How do national and local searches work?

Because Google differentiates between national and local searches, brands can optimize for both types of searches to effectively reach customers.

Google differentiates between search terms, categorizing each into National and Local. Within each, different factors receive more weight in Google's algorithm. The primary search factors are often separated into 2 categories, on-page and off-page.

On-page factors are components Google evaluates on the website. This could be the content, markup, site speed, user experience, internal links, and a number of other technical considerations. Off-page factors include referring domains, brand mentions, citations, Google reviews, NAP integrity, etc. 


An example of a National search term could be “best SUV 2021” or “best lease options” These terms lack specific geographic reference. For this type of search, no matter the user’s location within the United States, all searchers will see similar search results. This means if a brand ranks #1 for a National search term, that result will appear #1 regardless of where someone is searching in the United States. Generally speaking, National search terms typically have higher search volume and higher competition than Local search terms, as they tend to address universal concepts or consumer questions. The primary off-page considerations in Google’s algorithm for National search terms are referring domains.


An example of a Local search term could be “best plumber,” or “office space near me.” Local search terms have a geographic reference or implication, and display different results based on the city, or the searcher’s current location. This means that a brand can achieve a #1 ranking for the search term “dealership near me” in Chicago, while not being present in search results for other cities, or nationally. Generally speaking, Local search terms typically have lower search volume and less competition than National search terms. The primary off-page considerations in Google’s algorithm for Local search terms are Google reviews, NAP integrity, and referring domains.

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