According to a new installment of the BIA/Kelsey Local Commerce Monitor study, a majority (60.6 percent) of higher-spending small and medium-sized businesses rate search engine advertising and marketing (SEM, SEO, and pay-per-click) as an “extremely high” or “very high” priority for the next 12 months.

The Local Commerce Monitor is an ongoing study of the advertising behaviors of SMBs.

“BIA/Kelsey defines SMB Plus Spenders as small-business marketers that spend more than $25,000 annually on advertising and promotion,” the researchers noted. “On average, these SMB Plus Spenders spend nearly $79,000 annually on advertising and promotion.”

An SMB — for the purposes of the ongoing analysis — is defined by BIA as a business with anywhere from 1 to 99 employees. The recent analysis drew on a sample of 546 SMBs in first and second tier markets.

Among SMB Plus Spenders, 20.7 percent reported using pay-per-click advertising in the previous 12 months, fairly consistent with the 19.6 percent reported in 2013.

“The LCM findings indicate small businesses want to improve on the ability for consumers to discover them,” said Steve Marshall, director of research at BIA/Kelsey. “SEM, SEO, and pay per click are fundamental to achieving this goal, particularly with the growth of mobile search.”

That backs up the BIA/Kelsey U.S. Local Media Forecast 2015, in which analysts suggested that local search revenues could reach $7.2 billion in 2015, up from $7.1 billion in 2014. Of note: that forecast suggests local mobile search could account for more than half (51.1 percent) of mobile ad spending in 2015.