Former Yahoo Exec: 30% of PC Search Is Local

Jim Delli Santi, a former Yahoo executive and now the CEO of Spotlikes, last week said some very interesting things in a comment to another post. At Yahoo they determined roughly four years ago that 30% of US search queries carried a local intent. In the UK it was about 40%, according to Delli Santi:

At Yahoo we identified accurately that 30% of our search traffic had local intent, (4 years ago) growing to 40% quickly.  In the UK local search intent was typically 10% higher that US queries.  On mobile this is of course much higher.

Google has loosely said that about 20% of PC search carries a local intent. However, I questioned Google about this a couple of years ago and they told me that it was a reasonable estimate beyond which things became ambiguous.

I asked Delli Santi how they determined local intent when he was at Yahoo. Here’s what he said:

The WhereOnEarth geo-taxonomy engine we purchased in the UK let us analyze extremely high volumes of local search queries that had any type of location associated with them . . . We ran 100M user search queries through this local query engine which provided a tremendous amount of insight about local intent.  We were able to “isolate” those search terms that signaled local intent, because they were most often searched along with a location, e.g. “pasadena dentist”, “mechanic in san jose, ca”, “attorney 90210″. This created a large corpus of search terms that signaled local intent like mechanic, attorney, sushi, burrito, etc.

Some notable insights on which we authored (and were granted) our patents:  8% of all queries had a location explicitly included in the web search term… but 30% of 100M search terms had “local” intent, e.g. dentist, contractor, lax, parks, pediatrician, etc..

We could also tell “local intent range” of the search query;  e.g. the query “used cars” was most often searched using locations that had distances up to 50 miles, (used cars los angeles), while other local search terms had local intent ranges far smaller or at the neighborhood level such as “dry cleaners 92010″.  So if a user searched for dry cleaners, or used cars, it would follow that you’d want to serve local ads that were up to 5 miles away for dry cleaners and up to 50 miles away for used cars.

This is fascinating stuff. I’m sure what Delli Santi is saying is correct. I also don’t imagine there are significant differences, in terms of local intent, between Yahoo and Google users. In other words, I don’t think Yahoo users are more “locally inclined” than Google users.

But in the interest of being cautious I think we should “split the baby” between the Yahoo and Google numbers and use 25% as the new benchmark for local search volume on the PC. According to comScore there were 18.3 billion search queries in the US in March:

If we use the 25% figure that would mean about 4.5 billion local queries across the major engines in March in the US — at least.

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3 Responses to “Former Yahoo Exec: 30% of PC Search Is Local”

  1. Nyagoslav says at

    Hm, sounds like there might be some serious flow with the methodology of Yahoo (at least from what I read). It is very hard to determine what the intent of a searcher was, especially when the query consists of only one word.

    I suppose Google used similar methodology to estimate the percentage of local search queries, and that is why they claim 20% is just a safe number. I also, like you, believe the truth is somewhere in the middle (more towards the number of Yahoo, though).

  2. matthew hunt says at

    Those numbers are no surprise to be me. I think a lot of people search online, but prefer to buy local. And then when it comes to service based businesses, it’s almost always carries local intent.

    Always nice to hear data, support what us local SEO’ers have been claiming for years.

  3. earlpearl says at

    Nyagoslav:   I not only believe the information, I have sites that have experienced it first hand;  essentially what might long ago have been considered Yellow Page type businesses that got a lot of their inquiries from ads in hard cover YP’s…and also are do not generate the kind of content writing on the vertical to the extent that local sites can’t rank very highly for the topics in general.

    In essence I’ve had niche local business sites that have ranked highly for the generic industry terms without geo modifying phrases.

    Particularly the sites always generated a lot of searches for the industry terms used in search w/out a geo modifiers.  The terms convert.  Additionally over the years and still get conversion requests from far away.  When we contact the “leads” they say they wanted a local (version of what we provide).

    Now what is the precise % of those searches and when you add them to the search phrases w/ geo modifiers..what percentage equates to local.

    Yahoo suggests “up to 40%”  google suggests 20% and an “ambiguous figure.   Who knows precisely?   Clearly though, there is an incredibly high volume of search phrases w/ local intent when used w/ or w/out geo modifiers.

    One additional factor, with regard to the google comments.   If you search through phrases connected to some local businesses….today you will find far far far more examples wherein google provides “localization” in its results off of those phrases w/out geo modifiers….and does so without an accompanying map. search includes a lot of results w/ localization.   

    It might have been specifically vague in responding to Greg with usage of the term “ambiguous”.  These days and for months it generates a lot more “localized results” in its searches.

    Google might not be showing its cards in interviews and questions but for a year and longer and clearly since the Venice update it clearly is responding to what it believes are localized search phrases at an increasing level.

    So what is the appropriate %?   I don’t know….but based on Yahoo’s comments and google’s recent actions I suspect it trends to the higher part of that range rather than the lower 20% part of that range.

    😀  My $0.02

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    […] mean that in March there were roughly 3.7 billion local searches on the PC in the US. If we use Yahoo’s 30% figure it would be more like 5.5 billion. The midpoint is 4.6 billion monthly local queries. (I believe […]

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    […] users are searching locally. Google has stated that 30% of all queries have local intent, and Yahoo concurs. More importantly; about half of these users don’t have a specific business in […]

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