SMBs Still Struggle With SEO, Paid Search

Small and mid-size businesses still find highly effective digital media such as search engine optimization and paid search the most difficult to implement and manage themselves.

The data comes from a recent BrandMuscle study that compares a media effectiveness score with the difficultly of implementing it. The company calls it the Total Median Effectiveness Score. For example, SEO came in with a 76% effectiveness score in 2017, but has a 59% score in terms of the difficulty in executing a campaign. Paid search has an effectiveness score of 63% and a difficulty score of 48%.

BrandMuscle's State of Local Marketing report for 2018 looks at the trends in 2017 and compares them with results from 2016. It analyzes the amount of funding that marketers from small and mid-size companies in the United States spend annually on advertising and marketing. These marketers participate in co-op or market development fund programs, where brands help subsidize local marketing by their dealers, retailers and affiliates.



The report offers insight into tactics and attitudes among U.S. SMBs, segmenting the market into three categories by number of locations, headcount and revenue such as those companies bringing in an annual revenue of less than $500,000 that have zero to four employees with one location. This bunch made up the majority at 58% of respondents.

Those that generate less than $5 million in revenue with five to 20 employees and two to five locations made up about 26%. And those generating more than $5 million with 21 or more employee and more than six locations made up 15% of respondents.

Marketers at SMBs in 2017 adopted several new tactics. Of those participating in the study, 33% said they use a website to market their business; 26% use email; 11% use online directories; 9% use SEO; 8% use online display; 5% use paid search; 5% use SMS text messages; and 3% use mobile targeting such as display and search.

It's not surprising that the majority of these businesses do their own marketing in-house, with 64% of the responsibility falling on the owner’s shoulders. While 7% had a dedicated marketer on staff in 2017, only 3% used an outside agency or vendor.

The findings also include voice-search data from Google. When asked what people would like to receive from voice search, 52% want information about deals and promotions, 42% want information about upcoming events and activities, 39% want options to find business information like location and store hours, and 38% want access to customer services and support.

The Total Median Effectiveness Score rose about 8% to 58% compared with the prior year, which BrandMuscle views as an indication of how the amount brands spend on marketing impacts business.

The growth in 2017 was primarily driven by companies such as Pinterest at 19%, LinkedIn at 17%, and Twitter at 13%. SEO came in at about 8% and paid search even less.

Billboards fell to minus 5% and Snapchat fell to minus 9%.

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