There are two basic types of geography-based SEO campaigns: local SEO and national SEO. Both are beneficial to business success, but the success lies considering your business goals. Do you plan to reach local audiences or do you wish to target a far-reaching market?
The main difference between the two SEO strategies is its effect on your business. From the term itself: local SEO is about ranking your business in a specific geographical area and being a part of a local community. On the other hand, national SEO focuses on ranking broad keyphrases for a specific country.
Both practices have a definitive approach and purpose; it all depends on your business type and target market. At the end of the day, website optimization is all about ensuring that people find you online.
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your brand’s online visibility to ensure that it appears in local search engine results. The digital campaigns and strategies for local SEO optimization focus on local brick-and-mortar businesses. It targets the local audience that is within the same geographical location as you are. That means if you have a local business office or store, this SEO tactic is all about making sure that searchers or customers find you in real life. This is “local SEO.”
Examples of local search terms in which local SEO emphasizes its optimization efforts are as such:
- “cake shops near me”
- “cake shops in [city name]”
- “Korean restaurants nearby”
National search optimization is when SEO activities are targeted to audiences on a country-wide level. National SEO is about helping types of businesses that operate nationwide.
Examples of nationwide search terms in which national SEO exercises its optimization strategies are as such:
- “recruitment agency [country name]”
- “SEO agency”
- “appliance brand [country]”
At a glance, local SEO is utilized when a business is only competing in a specific local area; while national SEO competes with similar companies across the country. To elaborate on both, below is a visual comparative analysis of the distinction between local SEO and national SEO.
Local SEO vs. National SEO: Advantages and Disadvantages
Statistics show that 50% of people who perform a local search on their mobile device went to visit a physical store within 24 hours. In 2018, about 27% of consumers searched for a local company online each day. If you want your local business to grow its local following, tap on local communities, and gain sales revenue, you need to optimize your local SEO strategy.
Since you’re focused on tapping a specific market, there’s less competition. This increases your brand visibility, targeted traffic, claims authority, and boost conversions.
Do bear in mind that the kind of marketing tactics that work locally may not work on a national level. Also, local SEO requires more localized keyword research and strategies.
Since national SEO efforts aim to attract a wider audience, it’s much more competitive. It focuses its ranking tactics for broader, general keywords. National SEO campaign is a much-preferred approach for businesses that have no restrictions with their target market, and that operate strictly online (i.e., ecommerce stores, private online sellers, etc.).
With this, national SEO campaigns are more challenging to tackle and costs more. You may run several ads to rank above bigger brands or businesses in your niche. Ranking for general keywords is also more difficult on the national stage since you’re competing with hundreds of other similar businesses.
Additionally, national SEO requires a large team to develop. We’re talking about bringing your brand to a national audience; you’ll obviously need a team of professionals to execute this practice. At the end of the day, the good news is you get to reach a broad audience, have higher chances of gaining more traffic and conversions.
Best Practices for Both SEO Strategies
You can experiment with different approaches and strategies when working on website optimization for your local/national SEO. However, these are the tried and tested, best practices that can help you succeed with your campaigns when properly executed. Note that since the two branches of SEO are similar, you'll find that both share similar practices.
Keyword research is a time tested SEO tactic and is used for both local SEO and national SEO. It’s almost like a prerequisite for on-page SEO.
In keyword research, it is essential for you to know what the most popular and relevant keywords your prospects are searching for, especially in your specific local area. This gives you a lead on what keywords to optimize for to boost your search rankings and tap on your ideal market.
When optimizing for your local business site, it is common practice to build the keywords you are targeting with “local keywords.” For instance, “cake shop in new york” or “cake shops near me.” Sure, local keywords may bring lower search volume, but it helps fulfill the specific search intent of the user; and helps your business get right in front of them from efficiently.
Optimize title tags, meta description, URL, and content
These customizable HTML elements tease the content of your web page in search results. Primarily, these serve as your 600px mini-ad on the SERP. On Google, it’s recommended to keep your title tags and meta descriptions at an acceptable length so that it won’t be truncated: roughly 50 to 60 characters and 160 to 200 characters respectively.
Ensure your URL and content includes your local area or region plus your targeted keywords. For your content, make sure that the blog post title mentions your primary keywords; and the subheadings and body include your secondary keywords.
