In the age of online reviews, it turns out that word of mouth may still be the most common way consumers recommend local businesses — but habitual use of the Internet to find reviews is increasing. That’s according to a survey by BrightLocal, which found consumers prefer to give recommendations to people they know on a personal basis.

The London-based SEO firm asked more than 2,000 respondents 13 questions related to their consumption of online reviews. It found that 61% of customers have recommended a local business to someone they know by word of mouth, while 37% have used Facebook, 12% have used Twitter and 10% used Google+.  

“Interestingly, Google+ Local was only used by 10% of respondents,” the report noted. “It has an overwhelming influence on the lives of search marketers, but its adoption by real-world users remains low.”

Overall, the majority of consumers (57%) had searched online for a local business more than six times in the past year, up one percentage point from 2013. There was an 8% jump in the number of respondents who went online to find a business multiple times each week (from 7% to 15%).

“Part of this growth can be attributed to more local businesses building and improving their online presence,” the report notes. “Local data is more abundant and increasingly accurate, which delivers a better experience for consumers. … They have a great selection of businesses to consider with lots of information to make an informed decision.”

The survey also asked respondents what factors would make them more likely to recommend a local business. While “reliability and professionalism” (68%) and “friendliness” (44%) were high on the list, a further 9% of consumers said they would recommend a local business if asked to. This was down from 12% the previous year.

“[Asking for reviews] is frowned upon by certain review sites (e.g. Yelp), but by simply asking for a review, one in 10 people will be more inclined to give you one,” the report states. “So if you have 100 customers a day per week, then this may help you generate those all-important 10 reviews.”

Although the survey did not specifically target the automotive industry, it did find that Internet searches for dealerships and service facilities were up from last year. Additionally, 13% of respondents had read online reviews for dealers and service facilities.  

“Across almost all business types, the number of people searching for that type of business went up,” the report states. “As consumers get increasingly comfortable searching for certain types of business, they transfer this behavior into other areas.”

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