According to a new study from G/O Digital, the role Facebook plays in local SEO is much larger than previously thought. Social media marketing analysts with SEO services have long known that Facebook users, all 1.4 billion of them, use the service as a way of finding businesses, following their products, and, possibly, making a purchase. The study from the Gannett-owned G/O Digital shows that 62% of social media users go to Facebook first to research small businesses and their products before making a purchase. For the sake of comparison, Pinterest earns only 12% of users, with Twitter coming in third at 11%.

The social media behemoth isn’t just a source for information, either. The study also shows that if Facebook users like what they see about a business on the platform, they’re 80% more likely to make a purchase. In other words, Facebook really is a crucial part of an effective local search optimization campaign.

So, Why Aren’t More Small Businesses Using the Social Media Platform?
That being said, the House of Zuckerberg has a comparatively small community of small and medium-sized businesses using the platform. As a report from Marketing Land details, only 25 million small businesses from around the world use Facebook. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 5 million small businesses, according to statistics from the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, and only a fraction of them are using Facebook.

The issue, as Mashable outlines, is that the effectiveness of Facebook in small businesses’ local SEO campaigns has largely been held in the abstract. “Very effective” was the closest you could get to a solid answer on why you should actually be using the service to promote your company in the local market. Add to that the recent changes that make it a lot more difficult to be noticed on Facebook without paying for ad placement, and you have a recipe for distrust that wards off the cash-strapped small business owner.

The G/O Digital study could change all of that. Now that Facebook can be defined statistically as essential to local SEO strategies, the social media platform could see a windfall as small businesses rush to take advantage of the site. As for local SEO services, they’ll need to ready themselves as clients increasingly look for firms that can expand their reach into the social sphere.

Does this news make you more likely to use Facebook to boost your local SEO campaign? Let us know why or why not in the comment section below.