By Rieva Lesonsky
If you own a small business that relies on local customers—such as a retail store, restaurant or hair salon—how can you attract new customers? According to the results of a new study conducted by comScore and reported in MediaPost, local search, social networking, mobile apps and daily deal sites are the key ways consumers find out about local businesses today. Here’s some of what the study found, and how it affects your business.
Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of smartphone and tablet users search for local businesses on their mobile devices at least once a week. And nearly half (49 percent) of them use apps to conduct these searches. When they do find locations, consumers act: Eighty-six percent report that they made a purchase after conducting their most recent mobile search.
But local search and apps aren’t the only way customers are finding out about nearby businesses. ComScore reports there has been a 67 percent increase in people using social networks to search local businesses since 2010. More than one-third (35 percent) of those who use social networking sites to search for local businesses do so every day. And nearly half (45 percent) of social networking users say they also review or rate local businesses online, the study of more than 1 million people found.
If you’re paying for your business to turn up top in search results, comScore’s findings suggest you might be wasting your money. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of those who use online search to find businesses believe that local search serves up more relevant results than paid-search ads. (Just 10 percent thought the ads were more relevant). And 58 percent said they trust local search results more, while only 9 percent trusted paid-search ads. As you might expect, searches on social networks were considered to deliver the most relevant and most trustworthy results; 63 percent of respondents said they prefer to use social networks to find information about local businesses whenever they can.
Speaking of social, don’t forget the importance of daily deal sites. Some 60 percent of consumers in the survey said they regularly use daily deals. Overall, their favorite services were Groupon (88 percent) and Living Social (86 percent). Deals aren’t going away anytime soon, with a whopping 86 percent of respondents saying they will keep purchasing deals.
What’s the takeaway for your local business? It’s simple: Keep your business profile updated on all the major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo, as well as their map programs) and on social sites, local search sites and ratings and review sites. Consistency is key to making sure search spiders can find you, so make sure your business’s key information, including name, address and phone number, is the same across all search engines. It’s great to add more about your business, but none of that will matter if your basic data doesn’t match from Google to Yahoo and customers can’t find you.
Image by Flickr user Danard Vincente (Creative Commons)