Microsoft adCenter Study Reveals Small Businesses Build Online Presence, but Fail to Invest in Search Marketing

REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 16, 2008 — Microsoft adCenter today released the results of an online survey examining the search marketing behaviors of 400 small-business owners in the United States. The findings indicate that a majority of the small businesses surveyed invest in developing Web sites, but fail to take even the simplest steps to enhance their online business presence. The study revealed that 59 percent of small businesses with Web sites don’t currently use paid search marketing, and of those, 90 percent have never even attempted it.

Surprisingly, seven in 10 small-business owners who participated revealed that they would rather try to do their own taxes than start a paid search marketing campaign. In an effort to minimize the intimidation associated with initiating a campaign, Microsoft offers free* search marketing assistance for those looking to get started.

“Given today’s current economic conditions, small-business owners need more effective ways to optimize their marketing dollars,” said Brian Boland, director of adCenter at Microsoft Advertising. “By investing in paid search marketing, small businesses can track online sales and determine the return on investment for their campaigns, while at the same time boosting traffic and visibility for their Web sites.”

Despite the lack of investment in paid search marketing, the weakening economy and increased competition, nearly nine in 10 (86 percent) small-business owners surveyed felt that they could be missing opportunities to grow their business, while three in four believed prospective customers could be searching online for the type of service their business offers. Although most do not embrace the practice, the small-business owners who use paid search marketing are very satisfied, as 72 percent reported an increase in sales inquiries and 68 percent consider their paid search marketing efforts successful.

Among the participants’ chief concerns, most cited the common misconceptions of cost, time and complexity as major hurdles to conducting search marketing campaigns for their businesses. Other key insights included the following:

  • Nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) feared keywords may become too expensive.

  • Eighty-one percent questioned if paid search marketing is the best use of their marketing budgets.

  • One quarter of respondents believe paid search marketing is too complex.

  • Twenty-one percent thought it would be too time-consuming.

  • Thirty-five percent felt they would need an agency to help set up a search marketing campaign.

“These opinions run counter to widely held marketing industry views on paid search marketing, which recognize the practice as one of the most cost-effective, easy-to-use, measurable and accountable forms of marketing,” Boland said.

The Microsoft adCenter QuickLaunch program offers free consultation with a search expert for advertisers that set a minimum monthly budget of $500. The program also helps advertisers manage their search marketing campaigns by providing advisory services, classroom-style training programs through the Microsoft adCenter Learning Center, and tools such as building keyword lists with the Microsoft adCenter add-in product for Microsoft Office Excel and finding your target audience. More information is available at

The study was conducted by independent research company Kelton Research in April 2008. Microsoft commissioned the quantitative research of 400 small-business owners with 250 or fewer employees via an anonymous online survey consisting of a series of 38 questions designed to gauge their search marketing behaviors and attitudes.

About Microsoft Advertising

Microsoft Advertising provides world-class advertising tools and solutions for digital advertisers and publishers to drive brand and consumer engagement. The portfolio includes all of Microsoft’s digital advertising businesses: its global media network that includes MSN, Windows Live, Office Live, Xbox LIVE, Live Search, Facebook and more, and its global technology platforms and tools that include Atlas, AdECN, adCenter, DRIVEpm, Massive and ScreenTonic, which together create engaging digital advertising experiences for their consumers. Microsoft Advertising helps make buying and selling media simple, smart and cost-effective across media and devices in the Microsoft network of properties and beyond, which spans 42 markets globally and 21 languages. Visit for more information.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

* Does not include the one-time, nonrefundable $5 fee required to open an adCenter account.

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