Depending on who you talk to, you might hear that SEO is ridiculously cheap or ridiculously expensive. It can be cheap (if you don’t value your time much, or if you have lots of spare time) because anyone can do it — if they invest the time in learning best practices and technical setup requirements. It can be expensive because most SEO agencies charge thousands of dollars per month for their services. In either case, the potential benefits of SEO far outweigh the time or monetary costs you put into it — but that isn’t enough for some companies.
Because SEO results don’t tend to accumulate until at least several months of effort, many small businesses and individuals feel they can’t afford to invest in a campaign. However, there are a number of cost-cutting and time-cutting strategies you can use to make it more affordable (and even if you can afford an SEO strategy, these will help you increase your productivity and return).
The Danger of Cutting Your Budget
First, I need to give you a word of caution. There’s nothing wrong with trying to save money in an SEO campaign, but there’s a slippery slope here. If you end up cutting corners and decreasing your investment in critical assets — such as landmark pieces of content — you might end up seeing no results whatsoever. The goal, then, is not to simply spend less time or money, but to spend your time and money more effectively.
Here’s how you can do it.
1. Target a More Specific Niche
As you might imagine, you can reduce the time and budget requirements of a campaign even during the strategic planning phase. One of your most important decision points is figuring out what market or demographics you want to target with your content; this will help you pick relevant topics and market more effectively to them. It’s common for marketers to go with broad audience segments, hoping to maximize their potential readership, but if you’re trying to invest less, it’s better to choose a highly specialized, niche audience segment. This will allow you to become more relevant with less material, even if it means sacrificing some audience volume.
2. Hybridize Your Approach
Generally, there are three approaches to paying for SEO. You can go with an agency, which costs lots of money but comes with numerous benefits that are hard to get elsewhere, you can hire freelancers, which are cheap but somewhat unreliable, or you can hire people full-time and do some work yourself, which is in the middle cost-wise, but you’ll sacrifice specialization and accountability. If you’re trying to get the most with the least amount of money, your best bet may be to hybridize your approach. For example, you can hire one person and rely on freelancers for the rest, or go with a small agency package and complement their offerings with your own work.
3. Play Up the Complementary Nature of Online Marketing
Remember that SEO isn’t a strategy that exists in a vacuum. It cohabitates and enhances many other strategies, including content marketing, social media marketing, and email. It may seem like more of an investment to pursue these other strategic lines, but because you’ll be reaping more rewards from your efforts, that extra investment will actually help you achieve a higher total ROI. It’s definitely a case of the sum being greater than its parts. Content marketing and link building are major components of any SEO campaign which complement each other and provide a unique synergy.
4. Only Invest in Platforms That Work
You’re going to use many platforms in your SEO campaign, including analytics dashboards, social media platforms, social media management tools, automation tools, email newsletter platforms, and other pieces of software and communication opportunities. All of these are going to cost you in some way, whether that’s ongoing time investment or a monthly subscription fee. Some are going to work better than others, so only continue investing in the platforms that are working for you.
Similarly, some of your strategies aren’t going to work as well as you thought they would. I guarantee this. You’ll experiment with something new, following a noteworthy recommendation or even basic best practices, but after a few weeks, you’ll notice it isn’t working for you. You’ll be tempted to keep it on for convenience’s sake, especially as you get used to it as part of your strategy. But I’m warning you not to. Don’t accept tactics that aren’t working; they’re wasting your time. Cut them out as soon as possible.
5. Aim for Quality Over Quantity
This is a crucial strategy if you want to be successful, and it’s highly efficient as well. There’s no linear rise in value when it comes to the quality of your on-site work or the authority of an outside link source; value rises sharply with quality here. One amazing blog post is worth dozens (or more) of “decent” ones, and one high-authority inbound link is worth far more than dozens, or even hundreds, of low-authority ones. Even though they cost more time and effort, high-quality work is a far better investment in the long term, so prioritize your work accordingly.
These strategies can, with careful oversight and the acknowledgment that “cheaper” doesn’t mean “more effective,” help you see similar or better results with a decreased requirement for time and money. As with SEO in general, efficiency strategies have a bit of a learning curve to them; you’ll find yourself learning more about what works and what doesn’t for your brand over the coming months and years, and you’ll need to adjust your approach accordingly. There’s always room to become more efficient — you just have to discover how.