March 30, 2012

AT&T Interactive’s Q4 2011 “Local Insights Report,” which analyzed data culled from its YP Local Ad Network, found that most US local searches were for restaurants, with auto repair and service searches second.

Automotive repair and service searches also saw a 25% quarter-over-quarter increase in Q4 2011, likely caused by consumers seeking end-of-year discounts from dealerships. Queries for financial services, real estate, and physicians and surgeons rounded out the top search categories at third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Auto parts and supplies ranked ninth.

The report found that half of the top 10 quarterly search growth categories were retail-related, owing to the shopping spike that accompanies the holiday season. However, searches for pharmacies saw the most growth, with a 58% quarter-over-quarter increase. The boost was likely due to a rush by consumers to clean out pre-tax health savings accounts before they reset at the end of the calendar year. Searches for travel agencies also climbed 36%, likely due to the increase in travel during Thanksgiving and the December holidays.

When AT&T Interactive broke down the searches according to platform, it found that restaurants and automotive remained the first- and second-most frequently searched categories on both mobile devices and PCs. Mobile users were more likely to look for movie theaters, beauty services and hotels than their PC-using counterparts, reflecting smartphone users’ desire for information on nearby services. The report found that users were more likely to use PCs to search information-intensive categories, such as finance, real estate and legal services.

In an October 2011 interview with eMarketer, Chung Meng Cheong, the vice president of advertising publisher products for AT&T Interactive, said national brands were increasingly turning to local search marketing to reach customers ready to make a purchase. “[National brands] use local mobile and desktop search as a transactional element, designed to increase foot traffic to both their websites and, ultimately, their local stores,” Cheong said.

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