Mike Blumenthal showed me a Google blog post I’d missed. Among other data from Google it said, “Proportion of Google result pages that show a map in search results: 1 in 13.” If you do the simple math, that’s just over 7% of pages, but it’s hundreds of millions every month out of about 9.7 billion search queries coming through Google in the US in December.
This is a striking number but it’s important to note that it doesn’t define the entire universe of “local search” on Google. In the past comScore has said about 12% of search queries are local. But the company uses what I would describe as a conservative methodology to calculate this number. In particular it doesn’t capture general search queries without a geographic modifier (e.g., “dentist”), for which Google is now often showing a map and local results.
My belief and argument is that “local intent” searches should be counted as those that result in an offline transaction or must be fulfilled offline. That’s hard to measure of course. But it would encompass all or the overwhelming majority of real estate, restaurant, events/entertainment and services type searches at the outset.
I would also argue that because 96.3% of US retail is offline, that more than 90% of product related queries are ultimately local. They may not be “inherently” local because one can buy most goods online. But product research typically results in an offline transaction and so these searches should be considered local or implicate local at least.
As the inventory database proliferates online and in mobile this consumer behavior will become increasingly transparent. Smartphone user behavior again confirms that consumers are looking for places to buy things offline, in the real world (click to enlarge chart):
Source: Compete, Inc., Q3 2009
Once again it doesn’t matter what percentage of search queries are local as an abstract principle, the vast majority of consumer spending is offline. The Internet (and mobile) are instrumental in that consumer shopping and research process. The Internet is a marketing platform that influences offline consumer buying.
That’s the bigger picture that we need to focus on.