Small businesses in the UK may be wasting millions on websites that search engine cannot find, as many are failing to invest in search engine marketing, according to a new survey.

The survey, commissioned by Microsoft adCenter, asked 400 small businesses across the UK their opinions on search engine marketing, and found that 60% of these companies have not invested in SEO.

Of those that were spending money on search engine marketing, an impressive 76% reported an increase in sales as a result.

According to Peter Scargill from the Federation of Small Business:

“It is absolutely vital that small businesses realise the importance of investing in search marketing. Creating a web site is absolutely pointless if no-one can find it.”

“SMBs are aware of search, but many seem reluctant to invest in it. Its importance simply cannot be underestimated, and SMBs that are embracing search are seeing the benefits”

So why are they reluctant to invest in SEO? 44% said it was too time consuming, over 55% believe the costs are too high, while 33% said it was too complex.

Businesses are aware of search engine marketing though, despite a reluctance invest in it – 78% of these small firms said they were aware of the tools available to them.

The research also uncovered regional variations in attitudes towards search. Small businesses in the North of the country are least likely to invest – 75% have neglected to do so.

By contrast, in Scotland and the South East, only 44% of small firms were not spending money on search engine marketing.