Is It Becoming Less Important To Market Search Close To Home?

Local search can be the bread and butter for a lot of businesses.  The benefits and competition for marketing businesses to a targeted area were recently highlighted by the long stream of marketing blogs responding to the New York Times reporting on the flaws of Google Places.  The widely known issue that the places ranked by Google are not necessarily local was researched and reported by the New York Times, using the standard Lock Smith example, and then commented on by everyone else.

Last week the local search conversation took a turn with the release of Chitka Insights data indicating a higher percentage of local searches being performed in small southern cities, than in larger markets like New York and LA.  Along with the research data, Chitka offers the analysis that, “this comparison suggests that in the less dense interior of the U.S., there will be a greater demand from users for local search results, perhaps out of necessity. As geographic and population density decrease, a user’s tendency to search local has the potential to increase, for the importance of searching locally to ‘find what you need’ not only takes greater priority but, begins to encompass a different definition.”

What should data-driven marketers take from the local search data?

I think it is safe to say, not much.  It’s a mildly interesting statistic, but not one that should be used to make changes to local search strategy.  The research is a sample of a week’s worth of searches that were examined to identify the amount and source of those that were deemed local.  The data-mining to pull value from the local search research project has just begun.

I don’t know if the data says so much about the amount of local searches taking place, as it might about the amount of searches taking place in general.  I am not painting with a broad brush when I point out that in larger cities, there are exponentially more people with desk jobs who are searching online researching industry and business information.  This does not mean that those people  aren’t searching for local restaurants, grocery stores, hardware stores, etc. as well.  The amount and type of searches happening in large cities would certainly dilute the ratio for local search, when comparing the search numbers to largely industrial small cities, as discussed in the data analysis.

This is not to say there isn’t something to be gained through the available local search data available, it’s just a data-driven marketer’s words warning to make sure that any data analysis used to develop marketing strategy needs to be asking the right questions.