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2023 Search Marketing Survey

The State of Search Marketing for Small Businesses

Understanding Search Marketing Habits Amongst Small Businesses in the US

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2023 Search Marketing Survey

The State of Search Marketing for Small Businesses

Understanding Search Marketing Habits Amongst Small Businesses in the US

Survey Data Insights

Introduction

In an effort to better understand the habits and results of search marketing for small businesses, we surveyed 256 marketers working full-time for companies in the United States. Specifically, we asked survey respondents about the 3 most common types of search marketing:

  • Paid Search Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Local Business (Map) Listing Optimization

Whether you’re a marketing professional looking to increase traffic for your own small business or an affiliate publisher helping advertisers spread the word, search marketing is a critical tool for generating interest, clicks, and leads. Our survey sought to better understand the types of resources small businesses deployed (both financial and human capital), whether they handled these efforts internally or outsourced them, their biggest challenges as well as their success rate with search marketing. We believe the data it provides can be a useful resource for organizations working within the search marketing space as well as for small business owners.

Stats At-A-Glance

While our survey revealed a ton of interesting data points, here are some of the highlights:

  • 75% of small businesses report doing some search marketing
  • 60% of small businesses report purchasing 3rd party tools/software to plan/execute their search marketing strategy
  • 51% of small businesses spend less than $5,000 each month on search marketing
  • Small businesses tend to do most of their search marketing in-house as opposed to hiring an outside person/agency (they are almost twice as likely to hire an outside agency for SEO versus PPC):
    • Paid Search – 66% in-house, 15% agency, 16% combined in-house/agency
    • SEO – 56% in-house, 28% agency, 14% combined in-house/agency
    • Local Business Listing – 74% in-house, 18% agency, 8% combined in-house/agency
  • The biggest challenge (receiving 32% of votes) for their paid search marketing efforts is planning and strategy
  • 86% of small businesses deploy dedicated landing pages exclusively for their paid search traffic
  • 65% of small businesses focus their SEO efforts on ‘on-page’ SEO, 20% focus on off-page link building and only 14% focus on both tactics
  • Keyword research/content planning (24%), along with finding the time/resources (24%) and staying on top of algorithm changes (24%) are reported as the biggest challenges for SEO
  • Search marketing for small businesses works. The following percentages of small business marketers felt these tactics were an effective part of their overall marketing efforts:
    • Paid Search – 87%
    • SEO – 83%
    • Local Business Listing – 89%
  • Overwhelmingly, small business marketers intend on devoting additional resources to all 3 search marketing tactics:
    • Paid Search – 87%
    • SEO – 84%
    • Local Business Listing – 80%

Demographics

How many employees does your business have?

This survey focuses on small businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Search Marketing Survey Employee Headcount

What industry is your business in?

This survey was conducted amongst marketing professionals across a wide variety of industries.

Search Marketing Survey Industries

Does your business provide products or services mainly to businesses or mainly to consumers?

Amongst those surveyed, 60% identified as mainly B2B businesses while 40% identified as mainly B2C businesses.

Search Marketing Survey B2B vs B2C

Does your business primarily sell products or services?

Amongst those surveyed, 60% identified as mainly selling products while the remaining 40% reported selling mainly services.

Search Marketing Survey Products vs Services

What is your business’ annual revenue?

52% of small businesses reported generating less than $1M annually, while 79% reported generating less than $10M annually.

Search Marketing Survey Annual Revenue

Adoption Rate

Does your business do any search marketing?

1 in 5 small businesses do no search marketing whatsoever. In other words, based on a previous survey we performed amongst consumers, these small businesses are missing out on 66% of potential customers that are actively searching on Google for their products and/or services.

Search Marketing Survey Adoption Rate

Work Hours Per Week

How many work hours per week are devoted to your business’ search marketing efforts?

62% of small businesses devote 20 or fewer hours per week to search marketing, while 85% devote 40 or fewer hours to it.

Search Marketing Survey Work Hours Allocation

3rd Party Tools

Does your business pay for 3rd party tools/software to execute its search marketing strategy?

