Internet Yellow Pages sites saw a modest 5.1 percent boost in usage over the past year, according to new data from comScore and the Local Search Association, detailed in a press release and webinar today. That’s the good news for directory publishers.
The more concerning, if not entirely surprising, datapoint for the Yellow Pages industry is that just 7 percent of consumers choose IYP first when conducting a local search, with 74 percent choosing a search portal (Google, Bing, etc.), and 9 percent preferring a local search portal (e.g., Google Maps). IYPs fared better as a second choice, with 23 percent indicating that they would turn to an IYP if their first local search choice was unsuccessful. These figures are further indication of the degree to which IYPs are dependent on search engines as traffic originators.
Notably, among those who do choose IYPs first, 58 percent indicate that the recognition and reputation of the publisher’s brand was the primary reason for their preference for IYPs. By contrast, those who indicated other sites as their first choice tended to cite “speed/accuracy” (58 percent) or “convenience” (60 percent) as the reason.
One explanation for the huge difference in first choice preference was that search engines tended to facilitate searches high in the purchase funnel, at the information gathering stage, while IYPs continue to specialize in low purchase funnel activity, where the consumer is close to or at the purchase decision.
ComScore data from January 2011 show 13 percent of searches on the top-five search portals are local in nature. The broad category of IYP/local search sites together grew by 15 percent to 5.6 billion searches; however, that category is dominated by Google Maps. Growth for the IYP component alone was the more modest 5 percent.
The biggest story however, is the explosive growth of mobile, and as a key subplot, the growth of apps as an avenue for mobile local search. ComScore says 77.1 million mobile subscribers are accessing local content, which is about a third of all subscribers in the United States. This is a 34 percent rise over 2009. Of those accessing local content, 87 percent are doing so via a GPS-enabled phone.
Fifty-four percent of mobile users say they use mobile applications to access local content, a 34 percent rise. Browsers and SMS/text both declined as preferred avenues for mobile local search, through browsers still reign at 73 percent (down from 75 percent).
The deals phenomenon was also on the study’s radar, not surprisingly. Four of 10 respondents say they purchased an online coupons (including daily deals), with 70 percent indicating satisfaction with the experience, and 79 percent saying they will do so again. Perhaps troubling for directory publisher is the fact, noted on the webinar, that users who prefer IYP as a primary local search resource were less likely to have purchased an online coupon.
This announcement of online YP and local search usage data follows the recent announcement regarding the LSA’s Yellow Pages usage study, conducted by Burke Research. That study also showed a preference for search over Yellow Pages, which still holds a strong position as a resource for consumers.