So maybe you are tired of seeing stats about how local and mobile marketing is growing and why small businesses need to be doing more to capture these customers. Those statistics don’t lie, and it’s clearly necessary for SMBs to understand where to best leverage their online marketing activities.

There is compelling research from the Local Search Association that demonstrates rapidly rising usage of mobile devices to navigate online maps and local business directories. While it’s important to watch the continued growth in mobile, it’s still necessary to recognize desktop browsing activity as a larger percentage (85%) as you develop a multi-platform approach for your business.

Web Traffic

Source: Local Search Association, used with permission via Search Engine Land

Searching for meaning in user queries

The current leader in search of course, is Google – and some of the information about both desktop and mobile search behavior they share publicly on Google Think Insights should make SMBs stand up and take note. As recently as last year, Google was reporting that 50% of all mobile search queries had local intent, compared to approximately 20% (in 2011) of desktop searches being local in nature.

For either platform, this explains clearly Google’s push to include localized results, with map details and local business information being a primary component of search results. Furthermore, the search giant continues to sharpen focus on ‘owning’ as much data as it can to provide users with direct answers without going off Google properties.

In the desktop search example below, this emphasis is clearly demonstrated. Not included in the picture is a Google Maps pin board and 8 additional AdWords listings in the right side bar.

Note the following elements present in the search result:

  • 3 AdWords listings at the top; #1 ad has local phone number extension.
  • First two ‘organic’ results are localized, specialty directories where an SMB might pay for advertising.
  • The next 6 results are pulled from Google+Local listings, and Google has chosen to highlight “Google Reviews” as well as a Google+ Page listing for each business.
    • Note that the first listing (Ridgeline) has one review, though multiple reviews (Rasmussen) may draw user attention to compare and contrast multiple customer experiences. However, Ridgeline has not only a more positive review, but they’ve also spent more time to make their Google+ page more compelling with photos of successful projects.
  • JVL Landscaping does not even have a website listed at all, only their Google+ page represents their business. But note that JVL has not claimed this official page yet, and are missing a potential opportunity to demonstrate their expertise with photos, as Ridgeline has done.

Desktop search results:

 Search Results

  Now, compare those results for the same search query on two mobile devices below:

Android (Galaxy III Smartphone):


  • As it’s a smartphone result, we now see the “Click to Call” Adwords option, more likely to be clicked on by users who do not scroll further down results.
  • Note the two local directories are now below (not pictured) the 6 Google+Local listings, making those more important to user conversion.

iPad search results: 


  • Now that we’re on a tablet device, the “Click To Call” option is gone.
  • Interestingly, the review links remain but the Google+ pages are not showing, except for JVL Landscaping.
  • The local directory listings again appear below the Google+Local results.

How do mobile users access local content?

According to Natalie Wuchenich, the Director of Research at the Local Search Association, over 60% of smartphone consumers are now accessing local content on their devices. She also notes that “consumers prefer apps to search for local content, use of browsers is also strong and local businesses should ensure their mobile efforts include both apps and browsers.”

As we saw in the previous example, users accessing this information via Google search apps on a mobile platform will be served different experiences. And let’s not forget about the users coming from local search apps such as Yelp, Foursquare and others. For that reason, it’s important to ensure your business maximizes visibility across several of the top platform apps, as well as having a presence in browser-based searches in a mobile environment. Users  Source: Local Search Association, used with permission via Search Engine Land

Where do SMBs go from here?

On a positive note, it does seem as though SMBs are beginning to truly embrace mobile, and are starting to plan their digital marketing strategies with it in mind. According to BIA Kelsey, the number of small businesses with a mobile friendly website increased from 8.7% to 14.7% in the last year, and further, another 22% said they plan to add one this in the next 12 months, with 11% still unsure about mobile.

That leaves the remaining 52% with no plans to adopt mobile in the next year; that leaves many SMBs with a massive opportunity to get a headstart on their competition, both locally and nationally.

In the meantime, make sure you have an established presence on the top local platforms and ensure your business is well represented in each platform, including all relevant details and mostly positive reviews and representative examples of your product or service, including photos, videos and supporting information.

About the Author(s)

Elisabeth Osmeloski

Elisabeth has been in the search marketing industry since 1999, and currently works for two of the leading trade publications in the digital marketing space. She is also co-founder and President of – a local professional association for online marketers.

Director of Audience Development, Search Engine Land & Marketing Land