We know from multiple data sources that more than 90 percent of smartphone owners use maps and local search. We also know from Google that up to 50 percent of mobile search carries a local intent. Now, a new local search study from YP and Street Fight takes a closer look at local search behavior and tries to segment the audience based on the intensity of local search frequency and usage.
Got Mobile Devices? You’re Likely An “Avid” Local Searcher
Based on a survey of 1,100 US adults, the study found that 40 percent of survey respondents used local search daily and that 70 percent of smartphone owners use location-aware mobile apps. It also discovered that consumers who own smartphones, tablets and PCs are (not surprisingly) the most “avid” users of local search. By contrast, those who own only PCs and feature phones do many fewer local searches.
Here’s the correlation the report makes between device ownership and local search frequency:
- PC Only: Those who are “PC only” (w/feature phones) average 5 local searches per week
- PC + Smartphones: People who also own smartphones average 13.5 local searches per week
- PC + Smartphone + Tablets: Owners of multiple devices conduct more than 21 local searches per week on average
Here device ownership can be seen as a proxy for a range of demographic variables. Accordingly the following chart compares “average” local searchers with more “avid” local search users. Avid local searchers are slightly more likely to be men between the ages of 21 and 35, have graduated from college, be employed and earn more.
Although the report doesn’t discuss this in detail, what’s also interesting to consider is the degree to which device ownership influences behavior. It almost goes without saying that it does. The generally higher rates of local search on mobile devices and the shift of some local search/mapping query volume to smartphones suggests that device ownership does impact search behavior.
Mobile Hot For Entertainment, Restaurants, Retail & Transportation
The study also compares the incidence of local search by business category (yellow pages heading) and screen type. It finds that the PC is still the dominant source of local searches across categories. However it also finds that smartphone-based local search starts to approach PC penetration in a number of categories: entertainment, restaurants and retail and exceeds it in the transportation category (click to enlarge the image and the others below).
Seeking Addresses & Hours Of Operation
What are consumers looking for when they conduct local searches? It varies somewhat by category according to the study. However, generally speaking it’s basic listings and address information, hours and contact details (phone number) — the sacrosanct core of data that local SEOs have been preaching about for years.
As one might expect search engines are the most frequently used source for local information. When combined, “all others” starts to approach search engines in terms of usage but no single alternative site category comes close. Review sites are most often used in the restaurants category.
Local Search Sources Used
There are two ways to look at these data. One could focus on the fact search engines are dominant over all other local site categories. However another interpretation is that there’s considerable usage of other categories of sites for local information. However that universe is more fragmented.
What’s not explored in the report is the usage of multiple categories of sites for a given task or query. We know from other research that consumers rely on multiple sources of information and that it varies somewhat by “consideration level.” Consumers may use a wide range of sites when considering a major home improvement project or more ambitious travel planning or when shopping for a new car.
How Local Is Local? Depends On What You Want
One of the things that the report spends some time on is the definition of local. The study finds that the notion “local” is somewhat elastic and consumers are willing to travel farther in some categories than others. For example, people will go greater distances for live performances, movies, doctors and in some cases hair salons than for groceries or restaurants.
There are a number of other findings in the study. If you’re interested in exploring them further, the full report can be downloaded here.