By Daniel Hunter

Britain’s small companies are surrendering a fortune to the competition by not taking advantage of search engine generated business, a survey has suggested.

Almost a third (32 per cent) of 313 small business owners, partners and directors surveyed by XLN Telecom, a specialist provider of telephone and business broadband to small businesses, do not even have a business website but of those that do, only half (53 per cent) say their websites are optimised for search engines. That’s compared to 23 per cent who say their websites are not and 24 per cent who do not know, suggesting they don’t even know what SEO is.

The Office for National Statistics said last week that almost three quarters (72 per cent) of all adults reported buying goods or services online. While younger age groups have traditionally embraced internet shopping (92 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds), over a third of those aged 65 and over bought online (36 per cent) in 2013. And in June this year average weekly spending online was measured as £586.9 million.

Furthermore, research has proved that ranking in the top three on Google searches is a significant advantage, suggesting the top spot enjoys 32.5 per cent of all clicks, dropping to 17.6 for position two and 11.4 per cent for the third spot.

“If our survey’s figures hold out even remotely against the national picture then there’s a startling amount of business going uncontested online. Ninety three per cent of all internet traffic is generated from search engines, so the half that have optimised their sites are making hay while the rest sit around and wait for the phone to ring," Christian Nellemann, CEO and Founder of XLN Telecom, said.

“The internet and search engines have transformed the way people look for services or research purchases. Looking at the stats, it’s hard to overestimate the potential rewards for improving search engine visibility.”

The advantage optimised sites enjoy over their un-optimised competitors is further demonstrated by research that revealed 97 per cent of internet users look for services/goods online and one in five searches is local.

Yet despite this, only 48 per cent of the businesses XLN Telecom surveyed said they used the internet for marketing. This was in contrast to banking (72 per cent), customer service (66 per cent), contact with suppliers and other business contacts (65 per cent), and research (64 per cent).

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