Of small businesses that report doing some form of search marketing, 30% do not purchase any 3rd party tools/software to help them plan, execute or report on their efforts.

Search Marketing Survey 3rd Party Tools

Total Spend

How much does your business spend each month on search marketing?

1 out of 3 small businesses spend less than $1,000 each month on all search marketing, while the majority (51%) spend less than $5,000 monthly.

Search Marketing Survey Total Spend

Which statement best describes your business’ paid search marketing efforts?

60% of respondents indicated they currently spend money on paid search marketing, while 30% indicated they had tried paid search marketing in the past but no longer do so. Only 6% of small business marketers reported never having tried paid search marketing.

Search Marketing Survey Paid Search Adoption Rate

Which statement best describes your business’ paid search marketing efforts?

A super majority of respondents (66%) indicated they handle all of their paid search marketing internally, while 15% reported using an agency and 16% reported using a mix of in-house/agency to execute their paid search marketing campaigns.

Search Marketing Survey Paid Search In-House vs Agency

What is the biggest challenge your business faces with paid search marketing?

32% of survey respondents indicated that planning and strategy was the biggest challenge they faced when it comes to their paid search marketing efforts, followed by staying on top of ad platform changes (21%) and finding time/resource (19%).

Search Marketing Survey Biggest Challenge

Do you build dedicated landing pages designed exclusively for your paid search marketing traffic?

86% of small businesses reported building landing pages dedicated exclusively to their paid search traffic, indicating the overwhelming majority have a good understanding of the importance of this best practice.

Search Marketing Survey Landing Page Usage

How much does your business spend each month on paid search marketing?

1 out of 3 respondents indicated they spend less than $1,000 each month on paid search marketing, while 60% reported spending less than $5,000 each month.

Search Marketing Survey Paid Search Monthly Spend

Agree or Disagree: Our business is able to easily track the effectiveness of our paid search marketing efforts?

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority (91%) either agreed or somewhat agreed that they were able to easily track the effectiveness of their paid search marketing efforts.

Search Marketing Survey Paid Search Ability to Track Effectiveness

Agree or Disagree: Paid search marketing is an effective part of our business’ overall marketing strategy?

Paid search marketing seems to work for those that do it, with 87% reporting it is an effective part of their business’ overall marketing strategy. Only 4% of respondents disagreed with that statement.

Search Marketing Survey Paid Search Effectiveness

How likely is your company to invest more resources into paid search marketing within the next 12 months?

As further proof of the effectiveness of paid search marketing, 87% of those that do paid search marketing indicated they plan on spending more on those efforts in the next 12 months.

Search Marketing Paid Search Future Spend

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Marketing

SEO Efforts – Adoption Rate

Compared with paid search marketing (60%), a greater share of small businesses (70%) do some form of SEO. That said, 1 in 5 small businesses have tried SEO in the past but no longer do so.

Search Marketing Survey SEO Adoption Rate

SEO Efforts – Primary Focus

Given its multidisciplinary nature, we wanted to better understand the extent small businesses focused on various aspects of SEO. Perhaps not surprisingly, a near supermajority (65%) said their primary focus was on various on-page SEO tactics, while 20% focused on off-page tactics such as generating inbound links to their website. Only 14% of small businesses reported focusing on both aspects of SEO.

Search Marketing Survey SEO Primary Focus

SEO Efforts – In-House vs Agency

As compared with paid search marketing, it’s clear small businesses don’t feel quite as confident handling their SEO efforts. 28% rely on an outside person/agency to handle their SEO efforts (compared to 15% for paid search marketing), while 56% handle SEO internally and 14% rely on a mix of both in-house and outside help.

Search Marketing Survey SEO In-House vs Agency

What is the biggest challenge your business faces with SEO?

