By Brad Shorr, an Octane blog contributor and B2B Marketing Director of Straight North
There’s no free lunch. You can’t get something for nothing. You get what you pay for. The business world is chock full of wisdom about the relationship between investment and return, and yet small-business owners inexplicably forget it all when their attention turns to SEO. The hard truth is: there is no way a low-budget SEO campaign will deliver rankings that move the dial for your business in terms of lead or revenue generation. Here are four reasons why:
- Creating, publishing and marketing off-site content is an expensive proposition, and one absolutely central to effective SEO. A talented writer will charge as much as US$200 for a fairly simple, publishable article. To find a publisher and then market the published content will take a few hours from an experienced individual. If a small business has a US$500 monthly budget, it can’t afford to publish even one article a month, and that’s not enough.
- Creating on-site content is similarly expensive and crucial. One single page of website content cannot be effectively optimized for more than a handful of phrases. Therefore, unique, relevant, useful and persuasive content is required for strategic keyword phrases. If the business is in a competitive niche with thousands of keywords, it will require decades to optimize for them on a small budget.
- Proper lead tracking and validation are impossible to execute on a small budget. To accurately evaluate the effectiveness of an SEO campaign, the business must know the source of each validated lead (e.g., the search engine, the keyword phrase). Validation is a laborious and expensive process of separating non-sales lead conversions such as spam and sales inquiries from true sales leads.
- Without proper lead tracking and validation, it is difficult, if not impossible, to continuously improve SEO campaigns. For example, unless the business knows which keywords are producing the most sales leads, it cannot tweak its campaign to put more emphasis on the productive keywords and less on the unproductive ones. Thus, the budget, which is too small to begin with, is unlikely to grow in value.
If a small business is saddled with a small budget, its best hope is to optimize for a very small set of keywords and be prepared to wait a year or more to see significant improvements. Even then, these targeted keywords may not generate enough revenue to pay for the SEO campaign; that calculation depends a great deal on the lifetime value of the customer. In any event, a small business with a limited budget may find other forms of Internet marketing, such as email or content marketing, to be a much better investment.
Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North, a search engine optimization firm serving middle market companies throughout the U.S. See more of Brad’s content on Straight North’s Google Plus page.