Local is As Local Does

    October 31, 2008
    Chris Crum

It looks like search engines have officially trumped the Yellow Pages when it comes to customers looking for local businesses. Data from comScore and TMP Directional Marketing shows that this year more people are turning to search engines after last year’s showed that Yellow Pages were on top.

What the Data Shows

While most people still use a variety of different methods to find a local business, the study found what people seem to prefer as their first choice for doing so:

1.  Search Engines (31%)

2.  Print Yellow Pages or White Pages (30%)

3. Internet Yellow Pages Sites (19%)

4.  Local Search Sites (11%)

Last year’s numbers had Print Yellow Pages at 33% and search engines at 30%. When it comes to online habits of consumers, the study shows that more people turn to the Internet Yellow Pages sites than the Local search sites like Google Maps and Yahoo Local, but I suspect the reason for this is that they don’t have to go to the actual local search sites to get the same results. If you search Google for a local business, you are likely to get the Google Maps results right at the top. The same goes for Yahoo (both illustrated below with a search for "pizza, lexington, ky").


Google Pizza search


Yahoo Pizza Search

What Businesses Need to Do

What businesses need to do to ensure their customers are finding them easily, is still to make sure they are listed in these local search results. For Google Maps, follow the following steps:

1. Sign in to the Google Local Business Center. If you don’t have a Google Account, sign up for one.

2. Return to Google Maps by clicking on the icon in the upper corner of the Local Business Center.

3. Search for your listing.

4. Click on the "More Info" link next your listing. This will expand the information window.

5. Click "Add or edit your business" under the address and phone number.

For Yahoo Local:

1. Search for Your Listing and click on it

2. Update your business contact information, hours of operation, business category, etc.

3. You can also invest in a "Local Enhanced Listing" according to Yahoo, which lets you include your company logo and tagline, up to 10 photos, a detailed description, inclusion in up to five business categories, and two customizable link to coupons or special offers.

Danny SullivanGoing Beyond That

Google and Yahoo are just two options of course. You can pursue listings with Microsoft, Mapquest, and others. It is also a good idea to make sure you have a site and it is up and running properly, because while the study shows that consumers often find the business listing online, and then turn to their phone to make the call, there is a pretty good chance they will still want to check out your site and see what you are all about. Unfortunately, a good number of businesses are just not getting this, as Danny Sullivan found out the hard way when he moved to a new town and couldn’t find working sites for the businesses he needed. Besides, the web can open up your business well beyond your local area.

"As consumer local search grows with online and offline resources, national advertisers must develop strategic plans for integrating the various mediums into their national programs," said Gregg Stewart, senior vice president of interactive, TMP Directional Marketing. "Our 2008 study again confirms that consumers do a majority of research online, but continue to make purchases offline with a phone call or in-store visit. Additionally, marketers need to pay close attention to mobile search and sites that offer consumer user reviews, as they are growing in popularity."

As the holiday season continues to draw near, the sooner businesses get on top of these things, the better. There has been data released indicating that consumers will increasingly spend more of their shopping time online, and if they can’t find you, they can’t buy from you. Do you really want to miss out on potential sales when you’re probably doing everything you can to save money in the first place?