Local SEO vs National SEO vs Global SEO

Key Takeaways

Local SEO focuses on optimizing a business’s website for a specific geographic area, while national SEO targets searches across an entire country, and global SEO aims for searches from around the world.

  • Local SEO has unique elements such as the local pack, citations, reviews, location-based social media platforms, and local link building.
  • National SEO allows for targeting broader keywords and reaching a larger audience, with a focus on top-of-funnel and content marketing strategies.
  • Global SEO involves dealing with different competition levels for the same keywords in different countries and offers opportunities for multi-language SEO strategies.
  • Despite the differences, the core elements of SEO remain consistent: having the right content, nailing search intent, solid on-page SEO, and building trust and authority.

Building an SEO campaign for a national or global company will look very different than building a local SEO campaign for a small business

We are going to discuss how local SEO differs from national SEO and global SEO. We will also take a look at how the three types are similar. Often the differences between local and national SEO are where you can find small competitive advantages.

Let’s start by defining the three terms.

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is optimizing a business’s website and other web assets to drive searches in a specific geographic area. For example, if you have a small business that services Nashville, TN you would use a local SEO campaign to target specific keywords in that region.

What Is National SEO?

National SEO is optimizing a business’s website and other web assets to drive searches across an entire country. For example, if you had an e-commerce store that had the ability to sell protein powder across the US but not internationally you would use a national SEO campaign to target keywords across the entire country.

What is Global SEO?

Global SEO is optimizing a business’ website and other web assets to drive searches from around the world. For example, if you sold T-shirts and could ship them to every corner of the globe you would use a global SEO campaign to target keywords across the world.

What Are The Differences Between Local SEO vs National SEO vs Global SEO

At their core, the fundamentals are very similar: on-page SEO, authority, content and link building. However, there is nuance and the SEO strategies that you’d want to deploy for each version of SEO differs.

Let’s get into what makes each type of SEO unique.

What Makes Local SEO Unique?

Local Pack

The biggest element that isn’t present in the other two types of SEO (National and Global) is the inclusion of the local pack.

Local Pack

Every local business has the opportunity to show up twice (three times if you include paid ads). In the local pack and in the organic search results.

The local pack is greatly influenced by your Google Business Profile and reviews. It is also heavily influenced by location. If you’re trying to rank for Dallas lawn care but you are actually in Fort Worth you’re going to have a heck of a time cracking the local pack.

With the organic search results, you can build city pages that will allow you to rank in multiple cities.


Citations are another somewhat unique feature of local SEO. I say somewhat because you can actually use citations to help rank non-local businesses. One of my favourite SEO’s Matt Diggity encourages content sites to use citations.

However, they are largely used by and for local SEO marketing.

Citations are straightforward – anywhere your business, website, name and address is published on the internet would be considered a citation. As an example, when you list your business on Yelp that would be considered a citation.

Although citations aren’t terribly strong links they are backlinks. And while most user-generated links tend to be spammy. Citations are somewhat of an exception because local directories do provide value to the internet.


All local businesses should be making efforts to generate reviews. At a minimum, I would recommend using QR codes to generate Google reviews.

Of course, reviews aren’t entirely unique to local businesses, for example, e-commerce stores often collect product reviews and businesses that serve a national audience collect reviews as well.

However, as it relates to SEO local reviews are more important because of the role they play in driving local pack rankings.

Location Based Social Meda Platforms

There are certain review sites in every market and industry that is trusted.

Yelp is probably the most widely known location-based platform.

What you may not know is you can actually rank for your keywords on a site like Yelp to help drive website traffic.

Restaurants Ranking on Yelp

For digital marketing Upcity is a very popular platform as is Clutch. They often rank well for highly relevant keywords across the country. Clutch ranks #1 and Upcity ranks #3 for “Digital Marketing Vancouver” a highly relevant keyword.

At the time of writing this, we rank #15 for Digital Marketing Vancouver on Upcity. They usually are a blend of pay-to-play and traditional local SEO efforts. The best we could do for that keyword is #8 because the spots 1 through 7 are all agencies who have opted into higher partner levels.

In order for us to rank up, we need to generate reviews on their platform.

Are these platforms worth investing in?

It depends on whether or not their pages get traffic. Very few business owners know that Clutch or Upcity exist and they will only find those pages if they rank well in search engines.

If your target keywords are dominated by Yelp, Angi’s List, Thumbtack etc. you may want to consider investing in those platforms.

Local Link Building

Quantifying the value of a particular link is incredibly challenging but generally, SEO’s agree on several factors that play an important role:

How strong is the domain authority?

All other things being equal you’d rather receive a link from The New York Times than from this website.

How much traffic does the site get?

A site that receives millions of visitors per month is more credible than a site that receives a few dozen.

How relevant is the domain?

If you were an SEO blog you may actually prefer to receive a link from this site than Vogue. Relevance matters to Google. If a site is writing about similar topics to you and they link to you Google sees that as a strong signal that your site is credible on the subject matter.

Using this logic we can determine that for local link building, a local website is highly relevant. If you operate in Denver you want links from sites that also cover topics related to Denver. These could be links from local bloggers, your local chamber of commerce, local news sites etc.

Keyword Research

Performing local keyword research is slightly different for a local business. Local keyword intent is when people search to find a local good or service.

