Small Businesses Intimidated by Search Marketing

December 17, 2008

Small businesses are investing heavily in their websites to build online presence, but 59% with websites don’t currently use paid search marketing, and of those, 90% have never attempted it, according to a survey by Microsoft Advertising.

Moreover, 73% of small business owners say they are so intimidated by search marketing that they would rather do their taxes than create a search marketing plan, the research found.

The survey, which examined the search marketing behaviors of 400 small-business owners in the US, also revealed that despite the lack of investment in paid search marketing, the weakening economy and increased competition, 86% of small-business owners surveyed felt that they could be missing opportunities to grow their business, while three in four believed prospective customers might be searching online for the type of service their business offers.

Among the participants’ chief concerns, most cited the common misconceptions of cost, time and complexity as major hurdles to conducting search marketing campaigns for their businesses. Other key insights included the following:

  • Nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) feared keywords might become too expensive.
  • 81% percent question whether paid search marketing is the best use of their marketing budgets.
  • One quarter of respondents believe paid search marketing is too complex.
  • 21% percent think it would be too time-consuming.
  • 35% feel they would need an agency to help set up a search marketing campaign.

“These opinions run counter to widely held marketing industry views on paid search marketing, which recognize the practice as one of the most cost-effective, easy-to-use, measurable and accountable forms of marketing,” said Brian Boland, director of adCenter at Microsoft Advertising. “Given today’s current economic conditions, small-business owners need more effective ways to optimize their marketing dollars. By investing in paid search marketing, small businesses can track online sales and determine the return on investment for their campaigns, while at the same time boosting traffic and visibility for their websites.”

On the other hand, the small-business owners who use paid search marketing are very satisfied, with 72% reporting an increase in sales inquiries and 68% saying they consider their paid search marketing efforts successful, Microsoft said.

About the survey: The research was conducted by Kelton Research in April 2008. Microsoft commissioned the quantitative research of 400 small-business owners with 250 or fewer employees via an anonymous online survey consisting of a series of 38 questions designed to gauge their search marketing behaviors and attitudes.

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