Does local search matter? by Scott McAndrew
Does local search matter? was originally posted on Scott McAndrew’s blog on September 8th 2009
Seen that map on the first page of search results accompanied with a one or a handful of businesses after performing a search on Google, Bing or Yahoo? Those results are considered to be “local search” results, displaying companies whose products or services align with what the Internet searcher is looking for.
Localized search results appear on search engines search results pages if…
- An individual business is explicitly searched for: “Apple Computer in Cupertino”
- Local intent is expressed by the visitor explicitly when searching for a product or service: “Pizza in Boston, MA”
- Although not explicitly expressed, local intent is assumed, based on the nature of the query itself: “Car wash”
Which business listings appear depends upon a long list of factors (suitable for a post of its own).
How much does having a listing there for a business matter? The short answer: A lot, assuming that your business provides a product or service locally from a physical location (or several locations). Keep reading if you’re interested in the long answer.
How many searches are we talking about?
Estimates vary by source on how many searches have local intent. Those on the lower end of the range cite 20% and those on the higher side generally fall between 30 and 40%. Calculating how many actual searches that equates to pushes us to numbers which challenge conventional understanding.
Recent ComScore data indicates that in May of this year 14.3 billion core searches were made in the United States. I’ll forgo doing the math and just assume that we can all agree that local search represents a highly compelling number of searches.
How do user’s interact with a page of search results?
Sometimes images speak louder than words, so let’s start there. Does the graphic below look familiar?
If you haven’t seen it before it’s a visual depiction of Google users’ attention from an eye-tracking study performed by Enquiro in 2005. The area of most interest lies in the triangular area at the top left-hand side of the page. Results from other search engine’s also follow suit. That triangular area (often referred to as Google’s Golden Triangle) is also precisely where localized search results generally appear (they also occasionally appear further down the search results page).
This image (and the study that it emerged from) are at least a few years old, but it tends to hold true. Subsequent studies by Google have revealed a similar pattern, even when additional distractions, such as images, are added to the mix. If anything, its likely that the addition of a map image which accompanies local listings positively influences the attention given they receive.
Do they take any action?
All of this is for not if the Internet searcher doesn’t take action, regardless of the reason. Recent third-party research provides a strong case for local listings. There are several studies out there, the following statistics are from a publicly available ComScore/TMP local search study conducted last year:
- The information provided online isn’t lagging offline information. Users are pleased with what they find, whether their search is offline, online or on a mobile phone, with 9 out of 10 searchers stating they ultimately found what they needed.
- Search engines have become the primary stand-alone source for local business information, ranking higher than the print White or Yellow Pages or websites specifically focused on localized or niche listings.
- After performing a local search the majority of consumers (more than 70%) chose to contact the business (or businesses) offline by telephone or an in-person visit.
That last statistic might be the most compelling of all, connecting that online activity to tangible, offline business. Conclusion? If you provide a service or product locally, put local search high on you to-do list for your marketing and advertising and take advantage of this opportunity!