The BlueglassX View: Why Local Search Hypergrowth Is Here

BlueglassX Local Mobile Search Panel John DennyI had a great experience this week at BlueGlassX Tampa Moderating the “Local Mobile Domination” session the morning of day two at the conference.  On my panel were two of the current Rock Stars of the local search world- David Mihm (formerly President of and just now joining SEOMoz) and Dr. Michael Dorausch of Planet Chiropractic (who has been featured in USA Today and Investors Business Daily for his skills in local). To set up the session I shared a bunch of industry data on how and why the “market” for local search– meaning the number of searches as well as the opportunity for local businesses to drive results through organic search rankings– is exploding right now.  Since I pulled a lot of data during my research and had only a limited amount of time to present during the session, I’m adding some super special bonus info here for all of you local search propeller heads.

Why The Number Of Local Searches is Skyrocketing

As I discussed during the session, the primary reason this market is growing so rapidly starts with the upward ramp of mobile (for more background on that topic see my post on the new Multi-Platform world). As the analysts at Business Insider Intelligence recently pointed out in the chart below, in 2011 sales of smartphones passed PC’s for the first time, and now are on pace to “dwarf” them over the next few years.

The Growth of MobileWe know that once users upgrade to a smartphone, their behavior changes dramatically.  They are now “always on” — or always connected to the internet– and their phone essentially turns into a what I call a  “local discovery machine” when they’re on the go. Data from the Google/Ipsos “Our Mobile Planet” research series bears this out, showing that:

  • 94% of smartphone owners have looked for local information, and 90% have taken action as a result of that search
  • 58% look for local information at least once a week
  • 27% look for local information daily

We also know that while local search is a major activity on desktop PC’s, the number is significantly higher for mobile devices. While a Google representative recently reported (as Mike Blumenthal related on his blog) that one in three searches on Google overall (across all devices) are local, various sources have reported that the percentage of searches with local intent on mobile devices is in the neighborhood of 50%.  The bottom line: more smartphones equals more local search.

This conclusion was echoed this year when Mike Boland and the analysts at BIA Kelsey looked at some of the data related to the growth of Mobile Local Search.  They ended up with a prediction that Mobile Local Search would pass desktop search in 2015– growing by 600% in 5 years.  The reason?  As Boland wrote:

“A lot of this has to do with mobile local searches per user — growing from about 14 per month to 42 per month by 2016. But it’s also a function of the number of mobile search users — growing from 44 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers (about 118 million users) to 75 percent by 2016 (225 million users).”

Here is the data they put together:

BIA Kelsey Local Mobile Search Growth through 2016


Google Increasingly “Favoring” Personalized & Localized Results

At the same time mobile is driving rapid growth of local searches, Google’s SERP’s are increasingly turning the dials toward local results. Largely lost amidst all the press about Penguin and Panda this year was one of the most important updates impacting local search results- which happened in March and was code-named “Venice”.  As Google wrote in a blog post about the update, they are now “better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user” and have created a “new system to find results from a user’s city more reliably”.  The end result is when a user searches for broad match key words like “coffee” or “gas” — without a geo modifier indicating location– Google will return local listings in the organic results in addition to the standard local “pinned” listings.  Mike Ramsey of Nifty Marketing wrote a great piece detailing the impact of Venice, and the screencap below from his blog post gives a good view of the changes:

Mike Ramsey Google Venice Results

The end result of all this?  More queries triggering local search results, and a clear trend from Google that they will be increasingly personalizing search results to each and every user.  This means that those results will individually reflect each users geo-location at every given moment–  where-ever they happen to be.

So what do you need to do about all this

If you are a Digital Marketer connected in any way to driving results in local markets, your time is now. As I said in my talk, there are a handful of people who truly “get” this space—who rock this unique discipline that is very distinct from the broad practice of SEO—and you need to become obsessed with everything they write and say. My two panelists David Mihm and Dr. Mike lead the pack, along with people like Mike Blumenthal, Will Scott, Mary Bowling, and Matt McGee.  A core group of the leaders of local search are part of David and Mike Blumenthal’s Local University “Faculty”, who regularly travel directly to smaller local cities to teach seminars for local businesses (watch this page for upcoming Local U events– if it comes to your town, don’t walk, run to sign up).  There is also a broader group of experts that David has organized who are surveyed every year to determine key “Local Ranking Factors”.  Anybody who makes it on this list has been “canonized” by David as a local search Rock Star.  Go to the list here, follow every one of these people on Twitter, and subscribe to their blogs in an RSS feed.  Study every crumb they give you.  Learn what they eat for breakfast.  If you can absorb and adopt 10% of the tips and strategies that these guys tell you– and Ninja’s like Dr. Mike relayed in his BlueglassX panel talk– your company’s cash flow will start looking a whole lot like the smartphone sales curve.


John’s digital experience dates back over two decades, to before the web was born. He is currently VP Marketing for Advance Digital, and is a regular writer and speaker on topics including Search, Social Media, Content Marketing, Local Media and the Digital Marketing Revolution.

5 responses to “The BlueglassX View: Why Local Search Hypergrowth Is Here

  1. Great advice, John. As consumers increasingly move online, small businesses need to move online, too, or be left behind.
    We really appreciate your recommendation for LocaU. Thanks!

  2. Love that you invested the time to put all this together. I’m excited by the numbers you’ve shared for mobile and local, we’ve got some serious hills to climb. Cheers and great being on the panel with you!

  3. Thanks guys for the comments. Mary- your Local U presentations are still some of my favorites of all time, and Mike tell me where your next secret tips session is and I’m flying there to see it!

  4. Pingback: Local Digital Marketing Basics: A Quick Primer on Priorities | John H. Denny

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