Local Search Grows 58%; Outpaces Overall Online Search

April 30, 2009

A surge in the annual growth of local search far outpaced growth of overall Web search, according to a study from the Yellow Pages Association (YPA), conducted by comScore, Inc.

The study found that local search – the practice of using online search tools to find local businesses, products, or services – grew 58% in 2008, reaching an annual total of 15.7 billion searches. By comparison, overall core US web searches grew at a much smaller rate of 21% year-over-year, nearing 137 billion searches by the end of 2008.

Local searches now stand at 12% of core searches on the top 5 portals, according to the YPA.

Buoyed by the growth in local search, the YPA said that Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) and other locally focused online business directories also saw double-digit growth of 23% in the same period, totaling 4.6 billion searches in 2008.

As more users conduct local searches, exposure to sponsored links for Yellow Pages data is increasing as well, YPA reported. Year-over-year, IYP sites have seen their exposure to sponsored links increase 50% to reach 353 million in December 2008 alone, demonstrating the increasing need for local business information.

“As local search grows, our data becomes more valuable,” said Neg Norton,YPA president. “Even if the searcher doesn’t know the company or brand they will ultimately give their business to, the decision to actually make a purchase has often already been made. That is a strong argument for local merchants to develop and maintain an online profile, if they haven’t already done so.”

Additional study findings:

  • 75% of the top 100 keywords searched on Internet Yellow Pages sites were non-branded, indicating that a majority of consumers have not decided on a specific company or product brand when they begin their search.
  • Nearly half (45%) of Internet Yellow Pages and local online directory searchers made an online purchase in the fourth quarter of 2008.

A recent report from Borrell Associates noted that small and medium-sized businesses are increasing their investment in local, interactive advertising and are now investing 11% of their advertising dollars online, up from less than 4% three years ago.

About the study: comScore measured real-life internet browsing, buying and transactional activity of approximately one million US internet users who granted permission to be monitored from December 2007 to December 2008.

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