Survey: ‘Local Search’ Broader than ‘Google’

A new survey of 2,000 consumers by Nielsen/Netratings for WebVisible found that 86 percent of those surveyed used the Internet to find a local business from which to shop, a dramatic rise from a similar survey from last year where it was 70 percent.

Most of the respondents — 74 percent – said they use a search engine when they are looking for a local retail or service business. For these consumers, local search isn’t just synonymous with search engines such as Google or Yahoo. It includes all the different flavors of local media, directories and city guides online. Sixty-five percent use Yellow Pages, 50 percent use Internet Yellow Pages, 44 percent use local newspapers, 33 percent use white pages, 29 percent use TV and 18 percent use consumer review Websites.

Indeed, users have a hard time pinpointing the one source that triggered a “local search” buying decision. Traditionally, this has been an ace-in-the-hole for Yellow Pages, which are thought to be among the best media for getting consumers when they are actually ready to buy.

Carey Ransom, WebVisible VP of Sales and Marketing, says that the findings reinforce the idea that it is not a one player game for local advertisers. While search engines are very important in today’s market, traditional media “complements their core,” he says. “Their share is eroding, but they are still very valid players.”

Other revealing findings come of the study, which has not yet been posted by WebVisible. For instance, 67 percent would prefer using an Internet Yellow Pages over a print book, with most of these saying IYP is “much faster;” 63 percent saying the online listings are “more current;” and 45 percent citing the advantages of online search tools. But print is still considered to have a leg up when it comes to comprehensiveness. Just 27 percent felt that the online version is more comprehensive.

The survey also found a real discrepancy in local search use between downtown, urban and suburban use. Downtown areas saw the highest rate of growth as a local business finder, surging 88 percent over the last two years. Local use also surged for those with household incomes over $75K. Among those users, the rise in local online search coincided with a drop in telephone directory use, which fell by 62 percent.

Website quality also played a significant factor in attracting local commerce. Eighty-five percent of respondents agreed that the quality of a business owner’s website is an important factor in earning the consumer’s trust. Over 75 percent of respondents said they were more likely to make a purchase from “an unfamiliar business with a quality website,” than “a poor website from a known business.” The survey also found that favorable reviews in blogs play a key role in local purchase decisions – but only if the review comes from credible sources.