62% of small UK businesses not willing to invest in search!

I spotted an interesting post over at Clickz towards the end of last week concerning small businesses in the UK and their reluctance to embrace search marketing. A recent survey commissioned by Microsoft adCentre and conducted by Vanson Bourne shows that British businesses are wasting around £3billion on websites which have little or no search engine presence. Despite the fact that 76% of businesses who have embraced search marketing report an increase in sales (what’s happening with the other 24%- arrghhh!), a whopping 62% of small businesses in the UK are not willing to make the jump.

The report cites three main reasons for this, which I will attempt to counter:

44% cited that search marketing is too time consuming!
If you plan on managing search marketing internally then this is a fair comment. There tends to be a presumption that search marketing, albeit time consuming, is pretty straightforward and therefore time is the only issue. Wrong! Search marketing requires a broad range of skills (I would argue a broader mix than any other form of marketing) ranging from copy writing to technical. If a small business owner expects to be able to learn and apply these skills effectively, no doubt with limited resource, then I agree that it would be time consuming. That is why search marketing agencies are here; to develop strategies for clients that do indeed require some input from the client but not nearly so much as the time required to learn and manage in-house. For me, time is therefore not an excuse if you are prepared to take advantage of the wealth of search marketing talent available in the UK by outsourcing.

55% said it is too expensive!
The investment required for a properly implemented search engine marketing strategy is often minimal compared with the more traditional forms of offline marketing and also promise a far higher return.

I acknowledge that costs are rising as online competition does likewise, especially for Paid Search. I have previously discussed, what I believe to be, a closing window of opportunity for very small businesses due to the rising costs of Paid Search and increased complexity of SEO. However, there is a way to go yet before we get there.

Search engine marketing costs should be put into context against two things; in comparison with offline marketing methods and in terms of ROI. Small business owners should consider these two factors carefully before declaring that search marketing is too expensive.

33% said it is too complicated!
Yes, search marketing does have a degree of complexity about it but only if you plan on managing search in-house, which as I pointed out above would be time consuming to learn and difficult to implement effectively as a small business owner. Small businesses are usually restricted by two things; time or money or both. If time is the issue then outsource search marketing. The result; you do not need to understand the complexities of search. As long as you have a broad overview, a business plan, a clear set of objectives and a means of measuring return, do you really need to understand the ‘nitty gritty’. Compare it to an offline campaign; if you take out an advert in the local press, do you ask the supplier about the machinery on which it was was printed, it what ink, how long it took, etc? No! So, if you are outsourcing search marketing, which I would suggest is the better option for small to medium sized businesses, it is my view that complexity should not come into it; you pay an agency to worry about the real techie stuff; the rest of it is solid marketing practice applied in a relatively new and exciting environment – online.

In summary, the current level of waste is pretty astounding. If your site is currently contributing to the £3billion being wasted it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself what purpose your site is there to serve, whilst opening up to the possibilities that search presents.

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