Apocalyptic web designers, soothsaying social media “gurus,” and cynical online marketers have claimed that the the end of SEO is nigh, and have been since 1997. In fact, Search Engine Journal reports that SEO has probably “died” about five times. First when metatags and keywords became passé. Then when directories lost their strength. Again Google made search result pages more tailored. Then again in 2011 when the Panda update caused the mandatory level of quality to skyrocket. And then in 2012 and onward with each passing Google update.

The fact of the matter is that rumors of SEO’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and according to a new survey from Semify, an online marketing agency dedicated to perfecting small business SEO services, it’s going to be staying alive in 2015.

While there have been numerous studies on the billions upon billions of dollars huge corporations spend on search engine optimization and online marketing, there are virtually no studies on small business SEO.

Semify’s Online Marketing Trends: Ready For 2015 Survey

Semify set out to change that. In December 2014, Semify surveyed several dozen leaders in the field of online marketing for small business on their thoughts regarding the future of SEO marketing. The idea was to help small to mid-size marketing agencies prepare for the trends that would impact their specific sector of SEO in 2015.

Some of the most interesting things that the survey revealed include the fact that:

  • The majority of small businesses budget between $500 to $2,500 for SEO services.

  • Small businesses devoted about 62% of their budgets to website development or SEO.

  • More than half (51%) of small businesses’ websites were valued between $1,500 to $4,000.

  • Almost two out of three (59%) of online agencies said that they outsourced their SEO.

  • Lead generation was perceived as the biggest challenge online marketing agencies expected to face in 2015.

  • More than 50% of new leads are expected to come from referrals.

  • In 2015, 72% of online agencies expect their clients’ marketing budgets to increase.

  • Online marketers expect to see a much higher demand for new websites and increased SERP rankings in 2015.

  • SEO isn’t dead.

The majority of small businesses who participated in the survey had revenues lower than $250,000 per year, and fewer than five employees, while 29.3% and 29.7% had revenues higher than $250,000 per year and more than 5 employees, respectively. Only 4% of small business SEO services made more than $1 million per year, and only 1.4% had more tha 50 employees.

But What Does This All Mean?

Moving forward, it seems that the biggest trend will be website development. Small businesses who have free or cheap websites would be wise to invest more, considering the fact that a company’s website is the very foundation of its digital strategy.

Marketers also expect referrals -- not SEO -- to be their most important sources for new leads in 2015.

According to the survey, 86% of surveyed marketers feel that referrals will be their best way to generate leads, 59% believe SEO, and 32% believe cold calling will work best. At the bottom, only 6% of surveyed marketers feel that print advertising is a good way to generate leads.

This means that in 2015, small businesses are going to have to pay closer attention to their local listings and to their online reviews, as positive reviews are quintessentially referrals in and of themselves.

Has SEO Already Had Its Funeral?

SEO is not dead, wasn’t dead to begin with, and won’t die out in 2015. Not only do small business SEO clients spend the majority of their budgets on search engine optimization, but online marketers expect their spending to increase in 2015. As long as people still use Google, SEO’s heart will continue to beat.

By: Andrew Lindsay