Survey: Search Now Top Resource For Local Information

Local SEM firm WebVisible and Nielsen last year surveyed U.S. consumers about their local search behavior. There were some very interesting and striking findings. For example, 51% of users were doing category searches for local businesses without a geographic modifier. Today findings from a second wave of that survey were released. The second survey is broader and addresses a range of issues, including consumer attitudes toward advertising in general, use of the Internet vs. traditional media for local information, and offline purchase behavior.

Approximately 2000 U.S. consumers were randomly selected from the Nielsen//NetRatings MegaPanel to participate in the survey. Below I excerpt some of the findings (in many cases verbatim). At a high level, they validate the consumer reliance on search generally and for local information in particular. The survey data also reflect a consumer preference for “relevant” ads (as in SEM) vs. other forms of “push” advertising.

Consumer attitudes toward ads and SEM A majority of the survey respondents (73%) say they are over-exposed to advertising. But it apparently works despite these attitudes. According to the survey, only 24% of people say their shopping habits are never influenced by the ads they see. A roughly equivalent number (72%) say they would prefer finding products and services via search rather than having ads pushed to them. Among the 73% that said they were exposed to too many ads, an overwhelming majority (91%) would prefer using search vs. having ads sent or pushed to them.

Local search usage Search engines were rated the number one resource for finding local business information. Here’s how the responses broke down in terms of professed usage:

–Search engines: 74% –Print yellow pages: 65% –Internet yellow pages: 50% –Traditional newspapers: 44% –Print white pages: 33% –Television: 29% –Consumer review websites: 18 %

(Percentages are greater than 100 because respondents were permitted to select more than one answer.)

According to the survey, Internet yellow pages were generally preferred to traditional yellow pages, though viewed as not as comprehensive: 67% would prefer using an Internet yellow pages resource than the big yellow print book. Examples of Internet yellow pages given by the surveyor were yellowpages.com, judysbook.com, and superpages.com. Of this group, 84% say the Internet yellow pages is a much faster way of finding local businesses than the print version; 63% say the business listings are more current online; 45% prefer the search tools offered in the online version. Only 27% felt the online version was more comprehensive than the print book, suggesting that Internet yellow pages may have a decided weakness – lack of content. Some panelists selected more than one answer.

Additional findings regarding local search:

–86% of those surveyed say they have used the Internet to find a local business, an increase from the 70% that responded affirmatively a year ago. –78% use the Internet more today to find a local business than they did 2 years ago –20% use it the same as they did 2 years ago. –2% use it less than they did 2 years ago.

Traditional directory usage down:

–6% use telephone directories more than they did 2 years ago. –43% use it the same. –52% use it less.

Internet “vital”:

–81% said the Internet was vital to their lifestyle. Among this group, 90% had used the Internet to search for a local business

Reliance on multiple resources, reviews, blogs The survey found that 75% of respondents rely on multiple information sources to find local business information; only an tiny minority (6%) said they used a single trusted source. However those “trusted sources” weren’t identified — whether traditional media or online.

Three fourths of users say they read reviews (product/service business) online. The number is higher (80%) as the audience ages:

–60% of 18-24 year olds read online reviews. –Ages 34 – 64 saw an average of 80% reading online consumer reviews.

–69% use blogs as a source for consumer product reviews, yet only 23% have ever posted a consumer review on a blog (among this group of posters: 45% of the posted reviews were negative, while 15% were mixed and 40% were positive).

Shop online, buy locally Just over 70% of survey participants say they prefer to stay within a 20 minute drive of their homes to reach a business. And 80% of respondents say they have researched a product or service online and then made their purchase offline from a local business.

These findings are consistent with other information and empirical data in the market but serve to reinforce the importance and power of both search/SEM and local search in consumer purchase behavior.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Search Marketing: Local Search Marketing | Stats: Search Behavior

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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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