The UK's small and medium sized businesses are wasting an estimated £3bn of investment on websites that are virtually invisible to search engines, according to a recent report.
Research by Microsoft's adCenter unit revealed that, although 2.79 million small businesses have an online presence, a hefty 62 per cent are not investing in search marketing campaigns to help potential customers find them online.
The survey found that 44 per cent of SMEs believe that search marketing is too time consuming, while 56 per cent consider it too expensive and 33 per cent too complicated.
This is despite the finding that 76 per cent of SMEs promoting their website on search engines see an immediate increase in sales.
To help combat this wastage Microsoft adCenter has launched a set of Search Marketing Guidelines to help small and medium enterprises set up and reap the benefits of search marketing.
"UK SMEs are missing a trick by not investing in search marketing campaigns, " said Nigel Leggatt, marketing manager at Microsoft adCenter.
"In today's world, just having a website is not enough. You have to drive traffic to your site to ensure you are front-of-mind with your potential customers. Search marketing is one of the most cost effective ways to achieve this."
It seems that small business owners already understand the power of search marketing to promote their business online, as 96 per cent said they use search engines themselves to find a product or service.
This is reflected by over half of SMEs claiming that they would be willing to set up search marketing campaigns themselves, and 34 per cent are planning to use search marketing in the future.
"A well-known website can allow a small business to compete on an equal footing with larger competitors, but only if the site can be found by potential customers," said Peter Scargill, IT chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses.
"Having an online presence is something that more and more small businesses are using to drive growth in the future, but they will be wasting their money if they do not make people aware of it."
The new guidelines set out to dispel the myths surrounding search marketing and offer a range of tips on how to get started with search marketing while making sure that the process is as quick, simple and cost-effective as possible.
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