Only 17% of small business owners will invest in search engine optimization (SEO) in 2017, 26% admit to having a Web site with only one page, and 43% say they have no plans to change or improve their online presence this year.
A joint study between David Ricketts, innovation fellow in the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University found that only 54% of small business owners report that they are confident their company's online presence performs well, despite the small number of owners who are embracing online marketing.
Web.com Small Business Digital Trends Report surveyed 300 small business owners to learn how they use online channels to grow their businesses -- from dentistry to contractors, and artists to welders or dry cleaners, and retailers with ecommerce sites.
Although SEO can help businesses rise to the top of search engine query results, most small business owners do not cite the search media as a priority. Only 17% say they plan to add SEO to their online marketing strategy in 2017, and only 5% consider SEO a top priority for the year.
Too many small business owners lack the knowledge to fully harness the potential of online media and are likely to leave money on the table, per the report. While the findings may suggest confusion as to how online advertising and marketing actually work, consumers are adapting well to a world of online purchases.
PewResearchCenter estimates that nearly eight in 10 Americans have made a purchase online as of December 2016, up from 22% in June 2000. And the National Retail Federation estimates that this Valentine's Day, 27% of U.S. consumers will go online to spend some of the estimated $18.2 billion spent this year on Valentine's Day gifts.
Conveying the correct message to consumers seems to be a major issue for small business owners. The Web.com study found that a majority of small business owners seem to lack the understanding of how ecommerce sites truly support online retail. While 12% cite ecommerce as the main purpose of their Web site, only 31% identified their company as a retail business.
The problems reach far beyond the areas of SEO and ecommerce. Some 85% of business owners say they hit some kind of roadblock when attempting to use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, to promote their business. Many are overwhelmed with the maintenance, and 15% are concerned with risking their reputation on certain sensitive issues.
About 68% say they handle the building and maintenance of their online presence in-house or on their own, compared with 22% who outsource this work to an online marketing firm, and 9% who solicit help from friends and family. Admitting they need help, 29% of business owners require assistance in online marketing and 26% in Web site maintenance or expansion.