In Evolving Media Landscape, Yellow Pages and Search Engines Are Go-To Sources for Consumers Shopping Locally

Last year, we launched a new study from Burke that looks at habits of consumers searching for local business information among various local media.  The Local Media Tracking Study is an important one for our industry because it takes a comprehensive view on local media, and this year we’ve expanded it to include social networks as part of the questionnaire.

The findings from this year’s report show an increasingly fragmented media marketplace, with consumers consulting two to three sources of local information on average when making a purchase.  They are still using their Yellow Pages – either print, online, or both – but search engines have increased their reach over last year’s study.  Today, Yellow Pages and search engines dominate the local search space among all media.  Last year, 84% of people used a Yellow Pages product and 76% used a search engine to find a local business.

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The key takeaway for the local business advertiser is that the most successful approach to marketing is an integrated one.  You can’t ignore any medium, and you have to take a look at how your print Yellow Pages ad, your Internet Yellow Pages listing, your website, your SEO program, and your social networking platforms can all work together to reach the most customers possible.

Because our industry’s history is firmly rooted in Yellow Pages, I watch with interest how the increasingly fragmented media landscape impacts print directories.  What’s notable is that, despite the dramatic increase in popularity in digital channels, print directories continue to be a trusted source of information with usage that is quite high – much higher than many people expect.

In 2010, consumers generated 11 billion references to print Yellow pages. (comScore found that Internet Yellow Pages generated 5.6 billion searches in 2010, for a Yellow Pages industry total of 16.6 in 2010.)

More than 7 out of 10 (74%) consumers say they use print Yellow Pages, and 78% say they use print directories (either a print Yellow Pages or a business white pages).  Even if the total number of lookups in print has dropped slightly, the quality of these leads for businesses is very high – nearly 8 in 10 print Yellow Pages lookups resulted in a purchase or purchase intent.

Additionally, Yellow Pages products continue to perform well with consumer perceptions. Consumers say Yellow Pages are the most trusted, most accurate source they choose first when searching for local business information.  Consumers also rate Yellow Pages as the first chosen, easiest and most convenient to access, and the source they find “best in class” for finding information on local businesses.

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A new entry on our survey this year is social networks.  Certainly, social networks capture significant attention among media and industry observers.  And while the survey is clear that social networks are important for businesses to consider – 32% said they used an Internet social network to find a local business – they do not yet have the reach that Yellow Pages and search engines have established.  I expect we’ll see this number grow next year.

If you’d like to understand more about how the study is conducted, take a look at our post from last year outlining the methodology used in the Burke study. Click here to read our press release with additional information about this year’s study.

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