Add structured language data
Structured data, also called schema markup language, is a configuration of organized micro-data that webmasters or developers input into your business site’s HTML code. This helps search engines better understand your website content and makes important pages on your website more accessible.
The markup places your site content’s relevancy signals for search engines by context clues, which matches with your local targeted search queries. It helps highlight the important information (i.e., your business NAP, business hours, reviews, etc.) on your website, allowing Google to categorize and index your data.
“Mentions” or citations of your local business on other pages are vital to local search ranking. The more mentions your website gains, the better chance you get at ranking higher on the search engine results page (SERP).
You can build your local citations through online directory websites (i.e., Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Google My Business) and other listings. Your local citations should contain the necessary information about your business: name, address, phone number, otherwise known as NAP. Do also ensure that it’s consistent across all directories and listing sites.
Moreover, claim and optimize your Google My Business (GMB) directory page. It’s free and the exposure your local business can get from it can lead you to Google’s 3-pack block, the three top-rated suggestions in the first page of search results.
Customer reviews are in a way, word-of-mouth marketing. Research shows that consumers scour through an average of ten online reviews before putting their trust in a local business. Search engines find reviews a search ranking signal, especially if they're high-quality and positive reviews.
Reviews are beneficial for your local business. It never hurts to ask your customers, especially your loyal ones to leave feedback online. In fact, around 70% of consumers who've been asked to leave a review delivered. If you want to grow your brand visibility without spending a dime, politely ask for customer reviews.
Don’t forget to respond to reviews as well, negative or positive. This only shows that you listen to your customers and you’re responsive.
Much like in local SEO, keyword research is an essential step in national search optimization as it lays the groundwork for your SEO strategy. Since you have lots of competition with national SEO, you ought to determine what key phrases your ideal audience looks up for the product or service you provide.
Keyword research starts typically on a national level since local SEO only localize the keywords eventually using local terms. With national SEO, keyword research is straightforward in determining broad search phrase queries to utilize for your SEO campaign. Check out which general keywords have the highest conversion rates.
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your individual web page elements to push their rank higher on the search engines. This refers to the title tags, meta tags, page speed, image alt tags, and formatting of the content (i.e., blog post, etc.). Your goal is to allow search engines to crawl, index, and rank your website quick and easy, and one of the best ways to do that is on-page optimization.
Strategically place your target keywords in the title, meta description, and H1 tags. Keywords on titles (that doesn’t sound spammy) hold more weight on search engines. For image alt attributes, associate them with your website or brand since these tags still matter for search engines.
Content is the core of your website; it’s vital for all SEO practices. Especially for national SEO where the competition is tight.
Using your target keywords in a strategic way for blog post content can help with your ranking in the SERPs. Since you’re head-to-head with other national businesses, the best way to outperform them is to produce expert, relevant, and valuable content consistently. Content relevancy is a search engine signal, so make sure only to produce fresh content (not repetitive topics) that your target audience will find most useful compared to your competitors.
Since the competition is high with national SEO, conducting a competitor analysis reveals who’s leading the organic search. It also gives you an idea about what valued keywords and link building strategies are more effective to help you climb up within your industry’s rankings.
The first step to competitor analysis is finding out who your top online search competitors are. More importantly, a competitor analysis can tell you what your competitors are doing right, find out how they did it, and see if it can be replicated. You can also discover link building opportunities along the way.
Additionally, this analysis encourages you to make the necessary improvements and streamline your strategies for your website.
Link building strategies work on all types of SEO practices. For national SEO, the goal is to build your business expertise, authority and trustworthiness to acquire quality mentions and backlinks on authoritative sites. This strategy helps place your website on the first page of the SERPs.
Make it a goal to acquire links from relevant, high-authority sites whose audience would find your website attractive and valuable as well. If your business is a recruitment agency, a backlink from a job board website will appear more valuable compared to a link from an animal rescue website.
Choose One or Use Both?
Both SEO practices have their upsides and downsides. The best strategy for your business depends on your target audience and business goals. If you’re eyeing for national stage, prepare to splurge extravagantly since targeting a broader audience means a larger team and bigger budget requirements. If you're a small business is aiming for a specific geographic area, then look into boosting your local optimization efforts.
On the other hand, you might benefit from taking a hybrid approach, which combines tactics from both SEO strategies. The best way to find out is to consult with a credible SEO company to help you determine which type best suits your business needs.