This opens a wide range of keywords that are only available to local businesses. It also means you need to check both implicit and explicit keywords. Implicit keywords are terms where the location is factored in without the user using a location modifier.

For example, if I search for “coffee shop” the results are going to be heavily biased towards coffee shops in Calgary if I’m searching from Calgary.

An explicit keyword is a search where you include the location modifier.

For example “coffee shop Calgary”.

A local SEO strategy needs to consider the search for both coffee shop and coffee shop Calgary. The trick is to ensure when you’re looking at search volume for just “coffee shop” you are limiting the keyword volume to only the relevant geographic area (eg: Calgary).

What Makes National SEO Unique?

Top of funnel & Content marketing strategies for National Brands

While local SEO campaigns are often less competitive than national SEO campaigns the biggest leg up a national SEO strategy has is the ability to target much broader keywords.

If my client was an IVF clinic in Calgary rankings for the term “IVF” would not have a ton of upside. Generally, the only user that may convert into a customer is one who is willing to travel to Calgary. This likely restricts the pool of potential customers to a smaller geographic area.

Conversely, if my client had IVF clinics all over the country, ranking for the term “IVF” creates a ton of value for that business. If I have clinics in the most populous cities in Canada I can service the majority of users searching for IVF around the country.

This opens up virtually every top-of-funnel keyword in my niche. While it may be harder to rank for any one specific keyword, investing in SEO to try to drive 10s if not 100s of thousands of visitors per month becomes viable.

Keyword Research for NATIONAL SEO

If I am able to target a much larger range of potential topics building out a keyword research strategy is often easier for a national SEO campaign. The number of long tails (hyper-specific keywords) that we could potentially target explodes.

As our potential keyword pool grows, our ability to find high volume, low competition keywords also grows. This of course is important as it gives us the best opportunity to rank for relevant keywords that will drive traffic.

Building Topical Relevance Through Content Marketing for national companies

It is much easier to make a business case to invest in content marketing which in turn will dramatically increase the website’s topical relevance.

A simple example to help you understand topical relevance.

Our business predominately serves SMBs, many of which are local. Our core offerings are SEO, PPC and building websites. We want to show up for searches related to local SEO.

The more high-quality content I produce about local SEO the more topical relevance I establish and the better chances I have at ranking for that bucket of keywords (in this case, anything related to local SEO).

In my experience, very few local businesses bother to produce high-quality content. When we do an analysis of any website we always look at the existing content assets.

What we typically find for local businesses is either:

  • Very little or no content beyond the informational pages (service pages, about pages, FAQs etc.)
  • Content that lacks direction. Articles from 2012 about a company Christmas party.
  • A pile of content that has no chance to rank for the keywords they’re targeting.

This is usually because they don’t see the value in investing in top-of-funnel keywords when 99% of readers will be well outside of their geographic area.

National brands are uniquely positioned to build topical relevance and become an authority in their space because investing money into content marketing is often a wise use of marketing dollars for national brands.

What Makes Global SEO Unique?

Different Countries Have Different Competition Levels For The Same Keyword

As you might expect Google will display different results for specific keywords if I’m in Canada versus if I am in the United States.

It is much easier to rank an e-commerce store for “Buy Collagen Peptides” in Canada than it is in the US. There are more brands and businesses competing to capture a larger audience in the US than there is in Canada.

Multi-Language SEO strategies

Just as it’s easier to rank a keyword in Canada compared to the US it is easier to rank a keyword in Spanish compared to English. This also can be applied to Portuguese, Italian, German, French etc.

If you provide goods or services to countries that speak another language you can build language-specific pages to rank for those keywords.

This isn’t broadly known but there are huge Spanish keyword search volumes in the US. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the US as there is an enormous population of Spanish speakers but it’s not something we often think about.

“colágeno” the Spanish word for Collagen is searched 27,000 times just in the US. Globally it’s searched 400k times per month.

How Are Local And National And Global SEO Similar?

Driving great results with search engine optimization is always a function of a few core elements:

  • Do you have the right content?
    • Are you nailing search intent? Are you creating high-quality pages? Are they providing a good experience for the users?
  • Do you have solid on-page SEO?
    • Does your site architecture make sense? Does your site load reasonably fast, is it mobile optimized with good core web vitals? Is it free of technical errors like 404 pages, duplicate content and thin pages?
  • Have you built any trust and authority?
    • Do you have online reviews for your business or products? What are those reviews saying about you? Have you acquired any links from reputable websites?

While local SEO strategies will differ from national SEO strategies quality will win out over time. Your competitive advantage is quality done consistently over long periods of time.

  • Create high-quality content
  • Ensure your website’s technical SEO is in good shape.
  • Acquire links from real websites that generate traffic.

Should Small Businesses Invest In SEO?

This may be counter-intuitive coming from an SEO agency but some small businesses shouldn’t invest in SEO.

Every business should have a digital marketing budget but there are lots of cases where other marketing channels are a better fit. While our company, Salt Water Digital is investing heavily in SEO it may surprise you to learn that our best marketing channel is my Twitter (you can follow me @danthewolfe).

We encourage clients to have an exploratory call to discuss the options. If we think PPC or SEO is a great fit, we will recommend it. If it’s not, we’ll have a candid discussion and point you in another direction.

If you’d like to book a call with me you can do so by clicking here.


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