According to a study just released by comScore and reported by ClickZ, the growth rate of local search significantly exceeded the growth rate of regular web search (24% vs. 14%, respectively). This is great news for all small, medium and large companies with physical storefronts that are looking to increase offline traffic and sales. Even better, the study found that 82% of people using local search followed up their online searches with offline actions, including store visits, phone calls, emails or purchases. 61% of local searchers actually purchased something offline.
With impressive numbers like these, it’s important to note that online ad spending in local search sites is still only about $9 billion, compared to $15 billion spent in offline directories. This spread is not surprising considering 90% of people still consider offline directories an important resource for finding local companies. However, only 30% of respondents said they rely heavily on printed directories for local products and services.
The bottom line is that it’s still too early to abandon printed directories totally, but your online local marketing spend should be growing at a much faster rate than your offline spend. The beauty of local search marketing online is that it doesn’t have to always come at the expense of other expenditures. There are plenty of “free” ways to promote your business online in local directories and local search engines such as Google Maps and Yahoo! Local. It’s still early in the game for local search engine marketing. Early movers will gain an advantage over competitors that are slow to adapt to changing consumer search and research habits.