A survey from the Local Search Association indicates that search engines are a top tool for local business discovery.

Consumers looking to locate nearby small businesses seem to be increasingly turning to search engines. The Local Search Association's Local Media Tracking Study indicates that search engines are a top resource for local shoppers, and they are the most common used source for finding local businesses in the past month.

According to the survey, more than three-quarters of consumers have used search engines in the past year to find local businesses. Search engines are second only to the Yellow Pages (print and internet versions), used by 84 percent of respondents. Forty-nine percent go to Yellow Pages first to find local businesses, and 42 percent turn to search.

While the Yellow Pages seem to lead the way for local business discovery, search is quickly ascending. Search engines surpass the Yellow Pages in terms of recently used resources; 67 percent of respondents have used search engines in the past month, while just 62 percent have used the Yellow Pages.

Some analysts seem surprised that business directories are maintaining such a strong audience – as evidenced by Local Search Association's results. (Notably, the Local Search Association is born out of the former Yellow Pages.) Nonetheless, Brafton has reported that 79 percent of consumers search for local businesses on the web, so marketers might want to both get their businesses in local directories and practice local SEO.

Perhaps another surprise in the study is consumers' apparent lack of trust in social results. About one-third of consumers say they have turned to social media to find local businesses in the past year, but just 1 percent say they trust the local business info they find on the web.

But before local marketers turn down their social efforts, they should consider a survey from CityGrid indicates that one-quarter of Americans say Facebook recommendations impact their local business purchase decisions. Facebook closely followed websites in terms of influencing local shopping decisions, according to City Grid. The takeaway may be that marketers should use high-quality content on their sites to fuel SEO and social conversations, covering their bases wherever consumers are doing local business research.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.