Researchers at Microsoft have discovered that small business owners have a number of fears when it comes to promoting their business online. Nine out of every ten firms with an online presence have never tried to use any form of paid search marketing.

Amazing! Google, for instance, is raking in billions of dollars each year in paid search marketing (the sponsored links) and it seems they’ve probably only tapped around 10% of the available market. What on earth will their revenues be when most people are using the system…?

Of course, most people won’t – the Microsoft study has revealed we have too many hang-ups about paying for clicks. It seems we’re scared by the whole system, based around a pricing auction, because we’re unsure of what each click will cost us. Equally, we’re worried that the systems for sponsored links are so complex they’ll take us too much time to understand and use. We’re also worried that we would increase our costs because we’d need an agency to handle any campaigns.

In other words, in spite of being around for almost a decade, the companies that run pay per click marketing have done little to dispel the myths or help small business people to understand. Maybe the likes of Google and Microsoft have been raking in the sponsored link cash so easily, they haven’t realised that the money has only been coming from a minority of the web’s business users.

As I reported earlier this week, pay per click doesn’t really connect with web users. Maybe the small businesses in the Microsoft survey just realised they could actually spend their money more wisely – and get more return on their investment.

What’s really interesting though is the fact that Microsoft have released the details of this study only this week. They did the research back in April. Has it really taken them almost 10 months to analyse the information? Or do you think they are trying to convince us that paid-for search marketing is really, really worthwhile at a time when their ad-revenues are likely to have been hit by the recession?

Whatever the reason, remember that pay per click advertising is only one of the many marketing methods you can use – and many of the other options are free. And if the report’s findings about complexity are to be believed, much easier than using something like Microsoft AdCenter.

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