Search DominatesA new survey from Harris Interactive, sponsored by CityGrid Media, confirms what many already know: Search is the dominant way people look for local business information — online. On mobile devices, review sites have equal influence. The telephone survey was conducted in August among just over 1,000 US adults.

Slightly less than 60 percent (59 percent) of survey respondents said that search engines were the first place they go when researching local businesses. That number increased to 83 percent for those under 35 years old. Less than 10 percent (8 percent) said they visit the merchant’s site first.

On mobile devices, the story is somewhat different. The study found that 17 percent of adults “base their decision” on a search engine when researching a local merchant or restaurant. However, a comparable amount (15 percent) rely on review sites (e.g., Citysearch, Yelp) in a mobile context. Similar to the online findings, fewer than one in ten (8 percent) rely on merchant websites.

So while businesses need an optimized mobile presence, it’s not going to be as critical as presence in local search results and on review sites.

The other piece of data released this morning involved the distance users were willing to travel to try new businesses. The survey found the outside limit to be 30 miles for the majority of respondents. The majority (80 percent) said they wouldn’t travel more than 30 miles to try a new business. But a sizable minority were willing to go more than 15 miles:

39 percent said they were willing to go between 15 and 30 miles to try a new business
32 percent said they would travel less than 15 miles
20 percent said they’d go more than 30 miles

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