We all know that local search is a hot topic in today’s search space. For further proof, look no further than the latest “State of Local Search” study, prepared  by comScore for the Local Search Association, which found that local searches now account for 13% of all core search activity on major search engines like Google and Bing.

Two platforms that really caught my attention with this study are mobile and online coupons, which by all indications, are growing by leaps and bounds as ways for consumers to find local businesses.

Mobile Local Search Shows Double-Digit Growth

The study found that as of January 2011, 77.1 million mobile subscribers access local business content, up an astonishing 34% from a year ago. In fact, local content users now account for one-third (33%) of all mobile subscribers, up from 25% last year.

Adding to the significance of this growth is the spike in the number of local mobile content users with GPS-capable devices, which grew to 87% from 76% last year.

Today, more than six in 10 (64%) of local mobile content users own smartphones. The most popular smartphones used for local searches range across the three major platforms: Apple, Google’s Android, and RIM’s Blackberry.

Double-digit growth is prevalent across all major categories of local mobile search. The study found that among all mobile subscribers surveyed this year:

  • 26% accessed weather, up 41% year-over-year
  • 18% accessed maps, up 41% year-over-year
  • 12% accessed movie information, up 32% year-over-year
  • 10% accessed restaurant information, up 40% year-over-year
  • 8% accessed business directories, up 26% year-over-year
  • 8% accessed classifieds, up 51% year-over-year

Accessing  local content via mobile applications is also on the rise. While local mobile content users most frequently access local content via a browser (73%), about 56% of local content users do so through  an application, up 34% year-over year.

What are  the key takeaways?

  • With so many consumers using mobile to conduct local business searches, local businesses can no longer ignore mobile as an advertising medium.
  • Local businesses should invest in building mobile-friendly websites so consumers can easily access their content in mobile browsers. Restaurants, for example, should prepare mobile-friendly menus and reservations tools.
  • Local businesses should ensure they are listed among all major online business directories, ranging from Internet Yellow Pages to local search sites such as CitySearch and Yelp, so that consumers can easily find them no matter what service they are using. They should also check to make sure their listings appear among listings in popular local search applications.
  • Given the high percentage of local mobile content accessed by smartphones with GPS capability, local businesses should explore whether opportunities to advertise via location-based advertising platforms such as Foursquare and Gowalla make sense for them.

Online Coupons Satisfy Customers & Drive Repeat Sales

Online daily deal coupons are quickly growing in popularity among consumers, with nearly 4 in 10  local searchers (37%) having purchased one in the past.

When broken down, the  study found that primary IYP searchers were less likely to report purchasing online coupons for local businesses than business searchers on other sites (27 percent vs. 38 percent).

The most popular types of business coupons include restaurants (56%), retail stores (32%), and tourist attractions (13%).

Most striking are the high customer satisfaction and repeat customer rates associated with online coupons. Seven in 10 (70%) local business searchers said they’re satisfied with online coupons they purchase,  and only 1% are dissatisfied.

A high 79% of those purchasing online coupons said they used or visited the local business again after taking advantage of the coupon.

What are the key takeaways?

  • Local businesses need to recognize the value of online coupons as a successful and useful advertising medium to attract new customers. The data show that customers are universally satisfied with coupons and are highly prone to use them.
  • Local businesses should consider both the short- and long-term return on investment opportunities of a daily deals promotion (through Groupon, Living Social, YP.com or another service). This should be viewed through a two-way prism: on one hand, immediate sales resulting from the redemption of coupons by customers; and on the other, the high potential for new sales through repeat customers.
  • Local businesses should conduct research on which daily deal site is most applicable to their local area and business category. They should then experiment with a variety of different coupons and daily deal promotion options to see what works best for them and their customers.

As this study shows, the local search space is rapidly changing. Local businesses need to stay on top of the latest trends and be willing to take chances on new ways to find customers in order to grow their businesses in today’s environment.

Most importantly, they need to find ways to integrate their advertising strategies across various platforms to ensure they reach potential leads wherever they may be.

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: Natalie Wuchenich is Director, Research for the Local Search Association and the National Marketing Division (NMD).

Connect with the author via: Email | LinkedIn



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