done to try and rank websites that target an entire country or multiple countries.​

Certain types of websites that might use this strategy are:

  • e-commerce businesses selling products to most regions if not all of a country​
  • affiliate websites promoting other business's products or services nationally
  • national news sites or directories 

While Google and the other search engines don’t publicly release all of their ranking factors, some of the big names in the industry like Brian Dean from Backlinko have compiled their own researched lists. Most lists show a common core of main factors like back links, word count, the domain, placing the main keyword in the url, and so on.

National SEO is most often a much longer and much more involved process than local SEO due to generally being more competitive.

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What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the figurative bread and butter of many a marketing agency. It’s not all that different from its big brother, but there are two key differences:

  • it's generally much less competitive
  • it uses citations as a ranking factor​

Less competitive be default

When a website is worried about ranking locally instead of nationally, they instantly limit the amount of competition.

First, they are only competing with other local shops and not gigantic multinational e-commerce sites. Second, they are usually only competing with other businesses that have a brick and mortar rooftop in the area. This isn’t always the case, as some service-based businesses will target local areas, but for most local SEO, it’s the case.

For example, there are only so many Thai restaurants located in or near Wester Chester, PA. And, it’s a safe bet that not all of these restaurants are trying to rank their business’s website, not to mention, those they are trying might not know what they’re doing.

The addition of citations

Search engines add a specific ranking factor when considering local-based searches: citations.

The main components of a citation are the business name, address, phone number, and sometimes the website. This is often referred to as NAP+W.

A citation does not need to actually link to your site. Simply having the NAP+W mentioned together on other sites, like on Yellow Pages, ​is enough to let the search engines know there’s a business by a certain name at that address.

Like backlinks, some citations are more powerful than others. Also, the more the merrier as long as you don’t overdo it.

Some of the more common and important citation sites are:

  • Google Plus / Google my Business​
  • Yelp
  • Bing Places
  • Yellow Pages

There are also lots of services out there to help with building out your websites’ citation profile as well.

In Summary

Before you start to plan the digital marketing strategy for your website, make sure you consider your main goals. Are you trying to get purchases on your site, like an Amazon seller would, or do you want a customer to stop in your shop?

Luckily, though local SEO and national SEO have differences, they aren’t mutually exclusive. Due to the crossover of many ranking factors, if you have a local shop that also sells nationally, you can have the best of both worlds.


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