Nearly 60% prefer PC to smartphones for local search survey finds, but there’s a catch

Nearly 60% prefer PC to smartphones for local search survey finds, but there’s a catch


If your operating assumption about local search is that Google lookups on smartphones dominate traffic, you wouldn’t be alone. But now comes a new consumer survey (n=500 U.S. adults) from Ignite Visibility that presents a number findings that appear to upend the conventional wisdom about local search.

Some surprising findings. Some of these seemingly contrarian include:

  • 59% of those surveyed still prefer to search for local information on a desktop (“type into a computer”).
  • White Pages was the app or website [most trusted] when reviewing [(looking for)] local businesses, followed closely by Yahoo Local, Angie’s List, and Yelp. 
  • 61% [prefer] to call a business over any other form of communication, and 22% [prefer] email.
  • 81% [of respondents] do not leave online reviews.
  • 74% don’t bother to check a local business’s Facebook page before visiting.

What is your favorite way to search for local businesses?

Source: Ignite Visibility (2019)

Some of these findings are surprising, especially: nearly 60% prefer local search on the desktop and is the most trusted source for local business information. There’s a likely explanation for this, which i discuss below.

One negative review a deal breaker. The survey did find that respondents relied on Google (70%) more than other search engines for local business lookups. And it found that reviews were very influential in purchase decision-making. One negative review would be enough to “stop them from calling a local business.” In most other surveys, some critical ratings confer credibility on the broader set of reviews for the business in question.

Roughly 55% of respondents spent an hour or less considering local businesses online before taking action of some kind (i.e., making a phone call). Beyond reviews, these respondents relied most heavily on the GMB “business description, followed by quality photos (11.8%) and quality videos (6.9%).”

When you reach out to a local business, what contact method do you prefer the most?

Source: Ignite Visibility (2019)

Why we should care. There are reports published daily about consumer and advertiser behavior, with the majority of them generated for PR purposes. That doesn’t mean they’re invalid, but no single survey should be relied upon. We should look for consensus and consistent findings.

The likely explanation for some or much of the data in the Ignite Visibility survey is the demographic and, to a lesser degree, geographic profile of respondents. Roughly 60% of the 500 people who filled out this online survey were from the South and the Midwest. But more importantly, about 90% of respondents were over 55 years old, with 56% of that group over 65 years old. Less than 2% of respondents were under age 35.

A 65 year old is much less likely to prefer voice search and mobile devices to the PC and probably less likely to use social media. They’re also inclined to use the phone for local business communication compared to messaging. I’m sure we could find many 65 year olds who defied these generalizations. But it’s safe to say there are material differences between user behaviors of different generations.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

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