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Search Trumps Social For Local Business Information

The internet and search engines in particular are the top sources for information about local businesses, according to a new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Foundation. That’s not really a surprise. But what’s interesting perhaps is how many people rely on print newspapers and how few seem to rely on social media for local information, according to the survey data.

Pew surveyed just over 1,000 US adults by telephone in January, 2011. What it found was that 55 percent of people “say they get news and information about local restaurants, bars, and clubs” and 60 percent “say they get news and information about local businesses other than restaurants and bars” (presumably everything else). Here is the list of sources used . . .

Restaurants, Bars & Clubs, Internet Rules

When it comes to finding information about bars, restaurants and clubs, 51 percent use the internet overall, with this breakdown:

  • search engines – 38 percent
  • specialty websites – 17 percent (e.g., Yelp, though that was not specifically identified)
  • social media – 3 percent (social networks and Twitter)

As for offline media, the breakdown is this way:

  • 31 percent use newspapers (print [26 percent], online [5 percent])
  • 23 percent word of mouth
  • 8 percent rely upon local TV (traditional, online)

Internet Tops For Local Businesses, Too

When it comes to seeking information about other types of local businesses, 47 percent use the internet, with the breakdown this way:

  • search engines – 36 percent
  • specialty websites – 16 percent
  • social media – 1 percent

As for offline media, the breakdown is this way:

  • 30 percent use newspapers (print [29 percent], online [2 percent])
  • 22 percent word of mouth
  • 8 percent rely upon local TV (traditional, online)
  • 5 percent rely upon local radio

Multiple Sources Used

Pew also found people used roughly 14 different kinds of sources to get local information. A large percentage used or “relied upon” multiple sources. In addition, 47 percent of respondents said they got “local news and information” on their mobile phones.

Very strangely, online yellow pages or “local directory sites” were not among the choices given to survey respondents.

The finding that so few people use social media for local recommendations is somewhat surprising (given that it has been likened to “online word of mouth”). It shows that Facebook and Twitter have quite a distance to go to become useful local business discovery tools.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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