I did an interview with Rand Fishkin yesterday that was published at SEOMoz.org. One of the questions that came up in the interview was:
There have been estimates that nearly 40% of all search queries have some sort of local intent – to what degree do you think that’s an accurate estimate?
Here is the answer I provided:
This research is from my local guru, Greg Sterling. I have not looked at the methodology or the numbers and can’t speak directly to their accuracy, but the source is impeccable and the logic is valid. It provides a useful lens for understanding local. In the end it doesn’t really matter if it is 10%, 40%, 60% or more. If you are in one of the industries that needs local and can benefit from it, then you need it and you probably need professional help to navigate the maze that is local. If you need it and you don’t have a strong presence, it can be a disaster as seen in the case widely reported last December of the florist that was affected by a competitor gaining the Authoritative OneBox.
Local search is an aggregation of a million niches which will come to local as the ROI becomes more obvious to each of them. As the granularity of local data increases and functional mobile technology proliferates, more and more business sectors will be impacted and will benefit from participating in local.
Greg Sterling pointed out to me that the question is really a proxy for the question: Is Local a big deal? Should we take this seriously? And he pointed out that “most people still don’t get the online-offline connection aspect of local”.
Yesterday I experienced a case in point. Our family was spending a ski weekend with the families of my college friends and as it was raining, we were discussing books and chronic pain relief , the specialty of the friend with whom I was talking.
He thought he had ordered a certain book, but couldn’t remember exactly where or even what the title was and so we started a search in Google. After he made a few unsuccessful searches on Google for the author or the book name, we were able to tease out both on search 5 or 6. That took us ultimately to Amazon to verify the book and its name. From Amazon, we visited Borders.com to see if it was in either his or wife’s order account (which took us back to Amazon). Ultimately he discovered that he requested the book be sent to the local Borders for his pickup. Tomorrow when he gets back to Detroit, he is heading into his local Borders and picking up the book.
It reinforces Greg’s point that ultimately many searches have a local intent. We after all exist in a local world and fulfill our real needs in that world. One could say to paraphrase that “All search is Local” in that it is intended to impact our real lives in some way.