What Is The Difference Between Local SEO and National SEO?

SEO is great method for getting traffic, especially given some of the high cost per click prices for Adwords in certain industries like law.

Do a quick search about it on Google though and you’ll quickly find the information out there, quite in-depth and great quality, is often broken up into fragments that make it hard to understand how it works.

In this article I will summarise how SEO works and how it can be put into practice by a professional service firm.

How is Local SEO different to National SEO?

SEO for professional services, like law firms, accountants, etc actually come in two streams: Local SEO and National SEO.

Each of these are different in their levers and can be applied in different situations at simultaneously. Understanding the scope and purpose of each will help you understand what kind of SEO you should be undertaking and what the moving parts are so that you can choose the service that’s effective for your firm.

About National SEO

The first stream, is the traditional SEO and targets people nationally. It works by investing into and optimising three parts:

  1. Technical setup

Technical setup means the technical foundation of your website. This includes things such as page load speed, site structure, whether you have HTTPs installed, etc.

  1. Onsite content optimisation, following keyword and content quality guidelines

Onsite content refers to the content actually on your website. This should follow some kind of Keyword Strategy (also becoming more of a topic or ‘intent’ strategy), which is brought to life through a content strategy. More than just text itself though, onsite factors include image alt tags, meta titles, and so on.

  1. Offsite factors, such as links, social shares, etc

Offsite factors refer to SEO elements coming from other websites. This includes links, shares and references.

When to use National SEO?

Organic SEO is focused on the national or even international market. For example, an national chain of bookkeepers would be focused on this type of SEO (in addition to local SEO) since they may cover an entire state or country.

This doesn’t mean that local firms can’t apply this type of SEO. It can be narrowed down to a specific area by optimising specific pages with narrow keywords. For example, “best family lawyer in AREA.”

About Local SEO

The second stream is Local SEO, which focuses on ranking for a particular, usually smaller, geographic area.

The moving parts of Local SEO are:

  1. Effective keyword strategies

Keyword strategies in this instance means understanding searches in your area, the competition and creating a strategy that maximises your possibilities for ranking for the most relevant terms against your competition.

  1. Profile creation and optimisation, such as Google My Business

For profiles, here it means mainly Google My Business (A.k.a. GMB) profiles that show up for relevant local search terms. Seen a result in a special section on Google after searching “[service] near me”? This is a GMB listing.

  1. Reviews and Citations, which are listings of your business in relevant local media (See relevant Australian legal directories here)

Citations and reviews work similar to ‘off site’ factors in regular SEO. Citations mean mentions of your business’s name, address and phone number. Reviews are reviews on your profiles such as GMB and Facebook.

These points are the levers driving the results of localised searches on search engines, such as “family lawyer near me”.

When to use local SEO?

Local SEO should be used on its own when the firm’s catchment area is local, such as particular suburbs or a particular city. For most service businesses, this is going to be the primary focus.

It would be less suitable for a firm targeting an entire country as the GMB listing would just not effective in influencing results for broad geographies.

This also doesn’t mean that bigger firms can’t use local SEO. Provided that they have enough of a local marketing (city/suburb) it would make sense to take advantage of Local SEO and Organic SEO.


Invest in the right SEO for your situation to make sure your marketing budget is spent most effectively.

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