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A lack of awareness and knowledge of the benefits search engine optimisation means that 60% of SME marketers are not currently investing in SEO.

These stats are from dotSEO's Naked SEO report, which contains the results of a survey of marketers from small businesses, as well as a benchmark study of the top 50 SME websites in the UK, as identified by The Times. 

A few highlights from the report after the jump... 

Use of SEO by small businesses

The benchmark study finds that many sites are getting the basics right, with 76% using heading tags in titles on their homepage and 64% using meta descriptions.

The 50 sites were judged against a range of SEO criteria, and average score for of all the websites was just 48%. Only 11 companies scored over 70%, with 24 scoring less than 50%.

Some of the lowest scores were in the on-site keywords section, with only 28% using relevant keywords on their websites, something which could be easily fixed. 

SME attitudes to SEO

The results of the survey reveal a lack of knowledge about SEO, as well as being unaware of the benefits of search optimisation. 

  • 22% did not know what SEO was, and therefore didn't invest. 
  • 20% were aware SEO yet chose not to allocate any budget for it. 
  • 18% chose to spend their money on paid search instead. 
  • Only 15% invested in search and considered it either an important or crucial part of their marketing strategy. 

Plans for investment in SEO

  • 11% of SMEs plan to increase their investment in SEO over the next 12 months, 5% plan to reduce spending in this area, while 22% will keep their SEO budget at the same level. 
  • While 14% considered SEO either important or vital to their businesses in the next year, 29% have no plans to do anything about SEO. 
  • 14% said they planned to hire an SEO agency, while 23% plan to keep their SEO strategy either completely or partially in-house. 

The results of this report follow a similar pattern to a Thomson Local study we covered last week which found that 47% of 1,001 websites studied had either very basic or no search engine optimisation at all.

As the survey results show, there are plenty of small businesses that are yet to see the value of effective SEO, or else lack the knowledge to make some basic improvements that would improve their search rankings. 

These businesses should be looking to correct this as, implemented well, SEO has the potential to be a very important and cost-effective sales channel. Also, competitors that have invested time or money in SEO may be gaining an advantage. 

Graham Charlton

Published 3 August, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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Robert Weatherhead

Robert Weatherhead, Operations Director at Latitude Express

Having done quite a lot of work with SMEs in the search sector I would add a couple of other reasons to this list.  

1. A lot of SMEs do not have the budget to, or are not willing to, invest in something for long term benefits. Most SMEs need/want to see returns on anything they spend within a short space of time and in most cases, SEO doesnt it this need.

2. Another would be expertise.  Contrary to the figure you present, 85% of SME websites I see have been built with no consideration for SEO which means a large part of what needs doing is one site changes.  The SME rarely has the expertise to make the changes and the person who built the site is either no longer around, or wants to charge a silly amount to make changes.

To these SMEs the easiest, and quickest solution is to invest in PPC where they know they will get some business and everything is a little more immediate.

almost 6 years ago

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James MacAonghus

Robert, your points are spot on. Another reason is that SEO agencies can't guarantee the results, and SME often can't justify spending thousands of pounds on something that may or may not deliver.

almost 6 years ago

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Scott McLay

Good post, personaly I think an introduction to SEO should be part of all marketing cources these days as it is far too important to ignore. More people are shopping online and see Google as their direct line to the internet.

Using PPC is an option but it is also a false economy and many people are starting to ignore PPC listings as they learn to spot paid advertising so this leaves organic SEO as the only viable option for maximum ROI

almost 6 years ago

Rob Mclaughlin

Rob Mclaughlin, VP, Digital Analytics at Barclays

Many SMEs use small agencies to build there site, small fees equal low care & attention to the medium/long term consequences ie. SEO The idea that you would 'make up' for lack of natural search rankings by running paid search is eye-wateringly sad! Poor SEO can only mean poor keyword relevance - Just on a hiding to a high CPC and low click-through.

almost 6 years ago

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Advanced Link Building

Many SMEs think that SEO is some sort of data entry / ad posting about their company which they can do on their own. When they approach SEO firms, they still have this mindset. So, even if they realize the potential of SEO, most projects dont take off because quality SEO services cost money over a period of time which they dont want to invest. SEM always look better to them as they can start seeing results and activity immediately without any long-term financial commitments.

