If you want to rank high in the maps, local pack, and organic section of Google then, yes, you need SEO.
The organic section seems to be pushed down to the bottom these days but there is still plenty of room on the first page of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for organic results. This is the first page of Google for a local business search. This is the SEO “battlefield” to many.
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You will see these at the top of Google. You have to pay Google for these listings. If you want your ad to show up to the top you must be a good adwords score. This is based on ad relevance and how much you are willing to spend. Can get quite expensive. YOU DO NOT NEED SEO FOR HEADER ADS.
Maps and Local Pack
This is almost 2 sections in one. First, there is a map that shows physical locations related to the search and right below it there is a “3 pack” of listings. In order to rank high in the 3 pack you must have an optimized GMB page and reviews from other Google users. YOU NEED SEO FOR MAPS AND THE LOCAL PACK.
This is considered the “free traffic” section to many. Think of it as the place where the website that represents your business (or any website for that matter) will get ranked. If you want to show up on the top of this section you will need a lot of unique, relevant content and links from other authority sites pointing to your site (also called a “backlink”). YOU NEED SEO FOR ORGANIC LISTINGS.
As the name implies, these ads are near the bottom, or footer, of a Google SERP. YOU DO NOT NEED SEO FOR FOOTER ADS.