Small or Big Business: Local vs. National SEO

There are two main types of Search Engine Optimization.

Local SEO focuses on companies that conduct business in a limited geographic region – the city in which they are based.  Such companies are typically locally-owned businesses such as restaurants, locksmiths, dry cleaners, caterers, or event planners.

National SEO focuses on companies that have customers or clients throughout the country. It doesn’t matter where the company is located as its customers or clients do business on the web, or they have locations in several cities in several states.

Local companies will rarely benefit from a national SEO strategy. However, national companies can benefit from local SEO if they have a budget for a two-pronged approach. An example would be restaurant or grocery store chains that have a loyal customer base throughout the country.

There are many ways that local SEO differs from national SEO.


Locally-owned businesses are in competition with each other for the spending dollars of people in their community.

Searchers for locally owned businesses will often be quite specific about what they’re searching for, using what’s called “long-tail keywords.”

Examples would be “best Chinese restaurants in the Bronx,” or “plumber open 24 hours Rapid City” or “closet locksmith to Pike Hotel in Fairbanks.”

Local businesses will conduct surveys to learn what the most popular searches are for their particular business sector, and then optimize at least one if not more of their webpages for that keyword.

Searchers may use long-tail keywords to search for national businesses, but the geography used is a bit broader. “Cheapest book printers in United States,” or “best ski resort in the US” or “best shoulder surgeon in the Northwest.”

Rather than competing for business in a single city (albeit potentially a very large city) or state, national businesses are competing against other companies in every state. Their SEO budget must reflect this, as they must optimize their on-page and off-page SEO with a much wider variety of keywords.

Local Search Services

Local businesses can take advantage of local search services and directories – including Google Business, Google Maps, Yelp, Fourquare and so on.

Typically, these local services will list businesses for free – which is a great help to their budget! In turn, it’s essential that local businesses seek out any and all directories and provide them with complete information – including NAP – name, address and phone number – as well as a website url.

Having said that, there’s no reason why national companies that can benefit from such directories – restaurant and grocery chains, to repeat that example – should not make sure they are included as well.


The more keywords a business must optimize for, the higher its budget must be. As a result, local SEO is typically less expensive than national SEO.

The more backlinks – links from other websites, article repositories, blog guest posts, blog comment sections, and so on – that a company’s website has, the more chance it has of beating out its competition for the top positions on page 1 of the search results.