Small Businesses Focusing on Local Search Investment

The digital transformation in the ad industry has created serious problems for traditional publishers, especially those in the Yellow Pages directory business. Along with other search providers, IYP (Internet Yellow Pages) companies are hoping to connect businesses with consumers the way they always have. But the competition is steep and consumers have many tools to use in their digital search for information on local businesses.

With smartphones having reached critical mass, consumer ability to conduct mobile local searches is growing. At least 61% of smartphone users regularly search for local businesses because:

  • They need information on the go 51%
  • It’s easy 37%
  • Information can be quickly located 34%

It’s how they go about the searches that has platform providers and marketers closely watching. For example, 15% of people use their social networks to get information on local businesses. They also use local search tools such as Google Local/​Maps or Yahoo!Local, Internet Yellow Pages like YP​.com. and Yelp, and portal search sites like Google, AOL or MSN.

The biggest shift in behavior is that consumers are looking for categories during local online searches instead of specifically-​named  businesses. This behavior varies by type of source used. For Internet Yellow Pages, 47% of consumers are performing category searches. For local portals that number is also 47% but for large portals, it’s 53%. In all cases, general category searches for local are growing which means marketers need to optimize their search strategy to appear at the top of these lists.

YP’s most recent Local Insights report shows which categories are most popular for local searches:

  • Restaurants
  • Financial Services
  • Auto Repair
  • Real Estate
  • Beauty Services

The numbers are slightly different when considering the fastest-​growing categories in local search though some of these may have been skewed by seasonality. For example, the categories that saw the biggest increases in the second quarter consumer searches included wedding planning and supplies and security services. Interestingly, the types of marketers who spend the most on search don’t exactly match. For example, YP’s numbers indicate that the top spenders in their local ad network include medical, contractors and construction, legal services and automotive.

When faced with a traditional search engine results page, consumers say the local search results section is most trustworthy (58%). They tend to be more skeptical of natural search – SEO  (31% prefer this). And, only 9% say paid search results are most trustworthy.

Post-​search contact behavior ranges from store visit (38%), to telephone (29%) to online (12%).  And it’s the post-​search behavior that’s most important to marketers.

About ½ of consumers who searched for vendors through the YP online network, including mobile, engaged in 2.7 transactions per month with these vendors and spent an average of $159 each time.

[Sources: 5th Annual 15miles Local Search study. 2012. Web. 5 Aug. 2012; Local Insights Digital Report. YP​.com. 2012. Web. 5 Aug. 2012] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.