No question that Google, Yahoo and other search engines have revolutionized how we learn and how we shop. Today consumers are turning to the internet to research even the most common purchases and where to find local businesses that can provide them with the products or services they need. The question is…has your small business taken time to make sure that your company will appear in the search?
While doing some research for our upcoming Get Listed Locally seminar in Jonesboro on Tuesday, June 7th I came across a very informative blog on all things Local Search by a company called Bright Local. In late 2010 the company conducted an extensive study of consumer behavior when looking for information about local businesses. They published the report of the results in 3 parts with dozens of graphs and charts. I have pulled just a couple of the charts to help our local businesses determine whether taking the time to capture local listings was worth their effort.
In the study Bright Local wanted to know three things:
- How regularly do local consumers actually use online search for information about local businesses
- How important do local consumers feel that online reviews about a business are in their purchase decision
- Whether demographic factors such as age or gender play a part in local search activity
Do Consumers Actually Use Search Engines to Find Local Businesses?
The most obvious question any small business would want to know is whether consumers are really using online search for local businesses. The chart below asked how often consumers go to the internet to find information about local businesses broken out by age. As can be seen from the chart over 70% of those polled by Bright Local have used the Internet in the last year to find local businesses.
This graph is broken out into 3 age categories:
- 16-34 Years -
- 35-54 Years
- 55 and over
As would be expected younger consumers have grown up with the Internet and so are much more likely to respond that they search for information about local businesses on the Internet while those over 55 are less likely. But interestingly those in the middle category of 35-54 are neck and neck with the 16-34 year olds. Although 29% of those over 55 responded that they never used the internet to find local businesses, 11% of those 16-34 said they used it daily.
The obvious take away of this chart is that 16 to 54-year-old consumers do use the internet to look for your business and do so on a regular basis. The question is of course whether they find you or your competition.
Is There a Difference in the Type of Business in Local Search?
The next question I found interesting was the type of business that online consumers search for most often. In this graph, again by age it is apparent that local search spans a wide variety of types of businesses from retail, hospitality, professional, service and health.
As would be expected younger consumers (16-34) were more interested in local searches for “fun” or lifestyle type businesses such as bars, restaurants, hair salons, apparel retail stores and gyms while older customers, 55 and over were searching local listings for more practical businesses: accountants, tradesmen, builders, transportation, etc.)
Although not included in this article when the same question was broken out by gender it was obvious Gender plays an important part in the type of business searched. Women consumers were driving force in local search for clothing and accessory stores while men were more likely to search for tradesmen, garages, etc.
Surprisingly however local Doctors, Dentists and other Health care businesses were uniformly searched for by both men and women and age ranges. Again the take away is that consumers of all ages are using local search to find information about your business.
Do Recommendations Make a Difference in Visiting Local Businesses?
A final graph I wanted to share had to do with recommendations that other consumers post about local businesses on their sites and whether potential customers are actually influenced by a recommendation left by another customer. In this chart broken out by Gender the consumers were asked whether:
- Reviews left by others make NO difference – the consumer uses other factors like location or price
- Reviews are read but don’t influence
- Reviews have a positive impact on the likelihood the consumer will visit your store.
49% of both men and women said that positive customer reviews did play an important part in whether they use YOUR local business, although women were more likely (52%) than men (47%).
When the same question was asked by age categories younger consumers indicted that they were more likely than the other age categories to be positively influenced by recommendations (51% of those 16-34) compared to 47% of those 35-54 and 46% of those over 55.
To read the full report from Bight Local go to their blog site at and read the 3 Part Local Consumer Review Survey. I think it will be an eye-opener for a lot of Northeast Arkansas small businesses about how much your Local Online Presence means to consumers and the importance of making sure when they are searching that you business appears in the search engines.
If you would like to learn how to make sure you have “Captured Your Local Listings” on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines to optimize your ability to “Get Found OnLine” join the ASU Small Business and Technology Development Center on Tuesday, June 7th at the ASU Delta Center for a 3 hour workshop that will help you understand how local search works, how to make sure your business “claims” local sites and to optimize your site to improve ranking, as well as how to leverage reviews, recommendation, citations and much more.
The ASU SBTDC will offer this workshop in Jonesboro twice on June 7th: 1-4 pm and again from 6-9 pm. The cost is $35 per person, $25 for Jonesboro Regional Chamber and Downtown Jonesboro Association members, $20 for ASU Faculty, Staff and Students. Military Veterans, National Guard & Reservists and their family members may attend the 6 pm workshop AT NO CHARGE. For more information about the workshop or to register visit our Get Listed Locally Site and sign up today.