New Data Show What a Complex Mess Local Is

The Local Search Association and comScore released their annual “The State of Local Search” study this morning. There’s a great deal of data and only a small part of it was released (there’s a webinar tomorrow with more). This is an annual study and follows release of the similar Burke study, on yellow pages and online directory usage, by the LSA.

There are three categories of sites examined in the comScore study: IYPs (yellow pages owned sites), Web portals (the big search engines) and local search sites (the local or mapping sites of the big search engines). There’s also a category of “other sites,” which includes Yelp, Facebook,, Citysearch and a number of others.

Here are some of the highlights from the report:

  • During the examined time frame (basically 12/09 to 12/10) general Web search grew 16%, IYP searches grew 15% and other local search grew 10%
  • Local searches now account for 13% of all core search activity on top Web search portals as of March 2011 (Google says 20% of its queries are local on the PC).
  • IYP and local search sites saw 5.6 billion local searches in 2010

General web search engines (mainly Google) dominate in terms of overall query volume (74% to 26% for all other categories of sites). According to my calculations Google sees about 2.2 billion local queries monthly on the PC. Yet there’s a loyal audience of IYP users out there who use IYP sites as their primary local search engines. Brand is a key factor in this audience’s usage:

IYP search users are “further down in the funnel” according to the study: “Portal searchers were more likely to conduct local searches as part of broad information gathering, while primary IYP searchers reported conducting local searches to look for contact information with specific products or services in mind.”

In terms of the affinity for IYP sites, this is what the survey said:

  • 58% of IYP searchers said they chose an IYP site (i.e., DexKnows, Superpages, Yellowbook, and first due to brand recognition and reputation
  • 33% of IYP site users indicated they chose an IYP site first because of its reputation for local business information


The big story in the mobile data is growth of apps for local search. According to comScore, 56% of the local-mobile audience are using apps for local search:

  • In January 2011, 77.1 million mobile subscribers accessed local content on a mobile device, up 34% from the previous year.
  • Local content users accounted for 33% of mobile subscribers, with 87% owning a GPS-capable handset
  • App use for mobile local content grew 34%, with 56% of respondents using apps for local content.
  • Browsers lead in usage of local content with 73%, dropping from 75% last year.  Local content via SMS dropped to 25% from 30%


There was also data on deals in the report. Interestingly IYP users were less likely to use/purchase deals and vouchers than others. This is probably because IYP sites are “late to the party” but there could be demographic or other reasons too that are not entirely clear. Non IYP site users are somewhat younger than IYP uses but not significantly.

Restaurants and retail are the top two coupon categories according to comScore.


I’ve only discussed the publicly released data, which is a fraction of all the information in the study. There’s also a great deal of other data in the market (especially around mobile usage) that is different or offers other findings vs. comScore. However, here are the quick inferences and conclusions from what I’ve seen and reviewed:

  • There’s much more volume on general search sites, but users are often earlier in the purchase cycle
  • There’s a loyal IYP audience that is often more focused than general search users
  • Apps are gaining on browsers for local-mobile content access
  • Increasingly the world of local is cross platform and SMBs have no way to manage this increasingly complex mess themselves

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2 Responses to “New Data Show What a Complex Mess Local Is”

  1. earlpearl says at

    Greg:  I find it incredibly hard to believe the data about IYP’s.  From the perspective of business websites I review, I see marginal IYP traffic.  I don’t hear about IYP traffic from multiple SEO’s that manage sites.  I simply never see it.

    If the comments with regard to IYP’s hold water, that in itself isn’t the best news for IYP’s.  It means they’ll have to keep spending, spending spending to maintain brand awareness.  

    On the mobile side the incredible growth with regard to accessing local sites via apps is very fascinating.  Which apps dominate?  Which apps are growing?  

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Specific apps aren’t discussed it’s just apps vs. the browser generally. Don’t know what to say about IYP data. I’m seeing the top level data. The breakdown of search to IYP traffic in the report is 74% search to 26% IYP, etc.

    Per comScore IYP sites as a category had 5.6 billion searches in 2010. Google has about 11 billion per month.

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