Despite content being "king" on the web, marketers and small businesses know that the effort to produce original material is for naught if it has nowhere to go and nothing to link back to. As a result, website development is among the top expenditures for small businesses, according to Semify's new eBook, "Online Marketing Trends: Ready for 2015"; how small businesses budget for this expense, however, varies greatly.

The statistical survey gathered information from 81 male and female experts in the internet marketing business to find out how their small business customers spent money for online advertising. These budgets are often overlooked for small businesses; most agencies seem more concerned about their multimillion-dollar clients rather than the little guys on Main Street.

Defining Small Business

What Semify found, however, is that the vast majority (70.7%) of survey respondents dealt with clients who had revenues of under $250,000 in 2014. An almost identical amount (70.3%) had fewer than five employees on their payroll. The second highest demographic included businesses that earned between $250,001 and $500,000 in 2014, or 17.3% of agency clients.

Additionally, twenty-three percent of all businesses had between five and 10 employees. Combining these two factors, roughly four out of five businesses represented by such agencies have revenues of under $500,000, and 93.3% have 10 or fewer employees.

Budgets and Prioritization

So what exactly do these numbers indicate when it comes to online marketing? Although these businesses have limited budgets and are, indeed, small enterprises, many have made it a priority to seek out quality website development services over the past year. Approximately 36% of these agency clients made developing a website their number one priority this past year. That choice ranked higher than the clients who chose SEO (26%), PPC (12.4%), email marketing (12.4%), and social media (12.3%) their top concerns in their online marketing campaigns.

Yet in spite of the desire to focus on website design and development, these companies also worked with a limited budget for their internet marketing services as a whole. Most businesses (35%) had only allocated $500 or less for their monthly online marketing budgets, and another 31.3% spent between $501 and $1,000 per month. Around two-thirds spending under $1,000 each month, but most (65%) are spending over $500. Just 15% spend over $2,500 monthly.

These budgets likely factor heavily into the amount that small businesses are willing to spend on the creation of their websites. Of the agencies reporting in the study, more than half (50.7%) charged between $1,501 and $4,000 for a website. Another 12.3% cost between $4,001 and $10,000; high end websites costing more than $10,000 were offered by just 1.4% of agencies.

Low cost websites were also a popular choice among small businesses, even though mid-range sites won out by a long shot. Just 16.4% of agencies offered websites for $800 or less -- a steal for small businesses. Edging out these low cost options were sites costing between $801 and $1,500, which is the price set by 19.2% of agencies. Overall, the data indicates that small businesses are looking for website development options under $4,000, as offered by a staggering 86.3% of agencies surveyed.

Looking Ahead

For 2014, more than half of all survey participants outsourced services like website development and search engine optimization. Most (58.6%) resellers outsourced their SEO needs for their small business clients, and 52.9% outsourced their website development. And although many of these agencies with small business clients struggle to stay ahead of competitors and meet their sales goals, these agencies ranked technology as their sixth highest challenge for 2015, especially as more clients demand mobile-ready websites and advanced SEO reporting systems.

However, the road ahead is hopeful for many agencies. Most report that they expect their clients to spend more in 2015 than they did in 2014. Just over half see their clients' budgets increasing a small amount this coming year; 21.9% are counting on significant increases in client advertising budgets. And while 23.3% expect no change at all, only 1.4% expect small decreases and 2.7% see those small business advertising budgets decreasing significantly. Overall, optimism is key as agencies recruit and retain small business clients for remainder of 2015.

What are these small businesses going to spend their money on? One portion of Semify's survey asked agencies to name their top three in-demand services for 2015. Two-thirds (67%) of agencies say that SEO is the most sought after online advertising strategy, but not far behind that is website development, coming in at 64%. These two services seem to represent the backbone of online advertising, as their closest competitors, social media and content marketing, come in at 38% and 37% respectively. PPC, email marketing, marketing automation, reputation management, and website analytics rounded out the list as less in-demand.

For more information on what to expect for small business advertising in 2015, check out the eBook and other resources on Semify's website. Tell us what you think will be big in 2015 in the comments below.

By: Jen Meli