Local Search Study Results at SMX East

smx-eastThe very first session of the week at last week’s SMX East conference was one of my favorites. Gregg Stewart from 15miles and Gillian Heltai from comScore presented the results of their latest local search study and some of the numbers were fascinating.

The survey involved 2,000 consumers who have accessed local business information this summer. Here are some of the stats that stood out to me.

First place you go to look for local business info

Behavior here differs slightly based on age, but online is the first option for the three major age groups.

Age: 55 and older

  • 56% look online first
  • 41% look offline first

Age: 35 to 54

  • 69% look online first
  • 27% look offline first

Age: 18 to 34

  • 81% look online first
  • 12% look offline first

Stewart and Heltai added that most consumers rely on multiple info sources. Only 14% of people who start at a search engine when looking for local businesses don’t also look for info elsewhere, too. Cell phones and social media are still small, but they’re growing as secondary sources of local info.

Local and Social

The survey asked, “Are you more likely to use a company if you can find their info on a social networking site?”

  • 69% say yes
  • 13% say no
  • 18% are neutral

How are consumers finding local businesses on social networking sites?

  • 56% — company pages (i.e. Facebook pages, social profiles, etc.)
  • 55% — recommendations from friends
  • 48% — via promotions

What do consumers want local businesses to do on social networking sites?

  • 81% of consumers want the business to respond to posts/messages (from fans/followers)
  • 78% want to see promotions
  • 74% want to see regular posts
  • 66% want to see pictures

What about reviews and ratings?

  • 60% of respondents say they’re important
  • 78% of social networkers say they’re important
  • 71% of mobile users say reviews are important

There were also stats about how many consumers actually “use” reviews and ratings, and the numbers were much lower in each group above. But I was unclear what Stewart and Heltai meant by “use” — read them regularly? Write reviews? Something else? So, I’m leaving those numbers out due to my own lack of clarity.

Final Thoughts

70% of survey respondents listed “online” as their primary starting place when looking for local business information. Yellow page use is declining, but is still a strong secondary source. Mobile search and social networking sites are even smaller than yellow pages, but are growing as secondary sources of local business information.

Comments (7)

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  1. Sasha says:

    Wow, so surprising. People are still relying on yellow pages as the second largest source of local business info? I can’t believe this. I remember going through that thing when I was younger and its about as much fun as looking up a word in the dictionary…not very. I think that most american homes have internet access, I guess a lot of people are still attached to the yellow pages through habit or nostalgia?

  2. Erin Kipling says:

    “Online” or the internet as the first option in searching for information is not surprising at all. Internet is the easiest and most accessible source of information nowadays. Given the prevalent practice of different people across the globe, where convenience is one of the most important consideration, the internet has become a force to reckon with.

  3. Chris Thomas says:

    A similar survey by my company showed even more drastic results. Consumers use the Internet 91% of the time compared to Yellow Pages at 9%. The Yellow Pages are nearing the end!

  4. I would be curious to see what percentage of these people lived in rural and urban areas. Living in a small town where in the rural areas the only connection available is dial up and smart phones don’t offer anything faster. I imagine some of these people fit into the ones still looking in the phone book.

    I would imagine online phone directories falling short compared to Google searches. This just enforces what we all preach to our clients you HAVE to be optimized or you might as well not exist.

  5. Garth says:

    I use the phone book a lot – - as a door stop, to reach high things, to flatten papers out, etc.

    Ok, there were a few instances where an online search kept pulling up the same companies and I actually had to resort to the Yellow Pages to just get a simple list of actual choices, but the first place to look is generally an online search, because of convenience yes, and because you can dig deeper online, and search multiple sources for information.

    With the phone book, if you want more info, you have to call or go online anyway.

    These findings are not shocking, but it’s always good to have what we suspect through experience validated statistically.

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