During a session I ran today on local search marketing at SES Chicago, Atif Rafiq, Yahoo Local’s director of strategy and business development, presented comScore data showing that local queries grew 76 percent in February (year over year).
After going back and crunching some comScore numbers for overall search query volume, I found it has comparatively grown in the 20 percent range over this period. This supports the notion that local is growing in awareness.
A second comScore data point shows local search queries increasing per user, perhaps supporting instead that users are getting more sophisticated with their search queries.
This sophistication mostly involves using geographic modifiers when looking for something to see, do or buy locally. This growth would appear to be driven over time by successful searches that reinforce the practice of using more granular queries. This seems to be the case from additional anecdotal evidence Rafiq provided from Yahoo user logs.
For a larger sample, it would be interesting to find out what the average query length is for local searches and if it has grown over time. I believe the average query length for overall search is about four words (any data or insights are welcome in the comments section below).
Rafiq also clarified that 20 percent of searches have “local intent.” We’ve projected the number to be right in this range. It’s a difficult figure to pinpoint because it contains partially empirical inputs (i.e., searches that contain explicit geomodifiers) and a great deal more “implied” local intent (queries like “plumber”).
Whatever this number may be, my hypothesis is that it will be larger in mobile search. Given the immediacy and geographic relevance inherent in the mobile use case, local will be core matter. As such, we expect local to benefit from mobile’s clear path toward more application-level innovation over the coming months.