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No. 528
October 6th, 2009

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New TMP (15miles) / Comscore Study on Local Search

TMP & Comscore’s annual study of the Local Business space was published this morning, and hot off the presses, Gregg Stewart, the President of TMP’s new Interactive wing called 15miles, shared the initial results with those of us in attendance at SMX East.  There wasn’t really anything earth-shattering, but some interesting data came out nonetheless.  The full study can be downloaded here.

I was confused by how and why Comscore & TMP decided to split up IYP’s vs. General Search vs. Local Sites vs. Social Media…for instance “Google Maps” was considered a “Local Site” but these days a TON of searchers’ interaction with Google Maps is via a “general search” on  Yelp was considered an “IYP” whereas much of the appeal of Yelp is derived from its Social environment.  In my opinion, the #1 takeway: Online channels remain the primary source of local business information — 67% — up 5% since 2008 study.

But onto the details.

The study interviewed 4,000 consumers and asked a series of questions about both online and offline search behavior.

Print Usage Declines, Especially among Younger Demographics

The study led off by asking consumers What is your primary source of local business information? According to the study, print Yellow Pages, unsurprisingly, are declining in usage–but not by as much as I would have expected–5% since 2007.  Internet Yellow Pages usage overall has increased by 4%…but keep in mind that Comscore’s definition of “IYP” was pretty broad (Yelp was explicitly included in this category and probably drove a large chunk of this growth).

The use of “general search engines” as primary sources is growing slowly, but a plurality of people use a mix of search engines, print yellow pages, IYPs, and Local Search sites.

Equally unsurprisingly, younger folks skewed much more towards online usage — only 24% of adults under 44 said Print was their primary source of information.  41% of 18-24 use the search engines primarily, and were far more likely to use social networking sites as their primary means to find business information.

Online Searchers Were More Likely to Search for Businesses They Didn’t Know About

Print was far more likely to be used for recovery searches (where consumers were looking for a specific business)–40%, whereas online was used much more in the research or discovery phase–trying to find NEW businesses or products (or the best deals on these products or services, as Gregg was quick to point out).  Keep in mind that there are lots of local search activities that are happening AWAY from the search engines…social medai sites, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Myspace, Craigslist, etc.

While 63% of respondents stated that they expected the business to be within 15 miles, the “distance to business” as an important decision factor has dropped by 10% since 2007 (!)  —  only 25% of respondents called this important.

Google Maps’ Growth Explodes

Google Maps’ share alone of Local Searches has increased from 15% to 26%.  Gregg surmises that it’s largely driven by the 10-pack’s integration into Universal search.  Is Google Maps taking away traffic from the IYPs?  YES.  Yellowbook has been forced to buy ads to maintain / increase their market share, exactly as I speculated a couple of years ago and which Chris Silver Smith surmised last month.

Search Medium Depends Largely on Category

There was a huge medium variation in terms of types of searches — 95% / 86% looked for bankers or home repair professionals via a general search engine respectively.  Meanwhile, customers were more likely to look for a plumber on an IYP or even a Print direcotry.

Gregg rightly pointed out that a strong consideration should be the cost-effectiveness of collecting leads on all of these various engines.  The buying funnel is going to be a much easier sale on an IYP as opposed to a search engine.  High-value verticals like Doctors / Lawyers are not covered by this study; it was only designed to look at national-scale categories for TMP’s type of clients.

Smartphone Users Were WAY More Likely to Use Their Phone to Search

Smartphone owners are three-times as likely to conduct a mobile local search.  But only 12% of the population HAS a Smartphone.  Unlimited data rates and the speed of network are incentivizing more local searches. Consumers are 36% more likely to go to a Smartphone when your contract is up for renewal.

App searching is explosive growth in mobile right now.  App searching is up 127% vs. only 21% for browsers.  But browsers are still by far the most popular type of mobile search.