Just 36 percent of small businesses have a strategy in place for search engine optimization (SEO), with another 38 percent planning to invest in SEO in the future, a recent Clutch survey of 529 small business owners and managers found. Another 15 percent say they're unlikely ever to invest in SEO.
The most common SEO activities invested in by small businesses are social media marketing (63 percent), mobile-friendly websites (54 percent), keyword research (51 percent) and content marketing (48 percent). Just 28 percent invest in link building, and 21 percent invest in optimizing content for voice searches.
Notably, the majority (54 percent) of small businesses rely on in-house employees for SEO rather than hiring an SEO agency (28 percent).
"In-house offers more control over planning, content creation, and budgeting," Jaykishan Panchal of digital marketing agency E2M said in a statement. "The in-house SEO team probably has the best understanding of the brand voice, company culture, and availability of resources)."
The leading SEO metrics tracked by small businesses include website traffic (25 percent), leads and conversions (19 percent), backlinks (14 percent) and keyword rankings (13 percent).
Sixty percent of small businesses with an SEO strategy also invest in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, with an additional 26 percent planning to invest in PPC in the future.
Just 8 percent say they're unlikely ever to invest in PPC ads.
"PPC is more transactional than SEO," Ledger Bennett chief strategy officer Greg Dorban said in a statement. "For small businesses, cash flow matters, so anything that gives quick and measurable return usually wins on spending decisions."
The survey also found that fully 88 percent of small businesses monitor their online reputation at least quarterly. Two thirds use social media to do so, and 48 percent of those also use other platforms to monitor their reputation.
"You have to monitor social media, but you also need to go beyond it to effectively monitor your online reputation," Neumann Paige CEO John Gottschall said in a statement.
Forty-four percent of small business use only human resources (in-house employees and agencies) to monitor their online reputation, while 26 percent use only digital resources (online reputation management tools, third party review sites and social listening software). Thirty percent use a combination of both human and digital resources.