Key Takeaways From the 2010 Local Search Usage Study

While attending SMX East last week I had the privilege of listening to Gillian Heltai of comScore and Greg Stewart of 15 Miles speak on the Local Search Usage Study: Bridging The Caps, From Search to Sales recently put out by the two companies for 2010. The report was chock-full ofstatistics and data that I feel is crucial for SMB owners to understand in order to effectively market their sites on the Web.

The report was put together to monitor shifts in consumer behavior, opinions and media selection within the framework of local search. The study was conducted by observing online behavior, as well as through a survey of more than 4,000 local business owners. Here are a few main points from the study that I think small business owners should be aware of. I’d encourage you to download the full local search study for your own reading.

1. Seventy percent of consumers go online first for local business information.

This was just one of the startling stats that I heard during the hour-long presentation. For small business owners wondering if they need to create that Web site or take the steps to claim and enhance their business listing, that comes off as a pretty resounding yes. Seventy percent of consumers cite the Web as their primary source of information. That number is up 7 percentage points from 2009, and will only grow over time, not decline. If you haven’t created your Web presence by building a Web site, getting involved in social media and taking the time to claim your business listings, you’re doing your business a grave disservice.

2. There are no more excuses–SMBs must develop a complete Web presence.

One thing both Gillian and Greg stressed during their presentation was how fragmented the local space and search are becoming. While more people are using the Web to search for local business information, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re using search engines to do it. With the heavy push of tools like Facebook Places and Twitter Places, more users are using varied sources to find information. That means in order to be found, you need to develop a varied marketing mix. If you need a bigger nudge, consider this: According to the survey, 69 percent of consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information available on a social media site. These profiles are turning into huge trust factors for consumers.

3. Online consumers expect brands to interact on social media.

While we’ve always known SMB owners must engage in social media and that it wasn’t enough to simply show up, now we have numbers to back that up. According to the survey, 81 percent of social networkers believe it’s important for local businesses to respond to questions and complaints on social sites. You can’t just sit there. You have to interact.

What else do consumers want from your business on social sites?

  • 78 percent want special offers, promotions and information about events.
  • 74 percent value regular posts about products.
  • 72 percent value regular posts about companies.
  • 66 percent want company photos.

Consumers believe social media is about the conversation, not whatever marketing campaign you’re trying to run. If you want to reach them, you have to be out there participating, producing content and monitoring what’s being said so you know when to jump in and be helpful. You should also be encouraging your customers to get active in social media about your brand. Seventy-eight percent of social networkers saidbusiness ratings and reviews are important when they’re making purchasing decisions.

4. Consumers are frustrated by the lack of correct information available about SMBs.

According to the survey, one in six searchers are dissatisfied with their ability to find reliable information about small businesses on the Web, noting that either the information isn’t there at all, it’s there but incorrect, or it isn’t in an orderly format. If you’re a small business owner, this is simply unacceptable, especially when you take into consideration that social networkers are 67 percent more likely to make a purchase than general searchers. You must claim your listing on not only Google and the other IYPs, but also on sites like Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc. One out of three searchers abandon their search when they can’t find the information they’re looking for. Don’t let that happen to your brand.

I was really blown away by the data provided by the Local Search Usage Study presented at SMX East. I encourage you to download the study for your own reading. You may also want to check out my liveblog coverage from the session, which includes some additional statistics. 20 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

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