How Do Customers Find Businesses Online?

by | Last updated Jul 20, 2023

When you own any type of business, you need to know how your customers are finding you. That way, you can invest your efforts in already successful channels to bring in more leads. While traditional marketing may be harder to track, you can easily discover how your customers find you in the digital space. Review which channels searchers are most often using to find businesses like yours online.

Search Engines

  • 98% of consumers go online to find local businesses before visiting a physical location
  • 46% of all searches are for local businesses, and 80% of local searches convert
  • “Near me” searches have increased 500% in recent years
  • Google handles more search queries than any other search engine
  • More than 60% of people use Google Business Profile listings to find a business’ address or phone number, while 49% use the business’ website
  • Yet 56% of searchers expect a business’ website to have the most accurate contact information, even over Google Business Profile listings

Based on this data, search engines are the most common place where customers will find your business online, with Google being the top search engine to optimize your content for. And while it’s not used as frequently as your Google Business Profile, a website that’s optimized for local search is another way to get in front of potential customers online.

To be successful on search engines, Google specifically, you first need to claim your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) and confirm or change your business name, address, and phone number so that your contact details are consistent and accurate across the web.

You can also fill out your business categories and upload photos to your Google Business Profile to provide more details for people researching your business and to help your listing rank higher.

Finally, make sure your business website includes location pages, which help your business appear in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Mobile Search

If a majority of people access the internet and conduct searches on mobile devices, your online presence needs to be optimized for mobile devices.

If you don’t, potential customers will have trouble viewing your website, which could lead them to choose another business. Google is also likely to rank you lower in search overall, especially since most of your competitors’ websites will be mobile-friendly.

To show up in mobile search and pass mobile-friendliness tests, you’ll need to optimize your website for mobile. Site speed and image file types are two of the biggest aspects of mobile-friendliness, as well as design elements like button and text size.

Voice Search

  • 50% of U.S. consumers use voice search daily, with 72% using voice assistants—Amazon Echo, Google Home, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple Siri
  • “Near me” searches are the second-most popular use for voice assistants
  • Voice shopping activity has nearly doubled in six months, and 51% of online shoppers in the U.S. use voice assistants to research products

Voice search has become more popular, partly because smart speakers are now commonly found in homes and partly because accessibility features have grown to include voice search. While most people are using voice assistance to ask general questions, stream music, and set timers, many are also relying on voice search to find local businesses and purchase products or services in their area.

So, if you’re an e-commerce brand, local restaurant, or home service company like plumbers, electricians, or another type of service-area business, it’s likely that your customers are discovering you in the vocal search space. If you want to capture more voice search results, here’s what you can do:

  1. Speed test your website. The good news is you should already have this done because you optimized for mobile. Speedy load times help voice assistants pull data quicker, which is crucial to serving up fast answers in voice search.
  2. Include conversational keywords that are common search phrases in voice search, like “near me” terms, questions, and other long-tail keywords that mimic the way people usually speak.
  3. Keep your business information current online. Voice assistants get their answers from major business directories, so you’ll want to confirm your business details are accurate across the following sources:
    • Apple Maps Connect (used by Apple Siri)
    • Bing Places (used by Microsoft Cortana)
    • Google Business Profile (used by Google Home)
    • TripAdvisor (used by Microsoft Cortana)
    • Yelp (used by Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana)
    • Yext (used by Amazon Alexa)

Senior Vice President of Hurrdat Marketing Meghan Trapp says, “Just as voice assistants and mobile devices are currently changing the way consumers find local businesses, I expect artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and personalization to impact the local search landscape in the next decade.”


She goes on to explain, “AI advancements will let consumers receive personalized recommendations based on their preferences and location even before they conduct a search, while AR technology may allow consumers to virtually experience local businesses’ products, services, and locations without physically visiting the store.


People will also rely more on personalized offers and promotions from businesses that utilize hyperlocal targeting to enhance the overall local search experience.”

Local Business Directories

  • 94% of consumers use business directories like Yelp, Google Business Profile, or Facebook Business Pages to find information about businesses
  • 63% of people would not use a business if it had incorrect information on these platforms

Local citations like Google Business Profile, TripAdvisor, and Yelp are a big deal for businesses like yours. Not only are they used by voice assistants and Google/Apple Maps, but they’re often the first results that show up under “near me” searches. Since they’re at the top of SERPs, searchers are most likely to click on or pay attention to those results.

This means that you need to routinely audit and clean up your local business listings to continue bringing in customers from local search results. Building them and forgetting them isn’t enough. Search engines and users can make unauthorized edits that might not be right. That’s why it’s always important to check that your NAP (name, address, phone number) data is consistent and accurate. Recency is another positive SEO signal for local citations, so encouraging user-generated content and customer reviews are two good ways of keeping your listings recent.

