WebVisible and Nielsen’s jointly produced research on local search shows there is still a gap between user behavior and SMB advertising. The annual survey was just released, including responses from 4,000 U.S. Internet users and 261 SMBs.
Here are some of the key findings:
• Consumers use search engines 72 percent more than two years ago.
• Search is the No. 1 choice of general consumers and small-business owners alike when looking for a local product or service.
• 63 percent of consumers turn to the Internet first when looking for local products or services.
• Half of small businesses spend less than 10 percent on Internet advertising, and only 9 percent are very satisfied with their results.
The last bullet point is clearly at odds with the first three, showing that advertiser behavior trails that of users. Drilling down further, the most commonly used search tools were:
• Search engines, 82 percent
• Yellow Pages directories, 57 percent
• Local newspapers, 53 percent
• Internet Yellow Pages (such as Yellowpages.com or Superpages.com), 49 percent
• Television, 49 percent
• Direct mail, 38 percent
• White Pages directories, 32 percent
In terms of sources turned to first among users, 50 percent choose search engines and 24 percent choose Yellow Pages. Interestingly, SMBs showed similar results in their own user behavior, with 41 percent citing search engines as the first place they turn for local businesses and 31 percent choosing Yellow Pages.
SMB behavior in this respect is often an indicator of present or future ad buying. Again, in this case, there seems to be a disconnect between what users are doing and where ad dollars are going.
A few other data points from the survey include:
• 92 percent of respondents are happy with the results they get when using search engines, although 39 percent report frequently not being able to find a particular known business.
• 52 percent say they regularly use the Internet to research, then purchase offline from a local business. Only 1 percent say they have never done this.
• 41 percent use local “geographic modifiers” with search engines.
These data points together indicate that there is real local intent with search engine queries and that users are finding what they’re looking for. In many cases these data would indicate users are not finding a particular business (only 44 percent of SMB respondents have a Web site), but finding one that is similar with a stronger online presence.
Overall, the data also show that online search and e-mail newsletters are the only forms of media that have grown over the past two years for locating local businesses.