Is An Online vs. Offline Local Search All That Different? Yes And No

Local search is a term that describes more than just Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) and local search engine searches. It also includes offline searches for local businesses. The type of local search consumers use depends on their degree of need. When comparing the top 10 IYP and print Yellow Pages headings as we did in today’s press release from the Yellow Pages Association, there aren’t many differences. The most frequent IYP usage mirrors consumer’s most frequent print Yellow Pages (PYP) usage.

Top 10 IYP Headings

  1. Restaurants
  2. Physicians & Surgeons
  3. Hotels (Ranks #31 on PYP List)
  4. Auto Repairing & Service
  5. Florists-Retail (Ranks #19 on PYP List)
  6. Auto Dealers – New & Used
  7. Dentists
  8. Auto Parts & Supplies – New & Used
  9. Beauty Salons (tie)
  10. Hospitals (tie) (Ranks #11 on PYP List)

Top 10 PYP Headings

  1. Restaurants
  2. Physicians & Surgeons
  3. Auto Parts – New & Used
  4. Auto Repairing & Services
  5. Pizza (Ranks #13 on IYP List)
  6. Auto Dealers – New & Used
  7. Attorneys/Lawyers (Ranks #12 on IYP List)
  8. Dentists
  9. Plumbing Contractors (Ranks #11 on IYP List)
  10. Beauty Salons

However, when you look deeper into search behavior and beyond the top 10 lists, local searches conducted online vs. local searches conducted offline are influenced by factors including the timing of the consumer’s need, the availability of information online, and also whether the consumer is searching for a product or service.

Heading with Print and Internet Yellow Pages Ranking Comparisons

  • Hotels: #31 PYP, #3 IYP
  • Florists: #19 PYP, #5 IYP
  • Pizza: #5 PYP, #13 IYP
  • Electronic Equipment: #48 PYP, #14 IYP
  • Pharmacies: #17 PYP, #26 IYP
  • Sporting Goods: #49 PYP, #23 IYP
  • Veterinarians: #14 PYP, #24 IYP
  • Tire Dealers: #16 PYP, #35 IYP
  • Funeral Directors: #87 PYP, #39 IYP

When searching locally, consumers treat service-oriented purchases different than product-oriented searches. Offline searches are more often conducted for service-oriented businesses, such as Plumbers and Veterinarians, while online searches are typically a superior vehicle for product searches – for Sporting Goods, Office Supplies, Shoes. This is because service-oriented searches typically require a live phone conversation for the consumer to describe their unique and specific issue, determine if the service provider can help with that issue and what the next step might be – a service call/appointment, a free estimate, or another service provider.

With product searches, many product-oriented businesses have photos, videos, and inventories online that allow consumers to conduct their own research. For example, when searching for a hotel room, an online search is often more productive as consumers can search not just the available options in the area they plan to visit but also pricing, availability, and amenities.

In addition, long-term purchase decisions, such as purchases for Electronics and Automobiles, tend to have heavier IYP usage as consumers take more time to research these purchases, many of which are for higher dollar transactions. Short-term local search purchase decisions, including searches for pizza and manicurists, which are for less expensive transactions, favor offline outlets such as print Yellow Pages.

The take away is this – online and offline local search habits may not differ in the top 10 headings – where the law of large numbers exists and the population is using both on and offline resources, but nuances such as short-term vs. long-term need and product vs. service-oriented searches do exist and businesses should consider the type of local searches their consumers conduct when determining their advertising spend.

Log onto the Local Search Guide and take the product vs. search-oriented search survey.

Bringing nearly three decades of Yellow Pages and local search experience, Larry Small, Director of Research for the Yellow Pages Association, spearheads and advises on all association-driven research activities for the industry. The Locals Only column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column

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About The Author: brings nearly three decades of Yellow Pages and local search experience, as Director of Research for the Yellow Pages Association (YPA). Larry spearheads and advises on all association-driven research activities for the industry, as well as blogs about the industry on the InsideYP blog.

Connect with the author via: Email



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