Local Search A Multi-Site, Cross-Platform Affair — Report

Google may currently “own” search, but local search is a different story. Mapping sites, specialized local sites, general search engines and deals, as well as mobile browsers and apps constitute the distributed landscape of local, according to a new report, “The State of Local Search,” released yesterday by the Local Search Association (LSA), with data compiled by comScore.

Entitled “The State of Local Search,” the report looks at search trends and traffic over 2010 and into 2011.

Billions of Local Queries

In January there were roughly 2.3 billion local queries on search engines according to the report. This compares to my crude estimate of roughly 2.2 billion monthly local queries on Google alone (May, 2011) based on comScore data and Google’s own statements about local query volume. The report also says that in January there were approximately 434 million queries on internet yellow pages (IYP) and related local sites. The IYP category saw a total of 5.6 billion local searches in 2010 according to comScore.

General search engines (e.g., Google) see 74 percent of the overall local query volume but IYP search users are “further down in the funnel” according to the study: “Portal searchers were more likely to conduct local searches as part of broad information gathering, while primary IYP searchers reported conducting local searches to look for contact information with specific products or services in mind.” The report also identifies an audience of people who use IYPs as their primary local search engine.

Mobile Search and App Growth

Mobile search has also grown significantly, especially among people doing it weekly and daily, with 88 percent of people using GPS-equipped devices. According to the study, “77.1 million mobile subscribers access local content on a mobile device, up 34% from a year ago. Local content users now account for 33% of mobile subscribers.”

Research released by Google (with Ipsos) earlier this year, as well as other survey data, indicate that as much as 95 percent of smartphone users seek out local information on their handsets. Currently smartphones represent about 38 percent of all US handsets according to Nielsen.

The LSA-comScore report says that while the mobile browser is still the main way people access local content on mobile devices, app usage has grown over the past year. According to comScore 56 percent of the mobile audience is now using apps (though not exclusively) to access local information on their handsets.

Satisfied with Deals

Another area of exploration in the data is deals. In contrast to more recent stories of consumer “deal fatigue,” comScore found that “coupon purchasers are overwhelmingly satisfied and most are repeat customers.” Seventy percent were “satisfied” (vs. neutral or dissatisfied) with their coupon experiences. Of deal buyers comScore reported that 79% were repeat buyers.

While Google remains the single dominant source of local queries, the local ecosystem offers a growing number of consumer entry points, many of which have loyal and even primary usage. And with the increasing centrality of mobile to local search it’s also now very clearly a cross-platform phenomenon.

Accordingly the world of local search is increasingly varied, complex and, in some ways, even Byzantine. As such it’s nearly impossible for small businesses to effectively manage on their own; and that may also be true for enterprises and brands as well.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Mobile | Search Engines: Location / Checkin Services | Search Engines: Maps & Local Search Engines | Search Engines: Mobile Search Engines


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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