Google Deck: Local Search 46%

So what’s the “real” percentage of search that carries local intent? This is a question that continues to lack a definitive answer.

Is it 30%; is it 40% — or more? I’m at events all the time where people put numbers and stats on slide decks that may or may not be correct or supported empirically. However, earlier this week Nick Wilsdon tweeted that an official Google presentation at Google’s Mountain View headquarters showed a stat that reported 46% of searches have local intent:

It’s not clear whether this was overall search query volume or mobile only. There’s no sourcing referenced; the implication is that this is Google’s internal data.

Google has published a range of local search numbers over the past several years. Some of these have been “official” and some of these have been casual statements made at events.

Local Search Figures

I asked Google to respond to the tweet; however so far the company has not. Its official position remains 30%. This is likely a “credible” number that the company can be confident about. Indeed, one of the challenges for Google is that there’s often ambiguity around search intent that can’t be fully inferred from the query itself.

If I search for “stove” or “Hawaii” are those “local searches”? What about “roots stuck in pipes” or “bike tune-up costs”? My long-standing argument about local and local search is that we need to look at the larger context of consumer behavior and the ultimate location of the transaction. If we do that inferring intent from individual queries becomes less important.

The vast majority of consumers (with internet access) are looking online and doing research before they purchase something offline. The overwhelming volume of transactions occur offline. People always talk about “retail” and say “more than 90% of transactions happen in stores.” But when discussing the topic of local you need to factor in the multi-trillion dollar service economy as well — this is where most SMBs operate.

Many trillions of dollars in offline spending, as opposed to $500 billion in e-commerce, are being influenced by local search, online product information, reviews and so on. This is what local search is ultimately about: the internet (increasingly mobile) impacting offline consumer purchase decision-making.

In that context it’s very easy to imagine that half (or more) of the searches people do ultimately lead to local transactions.

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