Local search engines account for more than half of local searches and convert faster, but Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) perform better in terms of spending volume and the overall likelihood of users to convert. Those are the key findings of a comScore/Yellow Pages Association (YPA) study to be released Tuesday.
The study, entitled "Local Search Consumer Behavior," looks at 2004 data from 1.5 million households. It compares IYP and search engine use across several categories, including financial services, health care, home services, auto products/services and restaurant dining. comScore examined 150 IYPs and the top five search engines, and looked into both online and offline spending.
The results show search engines account for 58 percent of unique local searches, as compared to IYP's 42 percent; and the users of local search engines were six percent more likely to transact within a single session.
However, IYP exhibited several notable advantages from a marketing and sales standpoint.
For one, users were more likely to conduct a transaction within a month of conducting a local search. Fifty-seven percent of those measured did so, versus search engines' 48 percent. IYP users also tended to spend more, online and offline, following their local searches. This was true in at least four categories: automotive, general services, health and beauty and home and garden.
The study indicates IYPs have a usability edge, as well. ComScore reports IYP searchers arrive at desired search results more quickly, requiring 4.6 clicks on average versus local engines' 7.6.
"We were pleased with the findings, but not necessarily surprised," said Neg Norton, president of the YPA. "We see the behavior of the Internet Yellow Pages as similar to behavior of print Yellow Pages. Consumers have already made up their mind to buy and go to print and online Yellow Pages to make a more informed decision."
The report also illuminates demographic differences between the two local search mechanisms. IYP users skewed older and wealthier than search engine users, and they were more likely to have home broadband and bachelor degrees
"The demographics of the people who are using Yellow Pages, or the derivatives of Yellow Pages, would tend to skew older and wealthier than people who are using local search," said John Kelsey, president and CEO of the Kelsey Group. "I would expect Internet Yellow Pages would today tend to generate higher revenue per sale than local search."
While the study results lean toward the IYP's effectiveness in click-rates and dollar returns, there are still search areas and categories where local search engines excel.
"Yellow Pages has strengths in specific categories that do well. However there are also areas where search engines have better results: trading stocks, financial and shopping [areas] such as buying antiques," said Yellow Pages Association research consultant Jim Messina. "The real balance here in the study is in terms of objectivity when you look at detail. There are some categories that are strong for the Yellow Pages and some categories stronger for search engines."
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