2021 Local Search Consumer Behavior Study

Rio SEO Research | September 2021

An in-depth analysis of search discovery, buying intent, and online reputation insights

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on brands across nearly every business vertical has been both monumental and has, most likely, irreversibly transformed the way consumers make purchasing decisions.

2021 Local Search Consumer Behavior Study

Rio SEO’s first annual local search consumer behavior study sheds light on how consumers conduct online searches, the impact of reviews and ratings on their decision-making processes, and which platforms are most frequently used as part of their local shopping journey.

As we look toward the future, it’s critical for brands to understand the impacts of these behavioral shifts and rethink local marketing strategies in order to optimize for this new normal.

Below we’ll share a few key takeaways from our research. Download the full report for more in-depth exploration and analysis of how local consumer search behavior has shifted in 2021.

Download the full study

Watch the Companion Webinar

The impact of COVID-19 and the subsequent Delta variant have been nothing short of catastrophic for most brands. However, understanding and adapting to consumers’ new expectations can help prepare your brand’s path to recovery.

Join us as we share the most impactful findings from our 2021 Consumer Behavior Study and how to apply them to your local marketing strategy to emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. Our expert panel helps shed light on how consumers most frequently conduct online searches, the impact of reviews and ratings on the decision-making processes, and which platforms are most frequently used as part of the local shopping journey.

On-Demand Webinar
Duration: 60 minutes

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2021 Consumer Behavior Study: How COVID-19 Shaped Search Discovery, Buying Intent, and Online Reputation

Study Methodology

The research was conducted among a random sample of 1,002 respondents, with demographics broken out as follows.

Age Group

  • 18 to 23 (2%)
  • 24 to 39 (64%)
  • 40 to 55 (21%)
  • 56+ (13%)


  • 49% female
  • 50% male
  • 1% did not disclose


  • Midwest – 11%
  • Northeast – 34%
  • Southeast – 24%
  • Southwest – 11%
  • West – 21%

Residential Environment

  • 58% live in urban areas
  • 25% live in suburban areas
  • 17% live in rural areas

Verticals Represented

  • Business Services
  • Financial Services
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Restaurants
  • Retail

Areas of Focus

  • Search discovery
  • Buying intent
  • Online reputation
  • Impact of COVID-19 on local search behavior

Search Discovery Insights

Google is the search engine of choice for the vast majority of consumers. Share the power of Google throughout your brand. It’s the top search engine people turn to when seeking information about nearby businesses, and having a scalable strategy is key for multi-location brands. Searchers are looking to make purchases quickly, most purchases will be made within a week.

  • 90% of local searchers are looking to make a purchase within one week, demonstrating that local searches have high commercial intent.
  • 76% of consumers are searching for local information on a daily basis.
  • 83% of local consumers use Google Search to discover and learn more about nearby businesses, with 61% searching locally every day.
  • 84% of respondents expect a brand’s website and listing on Google to have accurate business information, proving the importance of local pages and local listing
Download the Full Study
2021 Local Search Study - Search Discovery
2021 Local Search Study - Online Reputation

Online Reputation Insights

Consumers are looking for reviews across a variety of verticals, and they expect to see brands engaged and responding wherever those reviews appear. Additionally, star ratings and review volume are the most impactful review factors; however, a healthy local reviews profile takes sentiment and recency into account, as well.

  • 50% feel more confident in a business when they see the brand actively responding to reviews
  • 75% of local consumers agree that first-party reviews displayed on a brand’s website are likely to influence their purchasing decision.
  • 51% of consumers said they feel more confidence and trust in a local business when they see them actively responding to reviews.
Download the Full Study

COVID-19 Impact Insights

New shopping behaviors such as home delivery, curbside pickup, virtual services and more are here to stay once the pandemic dies down.

  • 42% of consumers will continue to search for curbside pickup after COVID-19.
  • 48% of consumers will use virtual services (e.g., virtual appointments, telehealth, telefinance, etc.) after COVID-19.
  • Only 14% of consumers won’t use new shopping behavior after COVID-19.
Download the Full Study
2021 Local Search Study - COVID-19

Key Takeaways

Among our key findings, we discovered that local searchers are most often seeking key business information that will help them find, visit, and transact with a local business.

When it comes to how local presence influences consumer decision-making, we discovered that consumers trust local reviews on a company’s website more than those found on third-party platforms such as Google, Yelp, and Facebook.

Further, businesses’ Star Ratings and the overall number of reviews are the most important online review factors for instilling confidence in consumers that they are choosing the right business.

Consumers use online search to discover, find information about, and make decisions on all different types of local businesses. There was a similar spread across all business verticals, proving it’s important to maintain clean, accurate listing data, regardless of industry. However, the retail industry ranked the highest with more than half of respondents indicating they frequently turn to Search to find information about retail stores.

To dive deeper into the insights we discovered, download the full study and save your seat for the companion webinar where our team will break down the study’s top findings and insights for multi-location brands.

Download the Full Study

Is your local strategy in need of a tune-up?

Request a free local marketing audit today for a detailed analysis of your brand’s local search performance and growth recommendations.

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