Managing Your Business' Online Presence: Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Last week our very own Dave Cosper, VP of EZlocal, put together one of the most comprehensive slideshows on the topic of local search optimization to date. His entire presentation is superb and deserves a complete viewing, but today I’d like to focus on just one of his points (from slide 35):

Online local consumers are fragmented across multiple search engines and internet yellow pages sites – robust, broad content distribution is key to maximize reach.

So what does fragmentation mean? At the most basic level, fragmentation means that consumers seek out different resources when shopping locally. Some people go by word of mouth, others use printed yellow pages and yet others may follow printed reviews or ads in their local paper. However, the only “fragment” we are concerned about in this article is the online fragment, or the group of local consumers who turn to the internet in some manner when shopping for local products and services.

Fortunately for us, it turns out we aren’t missing much by ignoring the other fragments. According to a recent BIA/Kelsey user survey, 97% of consumers report using the Internet in some manner when shopping for a local product or service. However, before we get too excited, let’s examine how this large group of online consumers is further fragmented into even smaller divisions.

In an ongoing consumer tracking study conducted with research partner Constat, BIA/Kelsey found that “among consumers surveyed, 90 percent use search engines, 48 percent use Internet Yellow Pages, 24 percent use vertical sites, and 42 percent us comparison shopping sites.” Now we begin to see how fragmentation works against us. It isn’t as simple as putting our business’ information “online” and resting easy, knowing 97% of local consumers will find us. Instead we see that multiple bases have to be covered, at least 4 so far: search engines, internet yellow pages, vertical sites and comparison shopping sites. Unfortunately, the fragmentation doesn’t stop there.

Let’s look at largest fragment, the 90% of local consumers that use search engines. As is often the case, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that according to comScore, a company that tracks search engine market share, Americans conducted 15.4 billions searches in the month of March. You can be sure that at least a handful of those searches were potential customers looking for exactly what your business offers. The bad news is that these searches were not conducted in a single place, which means you have to make sure your business’ information is in all these different places. To give you some idea, here are the top five search engines by market share (courtesy of comScore):

Search EngineShare of Searches (%)
Google 65.1%
Yahoo! 16.9%
MSN/Bing 11.7% 3.8%
AOL 2.5%

An inspection of the other fragments will paint the same story. There is no single Internet Yellow Pages site, no single vertical site and no single comparison shopping site. Each fragment boasts many competing sites, each with their own following – fragments of fragments of fragments. 97% of local consumers may begin by consulting the internet, but they all end up in very different places, often drawing information from several sites and sources.

According to BIA/Kelsey, consumers are using an increasing number of online media sources when shopping for products or services in their local area:

YearNumber of Online Media Sources Used When Shopping Locally
2007 5.6
2008 5.8
2009 6.5
2010 7.9

As you can see, the trend toward fragmentation has been steadily increasing, even becoming more pronounced. Getting found online means listing your business everywhere because that’s where consumers are looking: everywhere. Furthermore, it’s often not enough just to list your basic business info. Search engines, internet yellow pages sites and vertical sites appreciate robust details and content. Creating a business listing will ensure that you CAN get found, creating a robust business listing will ensure that you DO get found.

For those of you brave enough to manage your own online presence, we wish you the best of luck. List your business everywhere and provide as much robust detail and content as possible in each listing. For those of you who don’t have the time to manage such an extensive campaign, EZlocal has created an easy and affordable single-source of online local search engine distribution, optimization and content management.