SEO, if executed by a high-quality service provider, is not cheap. If you work with growth-focused SEO agencies that direct their strategies on generating revenue, expect to pay for it. If, however, you opt to hire one of those guys who works out of his mom’s basement for a bargain basement price, expect low-level results.
Before you decide who to hire for SEO services, take a look at your organization, its current sales, and determine your growth goals. You may need an SEO agency in order to hit your revenue targets, or this could be an overkill. You certainly don’t want to hire some guy with a creative writing degree who resorted to SEO because it pays more in the world of freelance. What if there was a middle ground?
There might be, if the cost of the investment and the results make sense. Just be cognizant of what you realistically need to achieve your goals. In some cases you simply save money and get better results by hiring a reputable SEO agency. But in other circumstances you can run your own SEO strategy (or have an in-house person do it) so long as the size of your company, your sales cycle, and your growth goals all align to justify the approach.
First Set Realistic Expectations
Whether you invest in one of many Google-partner SEO agencies, or you attempt to run your SEO internally, be sure you have realistic expectations. There is no magic sauce, nor is there a switch that can be flicked causing organic clicks to start converting in droves. Of all the digital marketing strategies SEO is by far the hardest to execute. More importantly, it is a process requiring a tremendous amount of skill and patience.
Expect to see a return on your investment later down the road. If you work with an SEO agency that actually knows what they are doing, you should be able to get a ballpark idea for when you can expect to start ranking and see a boost in conversions, BUT this is all relative on a number of things that are always changing. For example, Google launches between 500 and 600 updates to its algorithm every year, some impacting ranking. Also, your SEO competitors may ramp up their efforts at any given time, and your ability to gain visibility will partially rely on their tactics and a counter strategy based on the current climate.
Are you starting to get the idea? There is no real guarantee when you will start ranking, let alone convert organic traffic into buyers. But these tips will help business owners and marketing managers set the best possible SEO strategy, and all on a shoestring budget.
SEO Strategies You Will Likely Need
Running SEO on a shoestring budget requires a precise understanding of the types of SEO strategies you need. These will almost always include the following:
- Titles, Tags & Meta
- Web Page Content
- Link Building
- Social Media
Once you have determined you will be using these, you need to ask yourself what you are capable of doing yourself and if you can perform these tactics without it taking you away from other crucial responsibilities. Often, business owners and marketing managers think they are saving money by doing ongoing tasks themselves. Hey, free is good! But if the expense of this is prolonging your ability to complete other tasks, or putting you and other team members in a position to have people less qualifies help perform other tasks so SEO can be completed, you are actually incurring a disguised expense. Let’s break each of these down, explore what they entail, and whether your shoestring budget allows you and your team to execute or if outside SEO help is required.
SEO-Friendly Titles, Tags & Meta Descriptions
Titles, tags and meta descriptions are important for SEO, but in different ways. The title tag is something Google crawls (alongside the URL) to better understand what your web page and the site as a whole is all about.Your page titles should contain an appropriate keyword to search volume that’s relevant to your customer’s needs, your products or services, and it should reflect the content on its respected page.
Head tags (H tags) are also the subtitles on your page and play big roles in SEO. Your H1 tag is the next thing Google crawls after it reads your URL, and is the most important element to page-level SEO. It carries a significant impact on your ability to rank. The H1 will have a main keyword and reflect the content on the page as a whole. Every page that’s a part of your SEO strategy should only have one H1 tag.
H2 tags work similarly to H1 tags. However, instead of reflecting the page as a whole they are meant to help Google crawl their appropriate sections of content. You can have multiple H2 tags. Just make sure they reflect the H1 and go deep in context, either directly or indirectly.
Meta descriptions have no direct impact on SEO, but they play a big role in search engine optimization. If a meta description is well-written and reflects the link’s content, strong engagement signals will garner SEO. For example, long session durations or dwell time, a low bounce rate, and other metrics let Google know that people favor the content. As these signals continue, rankings improve.
You can easily pull your titles, tags and meta and rewrite them. However, you need to have an advanced understanding of SEO to write them accordingly. These will also require updating based on engagement metrics, Google updates and a number of other factors. On a shoestring budget it is better you read some articles on this subject and perform the tasks yourself, as you can then likely do the same quality job as a freelance SEO person.
Writing Web Page Content for SEO
Website content is more than 70 percent responsible for your rankings, so each page must be written strategically. The content should be written with Google RankBrain in mind–the third largest ranking factor to the search engine’s algorithm. The AI and machine learning components to the algorithm detect search intent and seek to rank the content that best meets user needs. This means web page content must be written for target buyer audiences, and for Google.
Web page content must also be planned out to offer a positive user experience. The homepage will be the hub, and all top level pages in the navigation need to reflect the various products and services while showing relevancy to one another. The homepage should support all of these, and link to each page.
On a shoestring budget you shouldn’t hire an agency. Instead, look for contractors or freelancers who come from the agency world but work on independent projects. These guys have the know-how and skills that top SEO agencies have, and their services are a fraction of the cost.
Blogging for SEO
Your blog is going to be one of the most important working parts to your SEO strategy. Google favors sites that are fed fresh, original content. And when people spend significant time engaging the blogs, your SEO will improve significantly. To do this buyer personas need to be created in order to ensure precise audience targeting for your blogs.
There is also a specific format that works extremely well in improving SEO–the cluster model. This is when a defined number of blogs each have a unique topic, a specific context, and are hyper focused on addressing buyer pain points. Then each blog links internally to another of a similar topic, and each links to the pillar page. The pillar page is generally the homepage or primary product / service page. This blog structure allows for SEO juice to circulate throughout individual articles while giving them rank power, and also distributing SEO sauce to the homepage and main level pages where the greatest value resides.
On a shoestring budget there are two options: do it yourself, or hire a freelancer. As we previously addressed, doing this yourself is a great way to manage the budget so long as it doesn’t take your time away from other areas. If in fact you do need to hire a blogger, avoid those content agencies. They charge a hefty fee and the cost only makes sense for large companies with big budgets and needs. There are content hubs that have freelance writers who charge based on the subject matter, word-count and their expertise. Great deals on content can be found here, but be sure to compare costs to independent freelancers.
Link Building and Social Media for SEO
Link building and social media go hand in hand when it comes to off-site SEO. There are two types of links you will want to create: backlinks existing in blogs from referring domains, and links created by social media shares.
On a shoestring budget you can take it upon yourself to network with other sites and offer free content in exchange for a link back to your site. Just make sure the domain has a high authority score, their content is directly related to your website’s content, and the link has a “dofollow” attribute. Otherwise you won’t get much SEO value.
If you have the time, you can also engage social groups and encourage them to share your blogs. Each time your blog is shared, a link is created and social signals are generated and sent to Google letting the search engine know your content is highly favored.
These tasks are extremely time consuming, so if you aren’t able to take this on, avoid SEO agencies. They do great work, but your budget won’t allow for their fee. Instead, find a freelancer who has agency experience. They tend to charge affordable rates, and do exceptional work.