Online Sources of Clicks & Calls for Local Businesses

Online Sources of Clicks & Calls for Local Businesses
5 Key Insights From This Research
  • SEOs put most effort into Local SEO, Google Places & traditional SEO
  • Organic Search delivers the best ROI & quality leads
  • Google Places delivers 3x traffic more than Bing Local & Yahoo local
  • Organic search & Google Places deliver most calls to local businesses
  • Social channels don't deliver good ROI for local businesses

The objective of this survey is to understand & share which online marketing channels are driving most traffic, calls & offline visits to local businesses. This covers all types of local business from Plumbers to Accountants.

With incomplete data in Google Analytics, no consolidated call tracking data & many consumers converting offline, there is limited concrete data on the ROI & quality of leads by each channel which business owners & search marketeers can base their decisions off.

We hope that these findings ‘fill in the blanks’ and help our customers & readers make some more informed decisions about where allocate their marketing effort & dollars.

This survey is an update from a previous survey we ran in 2011.

5 Important Findings

We asked all of our customers, readers & industry contacts to participate so that we could build up a clear & accurate set of data which answers 5 simple questions.

  1. Which online marketing channels deliver best ROI?
  2. Which online marketing channels have best conversion?
  3. Which online marketing channels do you spend most effort on?
  4. What % of site traffic is generated from specific online channels?
  5. What % of calls are generated from specific online channels?

Given the imperfect information available we know that the following findings are approximates.

Survey Respondents

We had 288 respondents who claimed to have ‘optimized’ over 7,100 locations in the last 12 months, which gives us a sizeable sample to draw decent findings & conclusions from.

Who responded to the survey?

Roles in local search


The majority of respondents work as consultants/agencies (73%) and work across a large number of clients/locations. On average each respondent worked on 24 locations in the last 12 months with some claiming to have worked on over 100.

We didn’t ask about which industries these clients/locations belonged to – this would have bloated the scope of the survey beyond what we wanted to cover & what we felt was reasonable for respondents to complete in a reasonable amount of time

Which marketing channels have you used?

This chart shows what percentage of respondents used each of the channels in the last 12 months.

Most popular marketing channels

Key Findings:

  • The data included a pool of 7,115 locations overall
  • Over 94% of those surveyed used Google Places, social optimization, as well as local & traditional SEO
  • Display advertising is the least popular channel with 43%


Please note that Facebook & Twitter have both been grouped as social optimization for the sake of this chart.

There is very little between the four most popular channels. It shows that local businesses are also largely in favor of more sustainable, long-term tactics for marketing, and that paid-for techniques such as PPC & display advertising are, whilst still fairly common, less widely used. Both mobile & email marketing may be considered short-term solutions, or channels which are best used for supporting individual campaigns, rather than a wholesale strategy.

Time & Effort

Q1. In a typical week, how much time / effort do you allocate to the following channels? (10 being most effort, 1 being least effort)

Time and effort allocation for marketing channels

Key Findings:

  • Local SEO, Google Places & traditional SEO tasks took up the most time from our respondents
  • Mobile marketing, email marketing & display advertising commanded the least time & effort


Obviously with a survey panel that has strong roots in local search, it’s not surprising that this particular channel received more effort & attention than other channels. Some of the more traditional off-site marketing channels such as online display advertising & email marketing came very low on the scale in favour of on-site methods.

It’s highly likely that local business may engage in email marketing to existing & new customers but that this is handled in-house so their SEO consultant/agency doesn’t report on use or success in this survey. We certainly champion the value of growing an email list and engaging customers via email – it’s an excellent retention tool for most businesses.



Rate the effectiveness of each channel to deliver a return on effort/money spent?

Effectiveness of marketing channels

Key Findings:

  • Organic Search delivers the best ROI
  • Google places /+local delivers 2nd best ROI
  • Social channels such as Facebook & Twitter are not considered good value in terms of ROI


Local SEOs put more effort into local & organic search related tasks, and this is appears to be time well spent as organic search is considered the most effective channel in terms of ROI.

Twitter stands out as the least effective channel in terms of ROI. We’ve already seen that a fairly reasonable amount of effort is spent on social tasks but perhaps this reinforces the fact that Twitter is great for keeping up to date with industry news and for communicating with existing customers, but maybe it’s not effective for creating new leads & winning converting customers.

Quality leads

Rate the effectiveness of each channel to deliver high quality leads.

Marketing channels deliver quality leads

Key Findings:

  • Organic search, direct traffic & Google Places / +Local deliver highest quality leads
  • Facebook, display advertising & Twitter deliver lower quality traffic


Organic search, direct traffic & Google / +Local deliver the highest quality leads, whilst once again we see that Twitter is not considered a quality source of new leads.

Interestingly, Google AdWords is seen as a strong lead generator, but less time / effort is spent on paid traffic than social tasks.

Website traffic

Approximately what percentage of site traffic is generated by each channel?

Please note that not all respondents used every single one of these channels, and some did over or under-estimate the percentage of traffic generated across all channels.

Therefore we advise that you should view the percentages as approximations and instead pay more attention to the hierarchy of results – i.e. which channel wins out vs another.

Marketing channels generate site traffic

Key Findings:

  • Organic search delivers more site traffic than any other channel
  • Google Places / +Local delivers nearly 3x traffic than Bing Local & Yahoo Local
  • Google AdWords delivers 2.5x the traffic that Bing Ads delivers

We’ve already seen that organic & Google Places / +Local deliver the best quality leads, as well as some of the best ROI. Now we can see that as well as quality traffic – these channels also deliver in terms of the overall amount of traffic.

Phone Calls

Approximately what percentage of calls are generated by each channel?

Again, we advise that you should view the percentages as approximations and instead pay more attention to the hierarchy of results – i.e. which channel wins out vs another.

Marketing channels generate calls

Key Findings:

  • Phone call results are very similar to website traffic results
  • Organic search & Google Places / +Local deliver most calls to local businesses
  • Twitter, Bing Ads and display advertising are the worst performing


Once again, organic, Google Places + Local and direct traffic are the highest performers. These channels are key when it comes to delivering not just web traffic, but also generating phone leads.

With the immediate nature of paid advertising, we could have expected to see Google AdWords & Bing Ads performing better at generating phone leads. However, these channels are rated on a par with the average performing social networks.

Ross Marchant
About the author
Ross is the former Marketing Manager for BrightLocal. With 9+ years SEO and content experience, Ross spearheaded the marketing and CRM initiatives which focus heavily on creating useful and informative content. Ross coordinated the research program at BrightLocal which delivers unique insights into both the SEO industry and local consumer behaviours.