Feb 102012
 

Go Local announced yesterday an interesting research on local search. Its basis is a local search index (LSI) for the “online local search activity across 50 cities and 30 verticals” , whose value is assigned “by analyzing data in this cross section”. While the index’ absolute value is not that interesting, its components distribution is to be noted. There are two sub-indices – PC LSI (measuring the value of local search on PCs and laptops) and Mobile LSI (measuring the value of local search on mobile devices, including tablets). According to Go Local’s research 80% of the local searches are done on PCs, and 20% on mobile devices. Now is the moment to mention that in the study, only the searches that specifically indicate the location in the search query are considered ‘local searches’. As it is mentioned in the paper, the local searches by “implicit location awareness” are not included in the final statistical data. Therefore, it is very possible that the percentage of location-targeted searches on mobile devices could potentially be higher. Another limitation of the study (which is not mentioned, but is clear from the data sets) is that only searches, including the particular city name are counted as “local searches”. This means that searches including county, state, ZIP code, suburb, school district, etc. are being excluded. This fact predetermines to some extent many of the results further in the research.

Local Search Index

However, the share of Geo-targeted searches on mobile devices (35%) is still higher than the same share for PCs (33%) despite the above-mentioned limitations. If all the possible location terms were included, the numbers would have been even higher, especially for mobile search.

The research is conducted for 50 cities. They are divided into three groups:

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  • Large (over 3 million) – 14 cities
  • Medium (1-3 million) – 19 cities
  • Small – (395K-999K) – 17 cities

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The results show that the size of the city is inversely proportional to the volume of Geo-targeted searches (regardless if it is desktop or mobile search). The paper suggests the following: “In larger cities [people] must define their search more specifically than city name to get the most local results.”

People are mostly likely to Geo-target their search using the city name in Austin (266% of the LSI for desktop, 265% for mobile), Las Vegas (120%/133%), Nashville (111%/120%) and others.

People are most unlikely to Geo-target their search using the city name in Detroit (-89%/-88%), Norfolk (-79%/-79%), Los Angeles (-78%/-81%), and others.

The research analyzes the local search behavior for 30 verticals: car dealers, restaurants, hotels, lawyers, pest control, attorney, motel, massage, plumbing, florist, hospital, dentist, theater, bars, spa, mall, pizza, shopping, veterinarian, moving, doctor, storage, golf, payday loans, motorcycle, banks, insurance, maid, powersports, loan.

People are most likely to Geo-target their search when searching for car dealers (101% of the LSI for desktop, 71% for mobile), hotel (84%/93%), restaurant (101%/61%), and others.

People are least likely to Geo-target their search when searching for loan (-88%/-81%), powersports (-75%/-69%), maid (-73%/-82%), insurance (-68%/-65%), and others.

The last statistic in the paper is related to what device people use predominantly when they Geo-target their search for particular vertical. According to the findings, people use desktop when they look for a local lawyer (53% more compared to mobile devices), restaurant (40%), pest control (34%), car dealers (30%), and others. People are more likely to use mobile device when they look for bars (47%), shopping(27%), spa (22%), and others.

Takeaways:

This data can give us a lot of insights on how to perform local SEO, and general local search marketing. Here are some of the most important conclusions that could be done:

1) Focusing on increasing the rankings mainly for [keyword] + [city] search queries is often not a good idea. This is a very important note especially for businesses and marketers that focus on targeting the audience in cities with more than 1 million population (Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Detroit, etc), and focus on verticals such as loan, insurance, maids. This means that if you have an insurance company and you are located in Los Angeles, it would not be a good idea to specifically target the term “insurance Los Angeles”, because it might bring you neither the desired volume of leads, nor the desired quality of traffic.

2) Focusing on increasing the rankings for [keyword] + [city] is a good idea if your business is in a town with less than 1M population, and if you are a car dealer, hotel, restaurant, bar, or attorney.

3) Bars, shopping centers, spa centers must have a mobile version of their websites. Otherwise they might lose a large amount of potential customers.

4) Lawyers, restaurants, car dealers must have well-designed and optimized websites for desktop users.

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