The company I work for is extremely small PR Services company and since the downturn in PR spending in the UK since 9/11 4 of the 5 companies that acted as our competitors have gone out of business. The 5th is in a slightly different market, so they don't worry me.
I've worked very hard getting our website up to professional standard and getting us listed on search engines. Up 'til now we've done very well online. Our website was produced in house, which allows a certain amount of financial freedom in keeping it up to date and integrating it with the rest of the business. We're listed no.1 on Yahoo and Google, and in the top ten of almost all major search engines for our key search terms in both English and French languages (soon to add German, Spanish and Italian). 75% of our new business comes from the web. So I suppose you could say we're a bit of a success story as far as our web site goes.
With the smaller businesses in our field gone, we're competing against much larger companies. We have 15 employees, the next largest business in our field has over 1000. These much larger companies never matched us online until now. Last week I noticed the first sponsored link from a competitor. Now, depending on search terms, you can find 4 or 5 sponsored links to our competitors.
To date our search engine budget has been £0. And unfortunatly I think this has set a precedent. My boss didn't realise how important doing well on search engines was and told me not to bother. I got us to the top ten on most of them without any money, before he realised how much business he'd get that way. I think it'll be hard to persuade him that having had such good results before, it's now necessary to start paying.
On top of which in order to come close to the same potential budgets as our competitors, we'd have to fire staff, and we still probably couldn't keep up. If they choose to beat us they can.
Should I pitch into the bidding for pay-per-click links and cross my fingers?
Should I stick as it is and risk losing some of our new business contacts?
Why should a client care if it's sponsored or not? Don't they just treat all links the same?
Is there an option I'm not aware of?
How do we take on companies that are out of our league?
And while I'm at it if anyone knows the secret of eternal youth that would be great!