Do Internet users in the southern US do more local searches than the rest of the country? Are searchers in smaller cities more likely to conduct local searches than those in New York City, Chicago and the San Francisco area?
The answer to those questions is “yes,” at least according to recent data compiled by the online ad network Chitika. The company drew its local search queries from a sample of more than 10 million searches that brought traffic to its network of sites in the US between July 4th and July 11th.
The results, at least to me, are quite surprising: Smaller cities like Chattanooga, Tulsa and Wichita are among the locations with the highest percentage of local searches, while New York City, Chicago and San Francisco — the three biggest cities in the US — are among the cities with the smallest percentage of local searches.
Of the top 50 cities where local searches happen most, Chitika says 64% are located in the southern US. Meanwhile, 48% of the cities where local search happens the least are located in New York and California. In fact, seven of the cities on that second chart above are located in California and New York.
To be frank, I’m not sure what to make of the data Chitika is reporting. It flies in the face of the stereotype that bigger cities (New York, Bay Area and even Seattle) are high-tech hubs where people don’t use the yellow pages anymore and most local search happens online.
I wondered if perhaps Chitika was analyzing only a small set of potentially local keywords — as in, only looking at queries that specifically used a city/county/state name. If so, the data might be skewed by how people search differently in big cities versus smaller areas. But the company sent me a list of 15 sample keywords that it identified as local, and it includes both searches with specific local words (Boston, Austin, Saint Louis) and those without:
- boston car repair
- car service
- business schools
- plumbing austin
- fitness centers
- music stores near Saint Louis, MO
- garbage services
- modeling shots on location
- bikes near augusta, ga
- tourist day trip
- car rental
- house plumbing
- a laundromat
Chitika’s blog post suggests that maybe Internet users in smaller cities conduct more local searches because they may have to travel further to find products/services than people in New York City. That’s certainly possible, but the overwhelming nature of the data is still nothing short of a surprise to me.