Apps Gaining For Local Mobile Search

map/iphoneLocal search has long been viewed as one of the most promising segments for mobile marketing. In a study earlier this year, market research firm Kelsey Group projected U.S. local mobile search advertising to hit $1.3 billion by 2013 -- up from just $20 million in 2008.

In the last year, the number of U.S. mobile users accessing local content has jumped 51% from 21 million to 32 million, according to new data from comScore. How do they find what they're looking for? While the mobile browser remains the most popular way to search for local information, with 20.7 million users, mobile applications are the fastest-growing local search tool.

The number of people downloading mobile apps increased 83% to 11.3 million as of March, compared to a 72% increase in those using SMS text messaging (11.7 million) and a 34% gain for mobile browsing. With the explosion of mobile app stores and growth of phones on faster data networks, comScore expects the number of people using apps to find local information to surpass those using SMS in the next six months.

If more and more people turn to apps instead of mobile search to find local listings, that's not necessarily great news for the likes of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, either, as they seek to extend their search businesses to cell phones. Yahoo has especially focused on local mobile search through its oneSearch offering and Yahoo Local service, with features like click-to-call numbers.

When it comes to local content categories, the audience for online directories has seen the highest growth, at 73%, followed by restaurants (70%), maps (63%) and movies (60%). With their traditional print business being destroyed by the Web, Yellow Pages publishers only hope is to survive online and on mobile phones.

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