Local SMX – Search Trends in Local

I have recently returned from LocalSMX and hope to blog on the event, incredible people and our research relating to Maps over the next week. But I wanted to touch on one of the keynotes delivered Frazier Miller of Yahoo (summarized here by Greg Sterling).

Frazier noted that growth in local queries at Yahoo experienced 76% year over year growth compared to a roughly 35% Y/Y growth in the previous year. He noted that the average user was querying 12 times per month vs 8 and that the query strings were moving heavily towards 3 and 4 word local queries from 1 and 2 (plus locale).

What struck me as so significant was that this growth appears to be occurring despite a flattening or downtrend in the long standing leaders of short tail queries in the local space like hotels, restaurants and real estate. Here is a Google Trends screenshot for real estate + locale:

This downward or flat trend is apparent in many of the queries that are dominant in local search: restaurants + locale, hotel + locale, lawyers + locale.

My sense of this conflicting trends is that this is actually a positive trend for a number of reasons….

Reason One: Users are becoming more sophisticated and starting their locale query with more targeted phrasing. And Google and Yahoo must be delivering useful results.

Reason Two: The success of the vertical search engines.

In the past, I have expressed fears that the shear overwhelming power of the main page of the Google & Yahoo main search results pages, gave the primary search companies the power to “squeeze the air out of the room”. I.E. that with a little effort Google could expand their presence in the local market (ala the OneBox) and deny these high quality verticals room in which to function. That appears to not be happening.

As long as Google and Yahoo are seeing year over year increases of 76% there appears to be enough growth to go around, giving these high quality verticle search engines a chance to grow and dominate their niche. Having that variety in the market is in everybody’s long term best interest.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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4 thoughts on “Local SMX – Search Trends in Local”

  1. It could also be effected by the crumbled real estate markets. The high fuel prices and costs of food are probably effecting restaurants as well. But your theory is still sound.

  2. The “city name real estate” example is not really depicting the decline in the real estate market. Search trends were in decline from 2004 while real estate market began to crumble around late 2006 (in USA).

    If you do the same search for major Canadian cities you see the same decline in search volume while real estate markets continued to climb through to this year (Canadian market is peaking now and starting to turn).

    So i think the decline is better explained by an increase in sophistication in user behavior. Someone today looking for real estate in Boston may instead do this “uphams corner real estate” or “cambridge 2 bedroom condos for sale”. They get more specific to exact communities within the city as a broad metro real estate search may overwhelm them with too many listings in parts of the city they don’t want. Their tails are getting longer too.

    As more and more small businesses come online with their own websites, or through Google Maps and Yahoo Local listings, searchers are noticing that finer scale local searches are now producing decent results.

    But Goog Trends data ain’t fine scale enough to test this. But keyword usage in my clients webstats certainly supports it. I see lots and lots of longtail local key phrases.

  3. @Stever

    Thanks for the response, the added detail and .CA perspective.

    I also saw the trend across many markets and industries. If you follow the examples above (hotels, restaurants, lawyers)…at best you will no growth and usually significant declines over that 4 year period tracked by Trends.

    The lack of granularity does limit the usefulness of Trends as a testing environment, but seeing the search for Yelp San Francisco (above) does buttress the idea that the larger verticals are taking up some of that traffic.

    Another item of note is that Google removed the Local OneBox on the search Real Estate + Locale about a year and half ago and put in a real estate inventory search onebox. That response didn’t seem to slow the decline.

    Mike

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