SES Local starts today in Denver, so it's timely that comScore released new local search data, which they'll be presenting at the show. Here are the top-level findings:
"According to the study, 63 percent of U.S. Internet users (or approximately 109 million people) performed a local search online in July, a 43-percent increase versus July of 2005. Google Sites (30 percent) and Yahoo! Sites (29 percent) garnered the largest share of local searches in July. Microsoft Sites captured 12 percent of local searches, followed by the Time Warner Network with 7 percent."
The release has the full market-share breakdown.
comScore also found that local searches were close in time to buying decisions:
"[P]erforming a local search drives consumers to take action. During the second quarter of 2006, 47 percent of local searchers visited a local merchant as a result of their search behavior, while 41 percent made contact offline. More than one-third (37 percent) made contact online as a result of conducting a local area search."
comScore defines "local search" in a relatively narrow way, including search engines and online yellow pages sites. But, in fact, user behavior with a local intent is a much bigger phenomenon, touching classifieds sites, verticals, online newspapers and social networks to varying degrees. Classifieds growth in particular has been striking, with 37 million users in July in that category alone.
And if you start to consider how many people conduct product research that converts offline, it becomes and even bigger category. But people might disagree with casting the definitional net too wide.