Those who optimize products and services to serve up in search results have a complex and difficult task. Being successful means continually thinking about how consumers search for the product and the phrases and the keywords they use. Most owners of small and medium-sized businesses still cannot take the time to learn the strategy -- and they do not have the budgets to hire an agency.
Clutch surveyed 352 U.S. small business owners and managers to determine how they use search engine optimization and paid-search advertising. The majority of survey respondents are businesses with one to 10 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue -- which matches the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data on small businesses -- but the survey results also analyze companies with 11 to 500 employees.
Google recently threw a wrench into the tactic by removing paid-search advertising in the right rail of search engine query results and adding another paid-search ad at the top of the page, pushing organic results further down the page. The move makes it more important to map out a strategy that dots the line from organic optimization to paid-search and product listing ads that appear in Google Shopping.
Findings from Clutch's study reveal that only 54% of small businesses in the U.S. maintain a company Web site -- with 17% saying they have no plans to use SEO, which lowers their odds of being found online. Some 33% of those with a company Web site do not use SEO but plan to in the future, whereas half engage in SEO practices.
The cost associated with implementing an effective strategy remains the biggest roadblock and one reason why only 34% of small businesses hire an SEO company to help them. Of the small businesses that currently do use SEO tactics, 57% focus on on-site optimization and local search optimization, while only 25% say they create quality content that earns links.
Breaking that down, 79% of companies with 10 employees or less and 47% of businesses with 11 to 500 employees say they do not use SEO.
For SMB owners that want to begin using SEO, the study suggests starting with research and education, thought it may take time and patience to understand even the basics. Work with a reliable friend or agency partner who understands the nuances. And budget the resources to sustain a long-term strategy because success doesn't happen overnight.
The study reveals that 64% of small businesses rely on in-house knowledge and resources for SEO, and 34% look outside the company to a consultant or agency.When asked the tactic their company uses to support SEO, 57% of survey participants said onsite optimization. Some 57% use local search optimization; 25%, quality content that earns links; 24%, guest blogging on other Web sites; 2%, onsite blog; and 5% are unsure.