Does high ranking in local or organic results deliver greater response for your clients?

In a recent poll on BrightLocal.com, we put this question to over 400 of our visitors. We wanted to find out whether they believed that high ranking in either local ‘pack’ results or organic results delivered greatest overall response for their local business customers.

The definition of ‘response’ was left deliberately open to interpretation as people measure success with different metrics, and these can vary for different types of businesses. The typical metrics used to measure search performance by local businesses are website traffic, form-fills, phone calls, in-store visits, online purchases, GMB views & actions, and other more unique actions.

However, whatever KPI’s are measured & used, we wanted to find out whether it is local or organic search placement that is best at driving them.

Local vs Organic Results

Key Findings

  • 51% say local results deliver the greater response for their clients
  • 30% say both the same
  • 19% say organic results deliver the greater response for their clients

Analysis: local pack & organic ranking

Over half of those voting said that a high ranking in local search delivered the greater response for their clients, whilst just 19% favored organic.

We know that for most search terms with local intent, Google is the most generous towards local businesses, and generally displays 6/7 local pack results. Therefore a high local ranking puts a business in front of customers in the local pack, prominently displayed high up the search results page.

SERPs based on generic keywords
Local businesses being squeezed out of organic rankings

High ranking in organic results are typically more of a challenge to achieve for local businesses – especially for local businesses – but high organic ranking does come with the benefit of higher traffic numbers, potentially more conversions & therefore higher impact.

Whilst generic keywords are almost out of reach for local businesses in organic; long tail & geo-modified keywords are not only less competitive but also deliver searchers with a higher level of intent.

For different businesses, the challenges of ranking in both organic & local may differ depending on each & every scenario. Where one business may find organic search completely out of reach, another may find that long tail keywords can deliver relevant & valuable traffic through organic search.

But if we remove the ‘difficulty’ factor, why is it that so many local SEOs believe that local ranking is more impactful?


What do the experts say?

We reached out to some knowledgeable local search experts to find out their take on these results.

Mike Ramsey (Nifty Marketing) believes that despite the obvious benefits of local, a high organic ranking delivers the greater impact:

“I think that those who are saying that local pack results bring a greater response of business must not have very much organic traffic outside the map pack. If a good content strategy is in place (especially for service area businesses) then organic should trump your local traffic and leads.”

“Local packs show up on so few search terms compared to what people are actually searching. Sure, the terms are meaningful, but business is found in the long tail.”

“I worry for those who are living off of what they are getting strictly from a map pack.”


review stars in local pack
review stars can make a business stand out in the local pack

Joy Hawkins (Imprezzio Marketing) suggested that one advantage of a high local ranking over organic, is the additional features that the local pack offers:

“I would say it really depends. I’ve found the one time that clients of mine care more about ranking locally when they already have a top organic spot, is because they want their review stars to show up from their Google reviews”.

“For those businesses that have no reviews, it makes less of an impact”.


Adam Dorfman (Sim Partners) says that both organic & local rankings should be valued & there are different benefits to both:

“Businesses that do not have a comprehensive strategy in place to target both of these results are usually missing out on search engine real estate”.

“Rankings for queries that prove to be difficult to obtain on map packs can often be acquired in organic results and hyper-competitive organic rankings can often prove to be more obtainable in the local pack”.

“As mobile becomes more dominant and queries expand that are influenced by the searcher’s location rise, the local results will continue to grow in importance but I don’t see one being more important than another today”.


So whilst the evolution of mobile certainly hints at more local opportunities in the future, right now the type & size of a client’s business can go a long way into determining whether local or organic is going to be more impactful for them.

Poll information:

We polled 418 BrightLocal website visitors over a 7 day period in May 2015. 78% of users were based in USA, 10% in the UK, 6% in Canada, 3% in Australia & 3% from the rest of the world.


Got a different viewpoint on this subject or some useful insights you want to share? We’re interested in publishing unique content written by smart marketeers on our blog. Contact us with your details & ideas and we’ll get back to you ASAP!