What SMBs Spend on Digital Marketing Services

  • October 2012
  • -
  • Borrell Associates Inc.

This 17-page report includes 14 charts & tables that examine the various expenditures on digital marketing. It separates these online services into five key categories: web presence (web design, hosting and social media management), public relations (email management, press release management, reputation management and opt-in list management), marketing support (SEO, blog development, site visitor analysis, email list purchase and listings claiming), ad production (online agency/exchange fees, display ad design, video production, app design, and contest/game development), and consulting & research. And because not all SMBs are the same, the report offers a glimpse at how they’re spending their money by business size cohorts – the smallest of the SMBs, the medium size, and the largest. Three market examples are also examined to illustrate differences between local markets. In the end, the report finds that SMBs spend an average of $17,000 on online marketing services, which is two and a half times more than what they spend on traditional online advertising.


The latest digital marketing buzz is all about how to enhance a businesses’ web or mobile presence. Every business wants to be seen – to gain more Facebook fans, be Tweeted about, collect more email opt-in addresses or attain the Holy Grail of Internet presence: appear at the top of the Google results page. Suddenly, digital advertising is yielding the spotlight to digital services.

The emerging lesson is that the Internet is actually not much of an advertising medium after all. It’s an advertising utility. And serving that utility function can lead to a gargantuan digital gold mine. We’ve found that local advertisers are spending two and a half times more on these online marketing services than they do on things like online banners, pay-per-click keywords, and video ads. Website hosting might cost $10 a month, reputation management $15 a month, or search engine optimization $400 a month, but those services and more add up to an average annual expenditure of $17,000 per business.

Thousands of companies are rushing in. They include local media companies, ad agencies, Internet pureplays, and companies that have traditionally provided software, printing or credit to local small and medium-size businesses (SMBs). The lower-end companies like Web.com and GoDaddy.com started by selling low-cost hosting and are now swimming upstream to a more sophisticated set of digital marketing services, while the higher-end companies like newspapers, TV stations and yellow pages started by selling more expensive online advertising packages and are now establishing boutique ad agencies to offer lower-priced services to reach out to new customers.

It’s an interesting battle, to say the least. The prize is a whopping $390 billion, half of which is spent on the most basic service of all, website hosting and maintenance.

This report gauges the size of the digital services marketplace and breaks its various components into 18 different products being offered to SMBs. In addition to estimating the amounts spent on each, the report takes a deep dive into three local markets to show how SMBs in those markets typically spend on digital marketing.

Table Of Contents

Table of Contents



Online Marketing’s Three-legged Stool...6
Fig.1.1: The Online Marketing Stool 6
Fig.1.2: Online Marketing Services, by Share of 2012 Spending ..7
Fig.1.3: Online Marketing Services 2012 Spending in the U.S. - by Category and Service .9


Where Online Marketing Services Money is Spent ..10
Fig.2.1: 2012 Total Online Marketing Services Spending by Business Size ..10
Fig.2.2: Online Marketing Services Spending Profile for Businesses with Fig.2.3: Online Marketing Services Spending Profile for Businesses with 50 to 499 Employees ..11
Fig.2.4: Online Marketing Services Spending Profile for Businesses with 500 to 4,999 Employees 12
Fig.2.5: Online Marketing Services Spending Profile for Businesses with 5,000 Employees or More ......13


The Local Perspective ...14
Fig.3.1: Most Prominent Local Categories of Online Marketing Services Spending, 2012 Average Share ..14
Fig.3.2: 2012 Local Online Marketing Services Spending Patterns for Selected DMRs ...14
Fig.3.3: 2012 Online Marketing Services Spending Patterns for Three DMRs ..15
Fig. 3.4, 3.5 and 3.6: Market Examples ..16
Methodology for Estimating Market Ad Spending .18


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