Survey: People Are Searching Online for Local Businesses

Feb 4, 2010

By Aparna Agarwal

Nielsen recently conducted a survey on the Internet usage habits of U.S. consumers.  Two hundred randomly selected consumers were quizzed about their preferences when it comes to searching for information about local businesses and their attitudes towards advertising.

There has been an increase in the number of people using the Internet to look for information on local business in the past year, with 86% of the respondents having used it.  81% of the respondents called the Internet “vital” to their lives.

Among the various tools, search engines were rated as the top resource.  Most people prefer businesses that are close to their homes with 70% of the respondents saying they like to stay within a 20 minute drive from home. While most consumers use multiple information sources, 75% of people said they read user reviews about local business’s products or services with the popularity of online reviews increasing with the age of respondents.  People also trusted blogs as a source of information though most do not contribute to them. Blogs tend to provide a balanced opinion. The survey shows that 45% of the blogs provide negative reviews, 15% provide mixed and 40% provide positive reviews. These reviews can be very important in the consumer’s decision making process as 70% of the respondents said they bought a product/ service from a local business after having researched it online.

The survey also questioned consumers about their attitudes toward online advertising or SEM (Search Engine Marketing). There seems to be a clear preference toward SEM as compared to “push” advertising.  73% of the respondents feel that they have been “over-exposed” to advertising. However, this does not imply that these ads have been ineffective in achieving their goals. Only 24% of the consumers said that they have never been influenced by an ad, but most consumers would still prefer to search for the products or services themselves rather than have an overwhelming number of ads thrown toward them.