Trends in online search behavior

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by Laurie Sullivan, Media Post Publications

About 45% of consumers don’t have a specific business in mind when conducting a local search online. In fact, more local business searchers begin with general keyword terms in search queries. They have products and services in mind, but they are not sure where to make the purchase, according to a study released Monday from 15miles, the local, mobile and social marketing arm of TMP Directional Marketing.

On the other hand, 56% of social and 60% of mobile users are more likely to search with specific businesses in mind because they are already outside the home looking for a nearby business to fill a need. The study points to a lack of sophisticated search functions in social networks for the differences.

This year’s 15miles Fourth Annual comScore Local Search Usage Study identifies the power of local, mobile and social search among consumers. The study confirms that 70% of survey respondents view search engines, online Yellow Pages or social networks as their primary sources of local business information.

Search engine queries continued to increase at a strong rate with 9% year-over-year growth. Non-search engine queries such as Facebook and craigslist rose 22%, off a smaller base, to capture more than one-third of total query volume. This also impacts local. Of the 9% of local business searchers who use social networks, 93% said they use Facebook to find information on local business.

Most research today focuses on where searches happen, but this study looks at where sales occur. Google, Bing, Facebook and Twitter are just a sample of the major players to enhance local search features in the past year. It also examines how to make sense of consumers‘ changing behaviors across various media types, and what impact search trends have on the bottom line.

By measuring consumer behavior and the impact on decisions, the study reveals insights that are necessary to influence marketers‘ search strategies. Key factors include:

Trend 1: Online search is the preferred method for information about local businesses, with 70% of consumers citing online sites as their primary source.

Trend 2: Search engines are most popular, but they are not growing as fast as other media.

Trend 3: Local searchers are more apt to buy.

Trend 4: Businesses must develop a comprehensive search presence with essential information.

Trend 5: To develop a complete search presence, local businesses must consider every avenue.

Trend 6: Print is declining, but it still holds value for today’s consumers as a secondary source.

Trend 7: With emerging media on the rise, a diverse media mix must now include social and mobile marketing.

Consumers who use social networks and mobile smartphones are more likely to use and write reviews. More than 40% have submitted between two and five reviews in the past 30 days. In fact, 78% of social networkers — up 3% from the prior year — and 71% of mobile users — up 9% from the prior year — consider consumer ratings and reviews important in making their purchase selections.

Of those participating in the survey, 81% believe it’s important for local businesses to respond to questions and complaints on social sites; 78% want special offers, promotions and information about events; and 66% believe that company photos are important.


Rumor: Bing to Get Its Clutches on Twitter's Feed Before Google

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BY Kit EatonWed Oct 21, 2009 at 7:22 AM

We’ve heard suggestions like it before, but apparently Microsoft is now very close to securing a connection to Twitter’s digital data stream to get live Tweet search powers into Bing. Google’s execs will surely be foaming at the mouth at the news.

Bing and TwitterBack in July we reported on an experimental connection between Bing and Twitter that gave Bing users access to a real-time search on certain „prominent“ Tweep’s Tweets, and it was only a few weeks ago that more rumors popped up of talks between Google, Microsoft, and Twitter for a full access plan.

All of that seems to have concluded with a deal between MS and Twitter that’s absolutely ready to pop, according to AllThingsD’s sources. MS executives and engineers have apparently been busy chatting and problem-solving with Twitter right up to yesterday–all of which could point to an announcement at the Web2.0 conference which starts today.

It’s big news for Bing–even if Google follows not too far behind, since it’ll be beating its arch-rival to the real time data prize, garnering much press coverage and excitement along the way. And it represents a significant step for Twitter too, placing it as a significant player on the real-time data stage with enough negotiating power to avoid an exclusivity deal with Google, Bing or anyone else. The rumors seem to be suggesting that Twitter’s ad-avoiding plans may also be about to change, with embedded Bing or Google ads on Twitter’s site being a part of the deal.

Twitter’s clearly very much on the surge right now, though even while Comcast’s CEO is noting it’s such a powerful tool it’s „changed the culture“ of Comcast (thanks to consumer complaint Tweets) Twitter’s own CEO Ev Williams is carefully restating that Twitter’s business model is still not revenue-centric. Speaking to BusinessInsider, Williams remarked that the team was spending „97% of our efforts trying to improve the product“ with a view of building-in long term value. Letting Microsoft tap into the flow of Tweets will clearly generate cash for Twitter, but it tallies somewhat with what Williams is saying–it doesn’t require too much effort or front-end adaptation on Twitter’s behalf, which won’t distract from the business of pushing Twitter’s powers onwards and upwards.

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