The use of localized search services such as Internet Yellow Pages is outpacing generalized Web search when people are looking for location-specific products, services and information, says a new study.
The study, performed by comScore Networks and commissioned by TMP Directional Marketing, found that local search grew 24 percent this year, while general search on Google, Yahoo, MSN and other sites grew at 14 percent.
The study also found that 82 percent of the people using local Web search sites follow up their research with offline action, including in-store visits, phone calls, e-mails or purchases. TMPDM said the finding shows advertisers cannot ignore the importance of integrating their online and offline marketing and advertising efforts.
TMPDM CEO Stuart McKelvey said 61 percent of those using local search sites eventually made purchases. He also noted that while print directory advertising, a $15 billion per year industry, remains larger than online local search, estimated to be a $9 billion market, print is static while online is growing.
Because the study was based on an online survey of 3,000 people, McKelvey said he was somewhat surprised to find that a third of the respondents said they continue to rely heavily on print directories as their main source of local business information. A full 90 percent of the respondents said print directories remain important tools for consumers seeking localized information.
According to the report, half of respondents said they chose Yellow Pages directories -- either print or online -- when looking for local information, while only 30 percent said they relied on Google and other big search engines and just 13 percent said they used other online sources.
A third of the respondents said they continue to rely on print Yellow Pages as their main source of local business information, the study found. While that means two-thirds of the people said they chose online sources for the information, those searches are divided by a number of different sites. McKelvey noted a dissection of the numbers reveals that the largest single source of local information remains traditional print, at 33 percent.
"You have two thirds of the consumers pointing toward online," he said. "But when you peel the onion, the print, yellow and white pages are still the number one source for local business. We were very surprised because it was an online panel saying they still use the print yellow pages."
McKelvey said the research shows that "people are using the online sources earlier in the research process" but later, when they are ready to make a purchase, they "are going to that trusted source of local information, the printed products, to validate phone numbers, addresses and store hours."
He added, "The story is one we kind of expected in that the advertiser still has to be in both places. You wouldn't want to ignore a third of your market place by pulling out of the print yellow pages The real point here is that the consumer is way ahead of the advertiser. They are doing two-thirds of local searches online, yet the majority of dollars are still spent offline."
This story has been updated and corrected. An earlier version indicated the growth rate for local search is 40 percent, compared with 20 percent for general search. The actual growth rates are 24 percent and 14 percent, respectively. The error was due to incorrect data provided by TMP Directional Marketing.
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