Search Engine Marketing

Local Search Behaviour Survey


Local search behaviour survey of 3,000 people reveals how consumers search for and buy from businesses online.  

Purpose This was a study into how people search for local businesses and how that search is conducted when using various computer devices. The purpose is to determine whether YouCom Direct are advertising for clients in the most efficient way that would deliver the highest ROI (client sales etc).  

Study Sample This was a study of 3,000 people (3,000 responses collected) via an email survey. Respondents have been categorised by the local search site they last used to find a business online.  

Definitions; Search: A results page displayed in response to user-defined search parameters.


Local Business Search: A search that returns data including a local business name, phone number, address, hours of operation, products, promotions, etc.   IYP (Internet Yellow Pages) / Local Search: Business directory searches on IYP and local search sites (traditionally a two-box search).


Portal Search with geo-local targeting: Search with local intent on a portal site such as Google Places, Bing Maps (below) etc. (traditionally a one-box search).


Industry facts The total number of US mobile phone visitors to search or navigation sites / apps grew last year from 90.1m to 113.1m (26% increase).*


Tablet searches also grew to 38.7 million in the US (19% growth in 2012). More than half of users surveyed say they use mobile phones to search because they are away from home/office. At the same time PC and laptop searches fell declining by 17% for local business searches and 5% for non-local searches.*


It is apparent that it becomes increasingly important for advertisers to ensure the sites where they advertise their businesses have good mobile site versions (and firstly whether the advertising is replicated on a mobile site or if that is additional cost).  

Survey Overview
The study revealed that consumers’ search behaviour has changed as the methods of searching for a local business have changed. The results show that the primary activity for consumers on mobile devices is search (56% for Search; 40% for Social Networking; 39% for News; 31% Weather; Entertainment news 30%)

The study also found tablet owners becoming less mobile and less concerned with ease of use. Map based applications have become increasingly important in local search with significant changes in the look and feel of sites such as Bing Maps over the last 12 months.

For businesses targeting online traffic, the results show local business searches via mobile phones were more likely to end with an in-store visit than PC or tablet searches. Those using a mobile phone or tablet were also more likely to make a purchase as a result of their search.

As the mobile market continues to grow, these findings show businesses need to re-think how they engage with local customers. Consumers now expect accurate, easy-to-access information on local businesses via a variety of computing platforms

PC and laptop searches have decreased over the past year.

Portal sites (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing) have seen an increase as the primary source of searching for local business information (rising from 30% to 36% in the last five years).*
Search behaviour of PC or laptop, tablet and mobile users is different
Tablet sales are outpacing smartphone sales. In just two years, tablet owners have reached 40 million (it took smartphones 10 years to reach that figure).

The survey found that the frequency of local business searches on smartphones remained constant, but interestingly local searches conducted on tablets has decreased in frequency in the last year. It is presumed tablets are being used more in a fixed location such as the home or office.

PC or laptops were shown to be used more towards the beginning of the search whereas mobile phones and tablets were used more towards the end of the search.

Smart phone, tablet and PC or laptop users all rated accurate information as more important than depth of content.  

Local search using apps is increasing

Local Search Behaviour Study by YouCom Direct

Map based applications are playing an important role in local search, especially from smartphone users. Application based (app) local search has almost doubled in the last two years (significantly more growth than SMS and web browser channels). Interestingly, while Google dominates, the other applications drive noticeable volume of consumers searching for a local business.


The growth in consumer use of map based applications is evident in “traditional” online directories such as Yelp and who are altering the display of business listing searches to become more map focused.  

Detail required from a local search advertiser

The survey found consumers required their search to yield a correct address as the most important thing in a local business search.

Local Search Behaviour Study by YouCom Direct

Those using smartphones placed high importance on the telephone number (as expected) but also business hours and distance to the business from where they are (geo-location).

These features can be seen in online directories who have clearly undertaken their own studies to make their sites more appealing to advertisers. example of distance

YouDirectories-Local-Search-Behaviour-Survey-10-Yell example of Business hours

60% of all respondents rated consumer reviews as important in their local search choice. However, only 26% actually found helpful reviews in their search for a local business. This indicates that whilst some advertisers might have good reviews or a successful online review marketing program, the industry as a whole is behind in this area. It could be concluded that were one company to significantly increase their reviews and manage the message of these reviews, they would have a significant edge over whether consumers chose them or their competitors.  

Use of Social Networking sites for local business searches

Local Search Behaviour Study by YouCom Direct

In the above graph, ‘active’ is a consumer who has actively used a social network to search for a local business. ‘Passive’ are the consumers who have connected to the business as a follower and are now susceptible to messaging.

From this we conclude that whilst for a company’s developed markets, social network sites might not be a priority because the sales uplift is harder to trace; for markets with low market share or low sales, it is a vital channel to have a presence. Below is an example of a storage company in the Netherlands who has created separate Twitter accounts for each store, encouraging store managers to gain followers that would later form a captive data set of dormant or active customers.


The graph revealed a slight decline in active searches for local businesses on social networks (15% to 13%), however the overall reach of the media remains high (58% of respondents using social networks say they are more likely to use a local business that a connection has recommended.  

Mobile searches are more likely to result in a sale

Of the respondents last local business search, those conducted by a smartphone were more likely to result in a visit to store than PC or laptop searches. Significantly, those using a smartphone to search were more likely to buy as a result of that search (78% of smartphone searches and 77% of tablet searches resulted in a purchase. The 15 mile study was conducted via comscore as an email survey collecting 3,000 completed responses. *Neustar Localeze Data  

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IYP (Internet Yellow Pages)

ROI (Return On Investment)

Required reference:

‘YouCom Direct News Article, Nov 2013, London, ‘Local search behaviour survey’



Matt Roberts