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Consumers Trust Search Engines Over Friends, Brands When It Comes To Finding New Products

The rise of intelligent search has major implications for local businesses.

Approximately 80 percent of US internet users prefer to turn to a search engine to find or look up information about local businesses, according to research from the Local Search Association cited in a recent eMarketer report — meaning that the changes brought on by the rise of intelligent search have major implications for local SMBs.

Local businesses have always lived and died by discovery; if they can’t drive foot traffic from within their community, they won’t survive. But, with a significant majority of consumers turning to search engines to discover the world around them — rather than friends, family, or business websites directly — showing up when people make “near me” searches matters more than ever.

Additionally, for every online purchase resulting from a search, Google sees multi-channel retailers receive an additional 400 in-store visits — a statistic that reinforces how crucial search is to brick-and-mortar businesses of all stripes.

Searching ‘Smarter’

Nowadays, when people search for a restaurant nearby or a local car dealership, they don’t simply see a list of blue links; rather, today, “search is intelligent — and when you search for things, you get direct, structured answers,” explained Howard Lerman, CEO at Yext (full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here), in a Retail Week Live session in March.

Essentially, if a consumer searches for “new car,” they don’t simply see links — they see the knowledge card, with prices, configurations, features of cars for sale, and more, all seamlessly. Similarly, if someone Googles groceries or banks, they get maps back; Google now assumes someone is looking for a place if they search for something present in the physical world.

This means that local SMBs need to think about how people search, taking into account “unbranded” moments and searches that drive visits. For example, it’s not enough to show up in a search for “Tesco;” a supermarket needs to show up if a consumer makes a search for “groceries.” And that holds true not only for “traditional” text-based searches, but for the increased number of voice searches customers are making as well.

As iProspect’s Steve Beatty told GeoMarketing earlier this year, “[voice search] impacts local because once you’ve made that touch point, then you’re going to be able to connect with that person on the next level,” iProspect’s Steve Beatty told GeoMarketing earlier this month. “[That level] is, ‘Okay you’ve answered my question. Now maybe there’s more a transactional purpose I have with you because you helped me on the informational side.’ That leads into, ‘Okay, well where are local stores near me?’ One of the biggest things that I think you’re going to see in a shift in the marketplace is away from keywords and the new keyword is going to be proximity.”