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Australian small businesses are late to the party

Photo of James Richardson

James Richardson

Co-Founder & Partnerships

Posted: 24 Mar 2020

This isn't an Aussie-bashing post - Hell I'm Aussie and damn proud of it too mate! What it is though is a wake up call to all of you Australian small businesses, because you're actually being left behind when it comes to reaching customers through online marketing. 

Over the last few months, we've been interviewing and surveying over 350 small businesses across the country from every major industry and in every major region - with some pretty compelling results, the most notable being that Australians do not have a strong grasp of online marketing.

What is even more confusing is that we argue over whether to use copper or fibre for our national broadband network, so we clearly all want to be online, we just haven't realised that having such a large portion of our population online (82.3% of us according to Wikipedia), we can reach them to make more money! 

So let's dig into the findings of the 2013 Optimising Small Business Online Marketing Report shall we? I encourage you to read the full report, but here are some key findings we made: 


  • Over 50% of respondents had not performed SEO on their website (or even audited it for search engine rank effectiveness).
  • 53% didn't know what amount of their traffic was attributable' should be '53% didn't know how much of their traffic was attributable
  • In a recent Google study, 73% of searchers use search to find where products are sold, 72% use search to make price comparisons and 63% use search to find promotional offers.
  • Over 71% of respondents have never run an online advertising campaign (13% are currently running an online advertising campaign and 16% have run one but aren't anymore).
  • Of all respondents, 68% will be increasing their online marketing spend, but more notably a whopping 29% won't.

Social Media

  • Social media has had the largest increase of all marketing forms.
  • 73% of respondents have used Facebook for branding and sales.


  • A recent Google study found that 79% of smartphone users use their smartphone before and during purchase decisions
  • 45% of respondents don't have a mobile-friendly website (either mobile-formatted or responsive)


Perhaps the most interesting of all the above stats is how little small business is capitalising on SEO and PPC/SMA. So far, small business has really taken to utilising social media for branding and driving sales, but aren't even turning to social media advertising - Instead choosing to interact with fans and followers with only posts, tweets, photos and competitions etc. 

"Online marketing costs too much"  

Does it? A solid SEO campaign may set you back around $700/month, but just think about how many more people are you going to be clicking through to your website and calling you or buying - if you're transacting and receiving more leads, and you can earn more than what you're spending, it begs the question - What's stopping you? Yes SEO isn't right for everyone, particularly low cost items or businesses operating in highly saturated markets (cleaners).

PPC isn't for everyone either, you certainly wouldn't find a coffin maker advertising with PPC (or on Facebook!). It's a cost, yes, but attribute a value to it, much like you would any other expense you classify as "necessary", because I can assure you if not now, then in the next 12 months, more than half of your direct competitors will be using online marketing to reach customers - your customers. 

What does this mean?

Well for starters, online marketing is no longer something small businesses should do 'if there is extra budget', it's something they need to budget for and take as seriously as insurance (because there ain't going to be a need for any insurance when you're out of business).

It's imperative to reach customers and compete to win their business, intelligently of course. We can appreciate that there are lots of unsavoury parties out there trying to swindle you out of your money, but it's no excuse - it comes down to shopping around and making sure the agency you entrust to push your rankings up or drive leads to your site has a solid reputation and can give you favourable terms. 

Remember also that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Low cost might seem appealing, but you're actually damaging your ranking, or the agency is taking your money and doing absolutely nothing at all for you. 

What can I expect to pay for online marketing?

When shopping around for online marketing agencies, expect that there will be a setup fee, expect that time will need to be taken to look at your business and that getting a price off the bat is extremely hard to come up with. This isn't a bad thing!

Any good SEO/PPC/SMA agency (and there aren't many out there) will give you a price after they have done some research on your business. Online marketing isn't about applying the same template to everyone's business, it's curating a customised solution that boosts your individual rankings/leads based on your individual desires. 

How can that possibly be templated! So for starters, all those emails that send you a cookie-cutter SEO solution, I suggest you apply the cookie-cutter action of trash-trash-trashing them. For a good quality SEO campaign, expect to spend around $650/month or more. For that you can expect to get a solid organic ranking within 6 months with a variety of different methods used to boost your rank, it really is a custom thing for your individual business.

For a good quality PPC campaign, expect to spend around $400/month or more. For that you can expect good quality reporting with individual comments and robust methodologies about refining your keywords to leverage ad spend. 

For a good quality SMA campaign, expect to spend around $350/month or more. For that you can expect something very similar to PPC in terms of solid reporting and ongoing refinement in targeting and reach to get conversions. 


While I may have discussed some rather detailed things in this article, the intention was to focus on the fact that Australian small businesses now have a new report they can turn to for valuable information, and that what the report has found isn't all glory, but it isn't doom and gloom either. We are in a great position to push small businesses further by shifting some mindsets, opening up our thoughts and really digging deep into reaching customers. 

They are out there, and every year that marches by, the customers are getting smarter. As small businesses, we need to get smarter too - not to trick anyone, but to engage in meaningful ways that these phenomenal platforms give us the ability to with their immensely powerful tools. 

For the more advanced readers

For those of you that want to take a more scientific approach to the decision to undertake SEO, let's grab a pen and paper and do the maths: 

C = Average cost of SEO ($650 as an example) P = Average profit you make from a sale S = Average number of sales per month L = Likelihood of earning a return.

Slot the above figures into the equation below and calculate your L, which is your likelihood to earn a return from SEO:

(S - (C ÷ P)) ÷ S = L

Photo of James Richardson

James Richardson

Co-Founder & Partnerships

Working in the SEO industry for many years alongside some of Australia’s biggest brands, James started his online career running online Sports Fan sites, as well as cutting his teeth on several successful eCommerce brands and content sites.

Previously holding various senior roles across the Sales and Marketing teams for ASX listed companies, he went on to found Optimising with Daniel and is proud he has helped mould it into one of Australia's leading SEO agencies.

When he’s not in the office he’s at home having pretend tea parties, or building a cubby house in the lounge room with his three young girls.


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