Media Metrix defines "local search" as searches conducted by consumers on the local or directory (yellow pages) sections of leading search sites, as well as other searches identified as having local intent. By this definition, the firm found evidence that, in July of this year, 63% of US Internet users, approximately 109 million people, performed local searches online — a 43% increase compared to a year earlier in July 2005.

Local online advertising is projected to account for $1.3 billion in spending this year and increase by nearly 51% the next year, to $2.0 billion.

"Local search is experiencing strong growth as more consumers adapt to the ‘always on’ nature of their broadband connection, which enables them to quickly find information on local businesses," said Jack Flanagan of comScore. "With approximately 849 million local searches conducted by Americans in July, local advertisers have a sizable market that can be reached through leading search sites."

The amount of local searches is not only huge, the range is impressive, too.

Media Metrix found that 41% of those conducting a local search were searching for something in their home area, as opposed to searching for information on businesses in locales that they intended to visit.

Among those searching in their home area, 59% indicated they were searching for a restaurant or something entertainment-related, such as a theater, theme park or an attraction for sightseeing. And 41% were looking for information on local services, including car rentals, dry cleaners and lawyers. Another 52% said they searched specifically for a business phone number or address.

As to where searchers went to search, Google garnered the largest share of local searches, closely followed by Yahoo!, at 30% and 29%, respectively. Microsoft captured 12% of local searches, followed by the Time Warner Network with 7%.