There was a 3-way tie for the biggest challenge faced by small businesses when it comes to SEO. Below were the 3 biggest challenges faced:

  • Keyword research and/or content discovery and planning
  • Finding time/resources to dedicate to SEO efforts
  • Staying on top of search engine algorithm changes

Perhaps surprisingly, only 7% of respondents reported generating links to their website as their biggest challenge. Even amongst small businesses that said their primary focus in SEO was generating inbound links, only 20% reported generating those links as their biggest challenge. It’s possible that with the proliferation of paid link services, most small businesses see those services as a simple solution to off-page SEO.

Search Marketing Survey SEO Biggest Challenge

How much does your business spend each month on SEO?

29% of small businesses spend less than $1,000 each month on their SEO efforts, while 56% spend less than $5,000 each month.

By and large, it seems like small businesses are inclined to spend roughly similar amounts for their SEO and paid search marketing efforts.

Search Marketing Survey SEO Monthly Spend

Agree or Disagree: Our business is able to easily track the effectiveness of our SEO efforts?

80% of small businesses marketers agreed their SEO efforts were easily trackable. Perhaps unsurprisingly, SEO was reported as slightly more difficult to track than paid search marketing with 12% not agreeing it was easily trackable.

Search Marketing Survey SEO Ability to Track Effectiveness

Agree or Disagree: SEO is an effective part of our business’ overall marketing strategy?

83% of small business marketers said SEO was an effective part of their marketing strategy, making SEO only slightly less effective than paid search marketing (88%).

Search Marketing Survey SEO Effectiveness

How likely is your company to invest more resources into SEO within the next 12 months?

84% of respondents reported they were likely or very likely to invest additional resources towards their SEO efforts in the next 12 months. As with other indicators of success, this figure slightly lags the same sentiment when it comes to paid search marketing.

Search Marketing Survey SEO Future Spend

Local Business Listing (Map) Optimization

Which statement best describes your business?

Of those respondents that reported being a local business, 64% said their business is actively working to optimize their local business listing in order to appear in more local searches. 36% of local businesses said they do not devote any resources to optimizing their local business listing.

Search Marketing Survey Local Business Listing Adoption Rate

Local Business Listing – In-House vs Agency

Managing their local business listing appears to be the task most commonly done in-house, with 74% reporting doing so internally.

Search Marketing Survey Local Business Listing In-House vs Agency

What is the biggest challenge your business faces with local business listing optimization?

When it comes to the challenges small businesses face with regards to managing their local business listing, they report the following:

  • Finding time/resources to dedicate to optimizing your local business listing (29%)
  • Understanding what factors contribute to better visibility for your local business listing (26%)
  • Generating reviews from past customers for your local business listing (23%)
  • Proving ROI of your local business listing SEO efforts to other stakeholders (12%)
  • Accurately reporting on local business listing SEO effectiveness (10%)
Search Marketing Survey Local Business Listing Biggest Challenge

Agree or Disagree: Our business is able to easily track the effectiveness of our local business listing optimization efforts?

When it comes to the challenges small businesses face with regards to managing their local business listing, they report the following:

Search Marketing Survey Local Business Listing Ability to Track Effectiveness

Agree or Disagree: Local business listing optimization is an effective part of our business’ overall marketing strategy?

89% of small business marketers (that report devoting resources to optimizing their local business listing) say those efforts are an effective part of their overall marketing strategy.

Search Marketing Survey Local Business Listing Effectiveness

How likely is your company to invest more resources into local business listing SEO within the next 12 months?

80% of small business marketers that are actively optimizing their local business listing report they are likely or very likely to devote additional resources to those efforts in the next 12 months.

Search Marketing Survey Local Business Listing Future Spend

Conclusions

Overall, it’s clear that search marketing works for those willing to devote resources to it. While there are certainly small businesses that have tried various search marketing strategies in the past but no longer do so (presumably because they were ineffective), the overwhelming majority of respondents report seeing success with their search marketing.

Perhaps one of the most striking conclusions from our survey was the biggest challenge small businesses faced with their search marketing revolved around planning and strategy. Understanding what exactly to do is a challenge. So while small businesses are hard at work executing various search marketing strategies, it’s clear that many continue to need help honing in on exactly what actions should be taken.

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