Social Media

With the amount of time people are spending on social media, it’s no surprise that businesses are creating profiles on these platforms to get in front of more customers throughout the day. People love following brands and researching products on social media for a few reasons:

  1. Convenience — Users can quickly research businesses and products from anywhere, on any device, making it an attractive information-gathering tool when they’re on the go or in a new place.
  2. Direct interaction — Social media lets users connect with businesses and other like-minded people. Your followers can easily ask questions, provide feedback, and get help from you and your customers. This direct engagement builds trust, community, and loyalty for your brand.
  3. Personalized recommendations — Because social media uses algorithms to track behavior and preferences, users are more likely to come across businesses and products that match their interests through targeted advertisements and influencer marketing. This makes their research process more efficient—sometimes coming to them before they’re even looking for it.
  4. User reviews — Social media is yet another space for people to leave reviews, ratings, and recommendations for businesses. People can see comments on social media as more authentic reviews and take these recommendations to heart before making a purchase or visiting your location.

To do well on social media, your business will want to act like the platform is a brochure for your reputation and quality. Your small business can use social media marketing to target the correct audience through paid ads, to learn your customers’ habits and interests, and to improve local visibility.

A big part of social media marketing for businesses is choosing the right platform. Conducting outreach in the wrong space can be a waste of time, money, and resources. For B2C businesses, posting on platforms like Instagram and TikTok are likely to be more effective, while SaaS and B2B marketers are more likely to find success on LinkedIn.

Online Reviews

  • 98% of people read reviews for businesses online, and 49% trust them as much as recommendations from close friends and family
  • Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Better Business Bureau are the most trusted sources for business reviews
  • 96% of searchers will also look for negative reviews, and a lack of negative reviews is seen as suspicious by potential customers

When consumers are researching new businesses, reviews are a top priority. While content that is created by a company is often viewed as biased—to only show the positive side—reviews are seen as a more legitimate and full picture of your business. Here, a little negativity is expected and even welcomed. Potential customers want to know the flaws of your company and how you address their problems.

So, while it might be tempting to delete a review that isn’t flattering, it’s actually helpful to leave it up. Plus, your response to negative reviews can prove that you handle criticism with grace and are capable of quickly correcting customer issues.

If you want to bring in more customers with your reviews, responding to your existing feedback on top review sites like Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp is just the first step. The next step is to get more high-quality reviews on these platforms. You can grow your reviews in many ways:

  1. QR codes on leave-behinds like bills or business cards
  2. An embedded link on your website
  3. Email review links
  4. Encourage customer-facing employees to bring in reviews

Just make sure that your business is focused on quality as much as you are on quantity. To encourage better reviews, try using review prompts with keywords.

Inbound Links

  • 35% of consumers report that they check local news publications for information when researching local businesses

Customers can follow links from sources they already trust to find your business, whether that be articles they read or email newsletters they’re subscribed to.

If you’re a local restaurant, these inbound links might look like a feature on Eater’s “Best Restaurants in Omaha” or Food Network’s “Best Places to Eat in Chicago.” Mechanics or small medical practices might have luck building inbound links from a local news publication and their local business directory, like the automotive and healthcare professionals on the Omaha World Herald Business Directory.

So, if you want to improve your online visibility and attract more customers, inbound links can help you achieve your goals. This local SEO strategy is a positive signal to Google and other search engines. When a highly-reputable website (one with a high domain authority) vouches for you (by linking to your content), search engines trust your site more by association. This makes them more likely to rank you higher in SERPs.

To start building a backlink profile, you’ll want to settle on an outreach strategy that works for your business, which could be a combination of online efforts like writing guest posts and broken link building along with offline community engagement opportunities like sponsoring local events, networking with local professional organizations, or hosting fundraisers.

Online Ads

  • Paid digital marketing increases brand awareness by roughly 80%
  • Display ads make a consumer 155% more likely to look up your brand
  • Paid ads are reported to have a 200% ROI, and generate two times the number of visitors as SEO alone

While a solid organic marketing strategy is great for long-term success, there’s a reason businesses pay for digital ads. Paid ads are better for outreach. They put your business in front of customers on virtually any platform—search engines, social media, and more.

To reach more customers in the digital space, your business can advertise almost anywhere online in the form of PPC advertising. Paid search ads and social media ads are good starting points for businesses that want to repurpose existing content, while others can choose to promote their business through display ads on websites.

Want to start digital marketing for your local business? Local Search Fuel by Hurrdat offers digital marketing solutions to help businesses develop an optimized website, manage local business listings, conduct local SEO, and more. Get started today!

Stefanie Vanderbeek

Stefanie Vanderbeek

Stefanie Vanderbeek is a content strategist and writer who specializes in long-form digital content and website SEO optimization. Stefanie earned her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Advertising and Public Relations in 2021. In her free time, you can find Stefanie reading, deep diving into video game lore, singing in her professional vocal group, or traveling the world!

More about Stefanie