Hey Google, What’s the Real Local Search Number?

Google over time has taken a very conservative public position on the percentage of queries that carry local intent. It said years ago (2011) the local search percentage of desktop queries was 20%. For mobile it has said “nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location.”

But there’s considerable evidence that these statements undercount local search volumes significantly. Indeed, at one point in roughly 2011 Marissa Mayer, then in charge of local for Google, said in a blog post that 40% of mobile search traffic is local. And in 2018, at the “Secrets of Local Search conference at GoogleHQ,” internal Google representatives reportedly said 46% of searches have a local intent.” Still, the official mobile number is 30% (or thereabouts).

Google separately told the LSA annual conference audience in 2016 that because location is an inherent part of mobile search that the company needs to be prepared to serve local results for any mobile query. The company explained that most people are not typing location modifiers anymore and expect Google to figure out their intent.

Earlier this week I was at MozCon, which featured multiple speakers talking about local search and SEO, Moz’s Rob Bucci gave a presentation in which he discussed an analysis of 1.2 million SERPs. (It’s not entirely clear what the methodology was.) Bucci told the audience that 73% of those 1.2 million pages had “localized features on them” (e.g., local packs).

Again, I’m not certain how the 1.2 million pages were generated or the breakdown of desktop to mobile results. However the fact that 73% of these pages featured local content suggests that Google itself believes much more than 30% of queries carry local intent.

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