As search engines grow and local search becomes increasingly popular, phone books seem to be turning obsolete. One recently released survey, however, indicates that phone books are still slightly more popular than local search engines. The accuracy of this survey is heavily debated, but it carries a good lesson in search optimization.
The local search survey
The Local Search Association, previously known as the Yellow Pages Association, commissioned a study on local search habits. Research firm Burke surveyed 8,000 U.S. adults; 80 percent of respondents answered an online survey and 20 percent answered a phone survey. The survey found that 84 percent of individuals use Yellow Pages online or in print to find a business and 76 percent use search engines. The survey also indicates that about 32 percent of customers use social networks to find businesses and about 1 percent of individuals trust social networks for business information, while Yellow Pages have 51 percent trust.
Questions about accuracy of local search survey
The results of the local search survey are leaving more questions than answers. Search engine trends seem to point to more customers using local search than this survey indicates. The age groups surveyed for this study and the methodology are also unclear. As of the time of this writing, the Local Search Insider page outlining the methodology is not available. The perception is that Yellow Pages use seems to be declining, while specialized directory listings and location-aware services are increasing in use.
How to put this survey to use
For local businesses and anyone looking to build a business, this survey seems to indicate that without an ad or listing in the Yellow Pages, you are shooting yourself in the foot. The reality is, however, that the trajectory of local search (and this survey) includes digital directories. Getting your business included in directory listings and keeping that information updated is important. Quality is as important as quantity. As long as you are where the customers are looking, you shouldn’t have to spend significant amounts of money just to be found. A Yellow Pages ad will have declining returns, while updated digital listings will continue to be more valuable. Claim your listing and control your digital business identity.