From our experience with search engines, online ads, and local advertisers, we can say with certainty that searchers looking for products or services to be purchased locally often do not include the name of their city, town, or zip code in their searches. We’re talking a lot of the time…around half or more in some verticals. From the search perspective, this is significant, because including a city name usually triggers local natural search results as opposed to what we’ll call national results to contrast the two.

With the hope that this post will stimulate scholarly or scientifically valid behavioral research as to the reasons why searchers do not include geodescriptors in their queries, we’re going to have a little fun and go out on a limb with TopSide Media’s Five Categories of Online Local Search Behavior.

TopSide’s Five Categories of Online Local Search Behavior

  1. Location Centric
    This searcher type knows that through his/her internet service provider (ISP) and IP address, the search engines, and even some web sites, know where he/she is located. So, why should anyone have to type a city or zip code in the search box?
    To see an example of a web site that recognizes your location, go to On their home page, just under the header graphics, you will see your city’s name in bold. Disclosure: I purchased a radiator from these guys recently; and no, they are not a TopSide Media client.
  2. Product or Service Centric
    A second type is the searcher who is not aware of how search engines work. They are focused on the features of the product or service they are interested in–not about how the latest search algorithm works with or without city names included. I once had a boss named Bud who regularly reminded me that “customers want what they want, when they want it”. Bud’s advice did not include anything about where, so his description certainly applies to this type of searcher.
  3. Swamped
    These searchers are busy and want to type the fewest words necessary. Less typing = faster info. On to the next item…fast
  4. Handheld Choppers
    The choppers type on a PDA or cell phone keypad most of the time and always use shortcuts when typing. Even on ther desktp
  5. The Search Gamer
    This searcher knows a lot about how search engines work but likes to play Stump the Chump. That way, they get to see the latest tweaks in the search engine settings and do business with the most web savvy local companies without having to type much to start with, or reload the page with more a detailed search. Rather than starting with a highly specific multi-word query and working out to broader ones (like an engineer or other left brainer would), the Search Gamer types in vague, one or two-word searches to see which webmasters or search engine advertisers have anticipated his or her sporting query and can serve up the most relevant results to it.

Why this matters to web site owners

From the perspective of marketing/advertising cost and reaching the customers you want to target (while excluding those you do not wish to reach) this topic matters a lot.

Example: If you provide a product or service that gets implemented locally, such as muffler replacement or a dentist office, you only want questions or requests for appointments within your service area, right? Unless you are selling ad space, reaching web searchers outside that area only wastes your time and money. Consider this: if your city has a population of 1 million and you somehow (magically; in reality this would not happen) could have 100% of the U.S. traffic for the key phrase muffler replacement, receiving 99+% of the search traffic from geographical areas other than the area around your muffler shop would do you no good at all.

The example above explains why effective integrated online marketing includes an optimum mix of optimization for local natural search (SEO) and search engine ads such as the Sponsored Links in Google AdWords. To get the web traffic you want when you want it, you need the right tactics in the right proportions and at the right time.

Like It or Not

Now that you’ve read this, we would like to tip our Stetsons to Click and Clack, the CarTalk guys for this tongue-in-cheek line of thinking.

We enjoy their show weekly, and listening to them on National Public Radio inspired the profiles above as well as the automotive example. If you found this post useful and/or entertaining, please leave a comment and pass it along to a friend or colleague. If you don’t care for it, write the reason(s) for your dissatisfaction into the memo section of a generous check payable to us, which we will use to hire a full-time copywriter for our blog 😉