Local SEO: What it is, and how it relates to search engine marketing

According to a compilation of statistics from SEO software company Ahrefs, 68 percent of all online experiences begin with a query through a search engine, and SEO alone drives 1,000 percent more traffic than just using organic social media. SEO builds trust and authority with search engines, which in turn builds trust with consumers. Building local SEO is both cost-efficient and a long-term strategy that will outlast paid efforts. 

Organic traffic converts at a higher rate than any other marketing channel. Prospective customers typically search online for what they want. While organic search traction on Google takes time - often up to many months - the payoff can be lasting. Once high search rankings are achieved, they can be sustained for a long period of time and diminish the need for reliance on paid search.

SEO uses tactics that lead to a single result of higher ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). Like all good things, these tactics require time and effort. But, when done correctly, they provide sustainable, online visibility for local businesses.


Local SEO uses similar tactics with the goal of ranking specifically in local search results. When a business ranks highly in the 3-Pack on Google it increases website traffic and ultimately affects their bottom line. 

A higher ranking on a SERP means that potential customers are more likely to click on a website when they search for businesses similar to your clients. According to Backlinko, less than one percent of Google searchers click on the second page of search results. 

Local search engine optimization (SEO) is an organic inbound marketing strategy that drives quality traffic to a website. It’s used to optimize a website for local search by increasing its visibility in the search engine results. Local SEO is of particular importance to smaller businesses that look to do business with customers in specific geographic regions.

Brick-and-mortar storefront or services businesses within a local community use local SEO tactics and tools to generate more sales leads by showing up as a top local search result. Sagapixel states that 46 percent of all Google searches have local intent. Consumers want to find local businesses quickly and easily.

Why local SEO is important

Local SEO is important for two reasons. The first being that it helps a local business climb higher in the ranking of search results. For example, if someone is searching online for a local brunch spot, a business may show up in the Google 3-Pack in a search result. The 3-Pack displays the top three results of a local SERP, using the location from where a search query was submitted. So, for example, if a search query is made for “brunch restaurants near me,” or from the city in the local search area, the 3-Pack displays three restaurants matching the query near the searcher’s current location. By applying local SEO, a business significantly increases its chances of ranking in the Google 3-Pack.

Local 3-pack

Local 3-pack

The second is that local SEO, as it pertains to Google Business Profile (GBP), is the only way to be found when someone searches on Google Maps. The business location needs to be added through GBP and the rest of the information will be pulled up from GBP.

Google is the leading search engine with 86.6 percent market share, according to Statistica. We’ll be referring primarily to Google when referencing search engines throughout this guide unless otherwise specified. Organic search optimization methods focus on improving on-site user experience, optimizing content for a keyword or topical ranking, and creating a diverse portfolio of backlinks, to name just a few.

Pay-per-click advertising

Pay-per-click (PPC) is a quick fix that has no sustainability without SEO. It works extremely well at first, then plateaus with nothing sustainable built to continue performance when funding runs out. You want to combine PPC with SEO in order to sustain the momentum you build with PPC. There is a gap either at the beginning (waiting for SEO traction) or the end (losing PPC momentum because of its brief shelf life).

Both SEO and PPC boost “findability” within search engines. However, these require different tactics to reach that lofty Page 1 on Google search. SEO is all about the application of keywords in online copy that might be searched for in a Google query. Google continually evaluates online content, serving up what it deems most relevant in an online search so the right application of keywords is an important part of successful SEO. Through SEO, topic authority is built within search engines. However, it takes time, and a lot of online activity to build authority, whereas PPC drives results quickly, but doesn’t necessarily establish search credibility and is costly.

Read "Ecommerce PPC: Achieve Visibility and Increase Advertising ROI"

Search engine marketing

SEM is a digital marketing strategy that includes both paid and organic methods to increase the SERP ranking of a website. It is the most effective way for an online business to be found by prospective customers. 

People often talk about SEO and PPC separately when truthfully the two go hand in hand. Both strategies target the same goal, and using the two together builds authority and drives quicker results simultaneously. “It’s a flawed approach to do SEO in a silo,” says Tudor Stanescu, SEO Manager at Vendasta. “Yes, it will drive some success, but even more success can be driven if you start thinking about SEO strategies in terms of combining different marketing channels together. Leverage the SEO work already being done by adding paid tactics.” 

Stanescu approaches SEO from a holistic perspective. He suggests when creating content for a website or a blog, for example, to keep in mind how that content can be used and applied on other channels. If you’re using SEO in an effort to improve traffic and capture leads, then nurture those leads through email marketing and a buyer’s journey towards a sales conversation. You might also consider a Google search ad to amplify a blog post. 

Search marketing resellers miss a big revenue opportunity if they aren’t using PPC and SEO products and services together. Both SEO and PPC ads fall under the umbrella of SEM, and they are both used to obtain a higher ranking in search. There has been confusion around search marketing and how it works, but this provides an opportunity for local experts who can help business customers successfully apply these tactics.

About the Author

Emily is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta. Over her career, Emily has worked as a Marketing Strategist, freelanced as a Social Media manager, and enjoyed working events for local and national not-for-profit agencies. When she's not researching her next blog topics you can bet she's challenging a friend to a card game or planning a hike in the wilderness.

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