Local Vs. Organic Keyword Rankings & Why They Matter

Local vs. organic search rankings

If you are invested in any SEO program or dabble in SEO for yourself, you likely monitor the rankings of the main keywords used in your website content and marketing strategy. Chances are you monitor the ranking for the organic keywords generally on google.com using some kind of keyword tracking tool.  But do you know how the keywords are ranking locally?

When an internet searcher searches for your local business offerings using a local modifier in the search string (ie; “Chicago personal trainer”) Google serves up local results.  Not only does the result show in the “local pack” – but since Google’s pigeon update, the locally modified term will show in roughly the same position organically as it does in the local pack (if the searcher is located in that demographic region).  So, for example, if a business ranks 3rd in local search for “Chicago personal trainers” they will also rank near 3rd place in organic search rankings for the local Chicago internet searcher as well.

Local Search Rankings (highlighted)

Chicago personal trainer 1

However, if someone searches for “Chicago personal trainer” from outside of Chicago, they may be served dramatically different results than the person searching from within the city of Chicago.

This can be important for a few reasons.

Why measuring local keyword rankings matter

There are a couple of important reasons why distinguishing and separately measuring where local vs. organic keywords appear in local search matters.

  • Searchers outside of the geographic area
  • Unequal optimization of websites and local search

Searchers outside of the geographic area

Typically, the people most interested in your local search terms will be searchers from within the same geographic region: ie; people in Chicago searching for “Chicago apartment finding service.

Local Search Marketing Company ChicagoBut what about people searching from outside of the area, and why does this matter? Imagine a scenario involving a person from San Diego searching for an apartment in Chicago.  They are searching for a Chicago apartment because they plan on moving to Chicago at the end of summer. So they may search for the term “Chicago apartment finding service” in order to find the apartment they’re looking for. The result the person from San Diego and the person from Chicago see may differ greatly.  This highlights the reason why also understanding where your keywords appear in the search results matters.

Unequal optimization of websites and local search

Sometimes a business will have a poor website, but have greatly optimized social media and local search listings, allowing them to rank highly in Google search.  Chances are they are ranking highly in the local search results only. You may not even see them appear at all in the organic listings.  Just because their website may be poor, they may still have a nice local search presence.

Similarly, a business could have an amazing website, but no local search presence.  Failing to claim and verify your Google My Business page and failing to place the business address on the website are a couple of classic reasons why a business may have a poor local search presence.  So while they may not appear in the “local pack” for the local search term, they may still appear near or at the top of the Google search results page if the website is optimized well enough.

Organic keyword rankings are less influenced by local search.  While ranking for local search terms is a great value add to any SEO strategy, the value in gaining search share for the organic keyword has timeless value.

Tools for measuring local keyword rankings

The tools we prefer to use for measuring local keyword rankings are Bright Local and MOZ.  There are a few others that accomplish the same things but these two happen to be the ones that we feel provide the most accurate ranking and reporting options. Below are real examples of local search ranking results.

Bright Local

This is by far our favorite tool for tracking local keyword rankings.  It reveals rankings in Google, Google Maps, Yahoo, Bing, and more.  Being able to view local keyword ranking at this granular of a level really serves a lot of value when your business starts to get serious about improving local search rankings to take advantage of the free website traffic offered by the major search engines.

Machesney 1



With MOZ tools, you can now track the ranking of your search query locally as well as nationally.  The below example shows the term “financial communications firm” with the keyword rankings for both searchers throughout the U.S., and from within the areas where the firm has locations (Chicago and St. Louis)

local search rankings with MOZ


So why do local search engine rankings matter again?

Local SEO can be a great opportunity to quickly take advantage of free, local traffic to individuals likely to buy your product or service near you.  And a local SEO strategy should be a big part of the marketing mix for most any local business.  However, don’t be deceived when someone tells you that your ranking for a keyword has gone from #47 to #5 in just 3 weeks.  Chances are this is a local ranking statistic and not organic.  While showing up in the local search rankings is great, always keep in mind the value of the organic position of the keyword, and never stop working towards improving that.

Do you measure your local keyword rankings, and if so what tool do you use?  Please leave us a comment below..



Internet Marketing, Local SEO, SEO Consulting

16 thoughts on “Local Vs. Organic Keyword Rankings & Why They Matter

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