almost 6 years ago

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jacob wright

Arguably they are entirely justified in not spending on SEO.  Small to medium enterprises are by definition small and therefore unable to compete with larger players in their sector when it comes to pagerank.  Maps and location specific searches are much more relevant to SMEs than traditional list-based search.

almost 6 years ago

Adam Hart

Adam Hart, Flash & Motion Designer at The Engine Group

"SEO strategy either completely or totally in-house." - Did you not mean 'partially', or a word to that effect?

almost 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Adam, I did yes. Good spot. 

almost 6 years ago

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Joanna Pieters

Interesting article. However, lack of investment in SEO may also be down to a shrewd understanding of their market, not simply a lack of awareness and knowledge. While most businesses need a web site, not all will find search-generated traffic a useful source of business (and don't necessarily need to try it to make an accurate guess at this). For SMEs in a small, niche sector, strongly local, or with non-online or strongly referral-based customer behaviours, it may be far more cost-effective to invest in other marketing channels. 

I agree that greater knowledge of the options is always a good thing for any business leader, and the survey does suggest there is room for education and improvement. But I wouldn't necessarily conclude that failure to invest in one area of marketing means a failure of judgement or expertise. 

almost 6 years ago

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John Hyde

Web designers are the problem. Every web design company in the world claims to do "SEO friendly" sites or similar - yet the results are what we see in this survey.

The poor business owners believe these claims and think the job has already been done.

The 'project' nature of new website projects means there is no follow up - the business owner can see that the site does exist and doesn't follow up any of the details. In fact SME site owners seldom even visit their own sites after the novelty has gone.

almost 6 years ago

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Ft Web Marketing

I agree web designers are the problem here in a lot of cases as they do not keep up with the SEO and web marketing industry. They think that a few meta tags on a page will be good enough, you end up with dupe titles on every page which can see you having a penalty in Google before you start. We are teaching our developers here at Freetimers to utilize proper SEO techniques, at least the basics, including an XML sitemap so when the site is complete at least this will have a chance to get listed with all pages in Google.

almost 6 years ago

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Amin Lalani

SEO is perhaps an expensive excercise if performed correctly as it request finding the right keywords, creatng pages, setting and tune metas time to time, adding component like google webmaster tools and analytics to monitor the performance and then generating relevant links and so on. On an average a website require 3-5 people working full time to acquire some good results and there are few companies who actually work and most of the companies simply boost to acquire top position and charge 20-100 GBP per month and doesnt bring any results and other SEO companies charge somewhere between 1500-2500 GBP and comeup with various offerings but that either doesnt bring any short term results. This situation actually keep the SME away from SEO unless they get sure about something that could guarantee sales and not just traffic.

My words to SME is to take a thorough interview before giving any amount to acquire top position in search engine and do seek for time and guarantee if possible

almost 6 years ago

Benin Brown

Benin Brown, EMarketer at RBT

I think that a number of comments have alluded to this.  But I just wanted to see if I might be able to add clarity.  Handling the emarketing function for an SME myself, what is abundantly clear to me is that long term planning and long term strategy is much further down the totem pole than quick results.  

Small businesses often feel like online marketing mix is a matter of "either-or" and justifiably so given that they often are only able to staff a fraction of the people that larger companies can staff and likewise have much smaller budgets.

So given the choice of putting all of their eggs into the basket that they feel has a probability to produce immediate results versus putting them in multiple baskets that may yield higher ROI but spread over a much longer time span is a difficult proposition.  After all, many SME's are forced to operate under such challenging circumstances that their futures are not as bankable as larger companies.

Marketing managers at SME's are aware of this and probably don't push as hard to diversify their marketing plans when they encounter resistance from the CFO or owners because they know that if things go too slow for the ownership's tastes they may find themselves out of a job-even if the ROI trajectory appears to be upward sloping!

almost 6 years ago

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web design company


Thanks for u r information                        

its very useful

almost 6 years ago

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SEO Traffic Spider

Very nice information. Thanks for this.

almost 6 years ago

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mark

Thanks for this - its good to get a bit of extra knowledge, we are a web design company in Southampton, Hampshire and we have just started our SEO services after achieve some great results.

