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If you own a small business, you’ve probably searched for your company’s main keywords on search engines like Google countless times (if not, you should!). But did you know that there are different types of listings—namely local and traditional organic listings? Do you know the difference, or which one is more important for your business?
What’s the Difference between Local and Organic Listings?
The simple answer is that local listings are tied to the user’s geographic location, whereas organic listings are Google’s “trusted” listings that can be found from anywhere. Keep reading for in-depth information on each type of search listing and why each might be important to your business.
Organic Search Results
Google uses its spiders to “crawl” your website and index the webpages. Then, when it thinks one of your pages should be displayed to a user based on their search query, Google displays your corresponding webpage. For example, I searched for “plumbers in san diego ca” (I am not located there), and this is what came up:
Google returned these results because its “bots” thought they were the most relevant to my search query.
Local Search Results
On the other hand, if you just type in a keyword phrase like “plumber” or “hvac company,” the locations of local contractors will appear in search results, likely in a map at the top of the page—even if you don’t include your location in the search query (see below).
That’s because Google understands where you’re located and wants to help you find services close to you without much work on your part. Ever since Google’s so-called “Pigeon” update back in July 2014, if users are on their mobile devices, or on their computers with the location setting on, and type in a search without a geo modifier (“with local intent”)—such as “plumbers” rather than “plumbers charlotte nc”—the results displayed will be hyper-local. Why? Because the searcher’s current location will be used, and “proximity to searcher” carries more weight post-Pigeon than it did before the update. Basically, Google is trying to provide search results as close to the user as possible, rather than top searches for a general region/city area.
But how important are local listings versus regular organic search listings for your company? Keep reading to find out.
How Important Are Local Listings vs. Organic Listings?
The answer is “it depends.”
If you’re an e-commerce company that can sell to anyone in any location through an online website, your local listings probably don’t matter much to you. You’re more concerned about making your brand popular across the country rather than marketing to the small group of people located in the city your company is headquartered.
On the other hand, if you’re a local home services company that offers HVAC, plumbing, or electrical services, you need folks in your area to know who you are and, more important, how to contact you. It might boost your ego to see that a user in California found your Pennsylvania-based company, but that’s not going to help you unless that person happens to own a second home (or a business) in your service area.
That’s where local SEO becomes important. In order to increase the likelihood of your business appearing when someone searches for your services in your area, you should make sure your website and other online profiles are optimized to tell Google where your service area is.
How Do I Improve My Company’s Local SEO?
The first step to improving your company’s local SEO is making sure your name, physical address, and phone number are on your website, preferably in the footer so that they show up on every page. But to be truly competitive in a local market, there’s a lot more to consider.
Local SEO Citations vs. Organic Link Building
If you’ve done any sort of SEO before, you know that building your company’s online authority is all about gaining external links from other trustworthy sites on the web. In other words, the more trustworthy sources that link to your site, the more Google is likely to trust your site (and, hopefully, rank your web pages higher in search engine results).
Local SEO works a little differently, relying on the quantity and quality of your company’s online citations rather than links. The main difference between links and citations is that citations don’t have to include a hyperlink at all. An online article simply mentioning your company’s name can be considered a citation.
Here’s a better explanation from Whitespark:
“A citation is any mention of your business out on the web, with or without a link. It can come in various forms:
- Company name, by itself.
- Company name & phone number.
- Company name, phone number & address.
- Company name, phone number, address & link.
Even just the phone number by itself can be a citation.”
While links are great for improving your rankings, citations are helpful for getting listed in local search results. While there are many ranking factors that appear to contribute to local search, experts agree that citations matter more than links. Just like with links, the quality of the citations matters, as well as the quantity. (Read more about where to get citations for local SEO and whether Yext PowerListings are worth the investment.)
If you have any hope of getting your business on the first page of local listings, make sure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) citations are consistent and complete. In an ideal world, your NAP citations would be 100% correct everywhere they appear on the web.
How to Correct Your Local SEO Citations
You might be thinking, “Well, how hard could that be? How many places could my company’s information possibly appear?” Probably more than you think.
To get specific information for your business, you can use a tool like Moz Local to find out how your business’s local SEO stacks up. Go to https://moz.com/local/search and type in your company’s name and zip code, and Moz will return the listings in its database that match your search. Click on the one that most closely matches your business information, and Moz will tell you what citations you have that are inconsistent, incomplete, or duplicate across the web. (Note: if you search for your name and zip code and nothing comes up, you probably don’t have a verified Google or Facebook listing for your business. If that’s the case, these are the first profiles you need to fix!).
After you’ve discovered what kind of shape your NAP citations are in, you can take a few different courses of action.
- Visit each listing yourself and contact the website administrator to get the listings updated with correct information.
- Pay for a tool like Moz to monitor and correct your local SEO listings periodically on a fee-per-year basis.
- Hire a company to take care of your local SEO for you.
Whatever you choose will be based on how much time and patience you have, as well as your budget for marketing expenses. But if you’re a local company looking for local customers and your NAP citations aren’t where they should be, you should consider cleaning them up as soon as possible.
What If My Business Has Multiple Locations?
Things get a little more complicated when your business has multiple locations, but don’t worry—it’s not impossible to have consistent NAP citations for multiple offices! The key is to have separate (and verified) Google and Facebook listings for each of your business’s locations, and then make sure that each location has accurate NAP citations across the web. It can be extremely time-consuming to go through these listings yourself when you’re not just dealing with one location, so we’d recommend paying someone else to do it for you.
Still Confused about Organic and Local Search Listings? We Can Help!
Blue Corona specializes in digital marketing strategies for all types of businesses, including local contractors for whom local SEO is particularly important to getting leads and sales. If you’re feeling lost about where to start, get started with a free SEO analysis of your website using the form below, or contact us today!
About The Author: Becca is a Content Marketing Specialist at Blue Corona. When she’s not helping small business owners grow their companies, she enjoys listening to podcasts, re-reading Harry Potter, and exploring the city.
View more blogs by Becca Starkes