Less than half of small business owners in the U.S. consider search engine traffic to be an important source of new business opportunities, according to new research from the Small Business Authority (SBA).
When asked the same question last year, half of business owners considered search important – compared to the 36 percent that didn’t see search as significant and the 14 percent who were unsure. This year, “no” and “unsure” both increased, while “yes” lost five percentage points.
“I’m not sure they’re devaluing SEO, as much as they are being very leery to spend money on any kind of Internet advertising,” says Chuck Price, founder and president of Measurable SEO.
Earlier this year, Capital One Spark Business polled small business owners about the marketing tactics in which they’ve invested. Despite considering prospecting as their top challenge, a whopping 39 percent haven’t invested in any marketing tactics. Among those who have, advertising with 35 percent, social media with 32 percent, and email with 26 percent were the most popular areas of investment. Only 17 percent had invested in SEO. When asked which marketing tactics generated the most ROI, only 13 percent said SEO.
Price notes that many small business owners don’t necessarily understand or have the time to learn about the Internet. Small budgets are another factor – many mom-and-pop proprietors make less than their employees. Good SEO doesn’t come cheap, and someone with only $99 to spend isn’t likely to find quality service.
Price also thinks many small business owners aren’t inclined to invest in something unfamiliar.
“If I don’t have money or can’t afford to risk money on something I either don’t understand or that I’m not certain is going to work, then I’m not going to spend it. They don’t understand it, they’re not comfortable with it, and nobody can guarantee results,” Price says. “It takes longer to see results [with SEO] than it does to just drop an ad in the Pennysaver and potentially see instant results. The bad part of that is so few local businesses are involved in Internet marketing that in a lot of cases, it doesn’t take much to give them a leg up.”