Every day millions of retailers and consumers find what they’re looking for online: each other. Meeting your perfect match on a small budget is a challenge, but by no means impossible. Even with chunks cut out of your marketing budget, it’s still possible to make a splash online and increase sales via a targeted SEM campaign. Use your small budget wisely and you can blend PPC and SEO to great effect without stretching your marketing dollars too thinly. Last week, I wrote about how to do this with PPC, and now it’s SEO’s turn.
SEO is possibly easier to do on a small budget than PPC, although the results do take time to filter through, so you will need to be hours-rich if not cash-rich. Ideally you’ll want to start your home-grown SEO campaign well ahead of peak sales periods such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas Day.
Use Your Existing Knowledge
Your small budget PPC activity will naturally evolve into some SEO work and fortunately, it’s the kind you can do for yourself for free. When your paid search ads are up and running, make optimizing landing pages a priority. Although you’ll need to go through the whole website and ensure each page is up to scratch, it makes sense to work on the pages you’re expecting increased visitor numbers to first. With your list of PPC keywords in hand, you’ve already done the keyword research part of SEO, so you don’t need to pay for costly sessions with an SEO consultant. Simply keep an eye on which phrases are being clicked on the most and then adjust page titles, headers, alt tags, and body text on landing pages accordingly.
Content Is King
Link building is one of the areas where companies attempting to cut costs by doing their own SEO tend to fall down. Even seasoned pros can find it difficult to develop good-quality, relevant links and self-starters face an uphill battle from day one. You can make life easier for yourself by concentrating first on crafting great content rather than wasting time requesting reciprocal links or filling in directory submissions.
It’s a cliché that content is king, but it still holds true in SEO – if you have an interesting article, a well-thought-out opinion piece, or an insightful news item to share, it stands to reason that others in your field will want to read it and potentially send traffic from their site to yours via a link. If you can develop good content, half of the battle is done. Even if you’re not a natural wordsmith, you are naturally knowledgeable about your own product or industry so should be able to create at least a handful of great articles yourself at no cost. When inspiration deserts you, sign up for Google News alerts or read your local paper for topic ideas.
Next, focus your energy on developing a list of places you think would benefit from using your piece. Pick up the phone and call them – the cost of a telephone call may be the best thing you ever invested in for your website. Offer them the use of the article for free in exchange for a link, with anchor text containing your keywords.
If all else fails, and despite hours of writing you still haven’t come up with anything you feel can be used as link bait, take the easy way out and earmark a dozen or so of your products for use for test and review purposes. Although you probably won’t be able to sell those items later on (at least for full price), the use of this existing resource could garner you lots of reviews, exposure, and link backs at no marketing cost. Again, you’ll need to make relevant websites, magazines, and authorities on your subject aware of the review product, but the cost of that call may lead to great quality links from well-respected and trusted sources.
SEO doesn’t always start and end online, so take business cards with you to industry events and local chamber of commerce meetings – chances are you’ll meet someone with an interest in your company or product and that could lead to a link back to your website.
Sites like Twitter are an invaluable networking tool so open an account, find friends, follow experts and network, network, network.
Learn To Do It Yourself
While the thought of learning to code your website and become fluent in HTML or ASP may give you nightmares, you can learn to do some aspects of SEO yourself. That will free up budget to bring in the experts where necessary. One easy way to save costs is to run your own social media campaign by learning how to blog, bookmark, and syndicate articles. You can even take a night class at a local college to build confidence in these areas without spending a fortune.
Even if your SEO budget is as small as $100, invest in a few good books on the subject and read them cover to cover. You can take this commitment to learning online and subscribe to a number of respected journals and ezines to mine the knowledge of established professionals in the SEO field. You’ll be surprised what you pick up just scanning the day’s industry headlines.
There are dozens of free link tracking, web ranking, and analytics tools online which you should use to monitor the progress of your campaign and effectiveness of your work. Even the largest, most cash-rich SEO campaigns swear by analytics to help gauge success and adjust strategy accordingly. Your time is your most valuable resource, so ensure you use it well by studying the results your efforts produce and using the data to chart a new path if need be.