Posted March 23, 2011 11:39 am by with 4 comments

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The SMB world is an interesting one when it comes to the Internet space. It goes without saying that there is a lot of talk around it. There is plenty of interest in it. Along with all of that though is also confusion and debate as to how to best service this incredibly large yet enigmatic segment of the business world when it comes to Internet marketing.

American Express OPEN Forum has released a study giving some insight into this group. Here is a snapshot of what the surveyed companies said about their Internet efforts.

This next chart outlines what their plans are for the remainder of 2011.

One thing that is apparent is that at least most of the companies surveyed at least have a website! That’s progress. Depending on the source, the percentage of small businesses that still don’t have a website today can run as high as 50%. Now that we are getting close to the 20 year anniversary of this commercial Internet thing it’s one would think that the basics would be covered by now.

One interesting piece that stood out was a statistical match of sorts regarding Google Places. Of all the Place Page listings only about 10% of been verified. Interestingly enough only 10% of the surveyed companies are paying attention to this very important area (at least when it comes to Google and local search). Why is that? It’s because outside of Portland, OR Google doesn’t promote these assets so most SMB’s are still unaware of their existence in some cases and importance in many cases.

So the SMB space continues to garner attention but how much progress are we seeing? That’s debatable. Any progress that has happened to this point can be attributed to early adopters and SMB’s who have some level of tech savvy. The rest who are often older and more traditional in their business ways and marketing efforts need real help and the Internet marketing industry has fallen flat on its face in this regard.

The industry wants to always sell these people something rather than educate them, bring them up to speed then give real life solutions. Real life solutions require heavy customization and customization doesn’t scale. As a result, it is ignored and the products and service presented to this market are often short-sighted and poor options for the SMB.

How do we get out of this cycle? Education will need to be done from the top down. I am waiting for who between Google and Bing will actually invest in programs to educate the SMB space about the Internet as a whole. I doubt Google ever will so the door is left wide open for Bing but I don’t know if they have the chops to walk through it and take advantage. At least, they haven’t shown that desire to this point. In conversations I have had with Bing they seem to want to do this but wanting and doing are two very different things.

So the SMB space remains the Wild West of the Internet space. When it is corralled, tamed and trained in the right ways the Internet marketing industry will be very busy. When it will happen? Your guess is as good as mine.

What are your thoughts?

  • With only 16% of businesses planning to utilize PPC, this highlights that Google still hasn’t peaked with their AdWords product. There is still plenty of room left for AdWords to grow their market.

  • Thanks for sharing that study Frank. You mentioned some good take-aways from it. When I scanned it the 1st time I totally missed the Google Places part of the survey. 🙁

    The fact those two 10% numbers happen to match up, speaks volumes about how uninformed SMBs are when it comes to local marketing. Those of us that live, eat and breathe Google Places and get lots of calls about it, sometimes erroneously think ‘everyone’ knows about it, but they don’t.

    “When it is corralled, tamed and trained in the right ways the Internet marketing industry will be very busy.” You are right. Hard to imagine. Most of the local SEOs I know are swamped already and it’s already very hard for us to keep up with the demand. Can’t imagine it getting even busier, but it will.

    • @Linda – Coming from you this is high praise. I have become acquainted with you from Mike Blumenthal’s blog. We do tend to get myopic because in our own backyards we think the whole world knows what we do. Simply put, they don’t and it’s not because they don’t care, it’s becasue Google and Bing are AWFUL marketers. They leave it up to the small time players to promote then scratch their heads and wonder why adoption rates are so slow. Another problem is that we even talk over the SMB’s head often because we have not stepped back to make sure we are talking to them in a language they understand.

      Phew! Keep up the great work, Linda! Thanks for coming by and please tell everyone about us.

  • This was the very good surveyover SMBs online activities,one of the best survey is that most companies are not having websites.