Restaurant Search Sites See 30% Growth in Smartphone Audience

The Local Search Association (LSA) recently released consumer data showing that in “past week” searches, restaurants were by far the most searched for business category. The restaurant category has long been a major beneficiary of online search and new, related data shows that restaurant local search sites are growing mobile audiences at a significant rate.

According to data from comScore, overall smartphone audience size in March 2015 for restaurant and city guides has grown nearly 30% compared to March 2014. While the growth rate varied by venue, the overall trend among these local search sites parallels what we saw earlier this year: consumers are using mobile devices more than PCs to find local/offline information.

One of the more interesting figures in the chart above is the share of smartphone audience TripAdvisor captures in relation to its restaurant information. Being a tool for and powered-by travelers or out-of-towners as opposed to local people with a stronger sense of what their city has to offer, I find it interesting to see just how much people are utilizing TripAdvisor for restaurants.

Whatever the outlet used, consumers are turning to mobile in greater number for finding and selecting restaurants. Pair that with the frequency of searches for restaurants and success greatly hinges upon showing up in search results online across the various sites.

Given the intense competition for search real estate on engines and listing sites alike, restaurants may benefit from paid search opportunities within these outlets more than other categories would. While optimizing for SEO and claiming listings will help boost page rank, paid efforts help restaurants rise to the top of mind.

The growth in mobile audiences doesn’t change the importance of showing up in results or the power of paid search ads, but it does impact the choice of where to spend in relation to these paid opportunities. With consumers using mobile devices over PC to find local information at about a 60/40 split, restaurants that haven’t already, should consider moving ad dollars into mobile search ads in order to stay in front of this growing audience.

Relative to other categories, one can be sure that searches related to restaurants will often lead to a purchase rather quickly. With the shift to mobile and speed by which consumers go from search to purchase with restaurants, not developing a mobile paid search strategy is a missed opportunity.

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