Name-specific searches replaced by categories

The 15miles/Localeze Local Search Usage Study was conducted in December by comScore to obtain an unbiased view of the local search market based on consumer usage.

It touched on various trends emerging in the local search landscape, such as the rise of tablets and mobile, new methods for finding local business information and daily deals, the trustworthiness and relevancy of local listings and the legitimacy of ratings and review sites.

One other trend that researchers touched upon was how local searches have shifted from business name to categories and trends. This is essentially what researchers call a shift from "white page" searching to "yellow page" searching, meaning users are searching and shopping using local resources to determine where to buy products instead of trying to find specific listings.

"This signals the need for businesses to move beyond simple Name, Address and Phone (NAP) listing optimization," the study explains, noting that they now must add "more robust content development and distribution to leverage this changing buyer behavior."

Specifically, the change in the devices people are searching on - shifting from PCs/laptops to mobile and tablets - has altered how they seek and select businesses. For instance, Yelp's rise now allows users to choose what they want (i.e. pizza, movies, local bars) and enter their specific location. Yelp then returns a bevy of options with reviews and star ratings for consumers to make the most educated choice.

ClickZ notes that users can even refine their search by neighborhood to see every business in the area with at least one review, and then filter by best match, highest rates, most reviews, price or features such as parking, reservations, credit card acceptance and WiFi.

ComScore researchers note that Yelp and other apps like it have transformed consumers from "finders" to "shoppers," meaning businesses and brands must expand their focus to add additional content that enables them to help potential customers select their companies based on comparisons with others in their niche.

In terms of specifics, between 2009 and 2011, researchers found a decline in searches for businesses by address (51 percent to 45 percent) and phone number (48 percent to 44 percent), with a corresponding rise in searches for consumer reviews (13 percent to 21 percent) and promotions or discounts (10 percent to 20 percent).