We do SMO, SEO and marketing its essential the 3 go hand in hand

Mark@ http://www.onelinewebdesign.co.uk

almost 6 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

It's a pity because I suspect many are sold full SEO services where local search would likely be more appropriate. Getting businesses on to Google Maps and Google Places should not be expensive and should provide a more immediate, measurable benefit. 

Another point might be this. Why should they bother? SEO is often an arms race. Unless they have very good fire power to foot it with corporates many will never see any benefit regardless of the quality of what is being delivered.

almost 6 years ago

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web design tipperary, ireland

i find that clients need to be educated and informed on SEO and it is the duty of the design agency to do so, local seo can be done quite cost effectively and have massive returns with reletively little time

almost 6 years ago

Antoine Becaglia

Antoine Becaglia, Digital Strategist at WebPropaganda Ltd

I have dealt with a fair number of SME's over the past years and unfortunately their view/knowledge of the online marketing is either very very dusty or completely ignorant.

And to be fair, the (SEO) industry has not been clear for years about what is SEO and what is SEM, what iit includes, how to complement offline marketing and advertising...

Benin is somewhat right by saying "Small businesses often feel like online marketing mix is a matter of "either-or" but I 'd say they are wrong and unless they are shown and educated on the right waysto progress towards some effective SEO showing some ROI, it might stay that way.

almost 6 years ago

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offshoreally

In this modern age of internet still there are some marketers who aren't currently investing in SEO, A knowledge of the benefits of Seo is still needed. Just having a site isn't enough. According to me Seo is not just promoting your site and making sales infact seo represents a science, Thanks.

almost 6 years ago

Philippa Gamse

Philippa Gamse, Adjunct Professor at Hult International Business School

I agree with Joanna Pieters.  This article makes some great points, but the survey seems to include all types of SME, without reference to concerns which may make SEM low-priority or irrelevant to them.

In my presentations to CEO groups within the US, I've met, for example:

- businesses who are so niched that they know all of their potential customers, and the market knows of them

- businesses who do all or almost all of their work for government agencies, so marketing is a very different ballgame

- businesses who don't want to be found by the general public due to security concerns - either their work is classified, or their operations might invite protests or attacks (one of my recent groups included a company which provides animal testing for drug development)

In my experience, search engine traffic can also produce widely differing qualities of visitors, depending on the products or services being offered.  I've never found it especially helpful for professional service firms (content marketing is much more powerful for folks selling expertise), but it's great for selling yo-yo's!

almost 6 years ago

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Stephen Law

Hi Graham,

This is a good article along with good comments - SMEs often have very limited funds and want instant results.

I am a Freelance Telemarketing Expert, but I work closely with web marketing experts to provide integrated online/offline marketing.

The disparity between the knowledge of one SME and another is huge, with some having a keen understanding whilst others seem to know zip about any form of marketing.

I think the biggest problem for SMEs is not necessarily that they don't understand SEO, but that many don't understand Lead Generation at all and have put aside no budget for this.

There is also a big problem with SME owners believing that all things related to marketing are commission based, as if everyone works for free.

I agree that SEO/SEM/PPC should form any part of a marketing course for the SME owner.  Moreover, the SME owner must put aside sufficient marketing capital before they embark on adventure, and not just leave this to luck.

almost 6 years ago

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David

These businesses should be looking to correct this as, implemented well, SEO has the potential to be a very important and cost-effective sales channel. Also, competitors that have invested time or money in SEO may be gaining an advantage.

almost 6 years ago

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Ewan Kennedy

I agree with pretty much everything that's been said here.

What I fear will happen is that SME will lose out more and more in the long run by not committing to SEO. SEO may be expensive and may be risky but I think it will be far more costly in the long run not to embrace it. It must be even more difficult for many SME given the current economic background but those that make it a higher priority will end up stronger in the end.

I can remember only a few years ago, my MD boss saying "we can't afford a website". I say nobody can afford to ignore SEO any more than they can do without a website. If, that is, they want to generate leads online.

almost 6 years ago

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faizel

very good information Title is so nice!
Why SMEs are ignoring SEO/?

over 4 years ago

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Wendy - SEO Nottingham

I think a lot of SME's are being oversold on their SEO. Most only need local traffic, a few vanity keywords etc etc but are being sold huge marketing packages.

over 3 years ago

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Sally - Social Media Nottingham

A lot of SME's also think Social Media isn't for them, not just SEO, it's part of the education

over 3 years ago

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