It's been a long held belief that you need to make search a prominent feature on your web sites. For me, I've also been in more conversations about "enhancing" local search than I can count. Most recently, about providing faceted search within a site.
What I don't understand is why we spend any time on this topic at all. In the aforementioned conversation, the site in question has had 85,000 unique visitors over the last month. Of that, 49 people have conducted a search on the site. This is a whopping .05% of the site visitors. A closer look also shows that the majority of those searches were done by internal people, and not the primary audience that the site is intended to serve.
On this blog I've noticed the same thing. Now, I know that a blog is different, and that the overwhelming majority of the readers see it through syndication feeds. That said, of the 1900 unique visitors, I have had 19 people use the local search function. That's 1%, still not enough use to spend any energy thinking about how to improve the experience.
I'm wondering if the use of local search is so low that perhaps we're giving it way too much prominence on our sites? My tag cloud is used way more. It is a search of sorts with the words already picked for the visitors. Is it time for search to be relegated to a spot further down the page or removed all together? What are you seeing on your sites? What about your own behavior?