04/15/2013 12:54 pm ET Updated Jun 15, 2013

A Look at the Struggle of Small Businesses on the Internet

Advertising and marketing are paramount to small businesses for reaching new customers. Using a restricted budget for marketing can lead to a struggle to survive even with the many free forms of advertising on the Internet like company websites, blogs and associate marketing sites; it can still be difficult to reach a specific audience.

Danny DeMichele had this to say about the net's undesirable impact on small businesses. "The Internet has made it very problematic for small businesses. Even as little as 5 years ago, a small business had a couple of choices to make. How big should my yellow page listing be, and how frequent do I advertise in the local newspaper."

Total Internet Usage 2012

According to the latest Internet statistics, a staggering 2,433,376,688 individuals around the world are using their computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices to connect to the Internet. In addition, there were 564 million individuals, based in Mainland China, using the Internet according to data from the China Internet Network Information Center or CNNIC.

Internet Usage by the Numbers

These Internet usage statistics make it clear where marketing money should go for small businesses.

Blogging Beats Email - Among those 55 and younger, web-based email dropped 59% in favor of instant messaging, social networks and text. And, 55% more of web traffic went to companies with blogs than those without. The reason, Google loves blogs, which they need to index, giving your business more inbound links. Therefore, the more blog pages and inbound links a business has, the higher ranking on search engines - such as Google, a business will have. Higher rankings translate to greater traffic.

The New Business Card - A total of 78% of those using the Internet will research a product, service or company online before making a decision. A company with a website which is not only high ranking on the search engines, but attractive and user friendly, is going to make the best first impression. The new business card is not a card, its Google, or Bing, or Ask.

SEO Cost to Business

When a small business sets out to market their product, services or their entire business through SEO, it's not as easy as a larger business. DeMichele, CEO of, had this to say about the cost of SEO for the minor league stores: "Now, small businesses have 30 places they can spend their money. And when average marketing budgets are less than $1000 a month, it is very hard to decide where to put it. On top of that, to run a good local campaign it can take upwards of 40 hours a month to manage it."

Pricing Options for SEO

Marketing companies will charge their clients one of four ways:

Per Link - Paying per link is not the best way to go for small businesses as they don't offer ROI, onsite SEO or keyword research. This is also an expensive type of marketing campaign.

Per Package - Paying for SEO as a per package deal is also not the best for small businesses because a marketing company will charge their client when they rank them on the search pages, typically in the top 10, 5 or 3. This may seem like a smart way to go, but many of the companies will be doing anything to get your business a high ranking position. Once a top spot is obtained, and they have collected their payment, they're pretty much gone. There is no ROI or support making it an expensive and unsuccessful SEO option.

Per Keyword Package - Paying a SEO provider per keyword, where each keyword is optimized onsite and link building work is done off-site, is one of the better options for small business marketing, although it can be costly due to the number of keywords it may take to reach the top rungs of a search engine.

Per Month Package - Paying a provider for SEO services by the month is the most common as it enables a small business to customize to their specific needs. There are also options for predesigned packaged with a set number of links, keywords and general work involved. There is good ROI and a long-term relationship established.

Small Business Owners Need to Master SEO

With the various options for small business owners to advertise and market their businesses, each one more expensive than the one before, it may be time for a do-it-yourself approach. And DeMichele agrees. "Small businesses really need to learn all the ins and outs. They simply cannot afford to outsource the work."

Watching the latest marketing and advertising trends for your product, subscribing to niche market journals and simply keeping an eye and ear out for what your current customers like and don't like will have you on your way to mastering SEO.