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12 Ways to Build a Winning SEO Strategy on a Small Budget

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We’ve read the blogs, we’ve heard the talks, we’ve seen the case studies.

Big brands are winning at SEO.

They’ve got:

  • A team of experts working on fine-tuning their tech.
  • A world-class agency planning their next digital PR campaign.
  • A fund for stationery that rivals your entire year’s marketing budget.

It can feel demoralizing as a marketer with a small SEO budget to hear those stories. Their success can feel completely out of reach.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

If you are working with a small SEO budget for your brand or your agency’s client you can still have success.

The key to building a winning SEO strategy when you are low on funds is learning to prioritize.

Read on to learn the top 12 ways you can prioritize, structure, and run SEO campaigns that will bring exceptional ROI from your small budget.

1. Identify How Your Budget Limits You

This is a crucial first step. A small budget often means you are having to compromise in some areas. Regardless of whether you are working in-house, in an agency or as a freelancer, small budgets often mean:

Lack of Time

If your client has a small marketing budget then you are likely to be very limited in how much time you can dedicate to their SEO each month.

Similarly, if you work in-house for a brand with a small budget then your time is probably shared amongst other channels, too.

A small budget often means you are not given enough time to do all of the work you want to.

Less Resources

If you are working with a small SEO budget you might not have access to all the fancy tools you think you need. Extensive keyword trackers, backlink identifiers and log-file analyzers can be quite expensive.

If you are working for an agency you may have access to these, but in-house marketers on a small budget are unlikely to.

Knowledge

If you have a limited SEO budget as a brand marketer, chances are you don’t have an array of SEO experts at your fingertips.

Even as an agency marketer working with clients who don’t have much budget means your SEO team is probably not highly specialized. This can leave serious gaps in your knowledge that could be hampering your SEO efforts.

Money for Assets

A lack of money often means that you don’t have the budget for work outside of your skill-set. If you want to plan an outreach campaign, for example, you may feel blocked by the cost of asset creation.

For instance, you might have felt a designer, media producer and content manager would be crucial to get your idea off the ground.

Identifying what your SEO budget is, and is not, translating to in terms of your resources and knowledge gives you a good idea of what you should be prioritizing. It also helps you to stop wandering down paths that aren’t going to yield results.

2. Fill Those Gaps

If you know your budget means you cannot afford the best tools you may need to look at cheap or free alternatives.

There are ways to track rank, identify backlinks, and analyze log files without spending a fortune.

The options are usually just a little less shiny and require a bit more manual labor to get the same level of intel.

If it is time that you are short on then you may need to have a conversation with your team or your client about getting more.

I’ve heard of agencies who will sell SEO packages in at 3 or 4 hours a month. This is, in my opinion, hard to work with.

You may need to speak to your client about the limitations such a small commitment to SEO gives and perhaps show the possible increase were they to invest more.

Some in-house bosses are also unaware of how much time SEO analysis and implementation takes to carry out well.

If there is really no option to increase the time you have allocated to spend on SEO then you will need to be laser-focused on the work you do. See point 5 for more advice on that.

If it is a knowledge gap that you feel is holding you back then you need to know what your weaker areas are.

It may be that you are an excellent copywriter and feel that digital PR is your jam, but the technical side of SEO is still a bit baffling to you. This can be your opportunity to develop your skills.

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3. Assess Your Strengths

You might feel like you are at a disadvantage due to your lack of budget, but what are you already doing well? It could be you have access to a great development team, or you are a digital PR at heart.

Make sure you keep an element of the work that comes easily to you in your plan. That way you will know that you are guaranteed some success for your efforts.

Your brand might be well known already in your industry or local area. You can capitalize on this fame to build backlinks or gain reviews.

Use your and the brand’s strengths to your advantage in your strategy.

Start analyzing what you have available to you. Audit the knowledge, skills, and resources you can access. This will help you to identify what to prioritize.

For instance, if you are limited on resources but have a good relationship with local business, reach out to them. There may be some deals that you can make to use to your advantage.

Perhaps you can partner with local sports teams or schools that will enable you to give back to your community as well as earn links from them.

Another local company or agency may swap their designer’s skills for your SEO advice. It is worth exploring the support you can get outside of your own team.

4. Set Expectations

The key to a really successful strategy when working with small budgets is setting expectations.

Your boss or your client may have lofty visions of what they expect SEO to achieve for them. They might be completely unrealistic.

Get an idea for the baseline of organic traffic currently going to your site.

From there you can use a predictive model to estimate organic traffic growth.

You may get pressure to drive rankings up or double organic traffic but you need to be clear about what is achievable.

It is also worth discussing the sorts of activity you will be able to carry out within your budget.

Elaborate outreach campaigns and redesigning the structure of the website might be completely unfeasible now.

That doesn’t mean you can’t begin building a case for that work in the future.

5. Start Small

An important factor in developing a well-performing organic strategy on a budget is knowing where you can focus your efforts to achieve the most growth.

You may need to look at what your focus product, service, or content is. Prioritize the pages or goals that are most important.

You are going to be able to achieve more for those one of two pages than if you are trying to spread your limited budget across your whole site.

If you will benefit from traffic searching with local intent then optimize your Google My Business listing. It may only require some small changes.

Your effort and resources may be better spent trying to rank for  local terms where competition is more limited.

6. Fix Your Problems First

Your hard work can be for nothing if your website is fundamentally flawed.

You don’t have the money to waste optimizing your website whilst it is suffering from technical debt, or has an abundance of backlinks with anchor text for services you no longer provide.

A comprehensive audit, although time-consuming, can reveal issues that you never knew you had. It may seem like an indulgent use of budget but it will put you in a much stronger position to form a winning strategy.

Look into the state of your website.

A few points you need to cover include:

  • Has it migrated recently? Was that carried out effectively or might it still be suffering the effects?
  • What does your backlink profile, including anchor text look like?
  • Which pages have already been optimized on the site and are they growing in visibility?
  • What does the technical set-up of the site look like? Can it be crawled easily, with the signals as to which pages should be indexed consistently?

Once you have an idea of which areas of your site might be holding you back you can see a focus for the first stages of your strategy.

It’s important to note that the reason these issues have not been fixed before could be due to the limits of the budget.

Perhaps there isn’t enough money available to bring back the developer who built the site to fix the issues it’s suffering from or the migration went south because of the lack of knowledge in the company.

See also  How to Reclaim Your Keyword Data

This can complicate matters but doesn’t mean your strategy is doomed. You may need to focus even more on compensating for the site’s shortcomings while trying to fix what you can.

For instance, I’ve worked on sites before that had terrible copy but the client was adamant it could not be changed because they did not want to pay for someone to re-write what had only just been written by their in-house copywriter.

Not being able to better theme a page’s copy to the search terms I know their clients are searching with isn’t great for ranking the page or converting traffic that lands on it.

In that instance, I had to focus even more on increasing the other signals that suggest the page’s relevancy for those terms, like page titles, internal linking, and anchor text.

7. Prioritize Results

It may be that you are not going to make much progress optimizing for your head terms in a crowded market.

It can be tempting in this situation to look at how to drive traffic the fastest, such as going for a long-tail keyword strategy. However, this might not be the best use of your budget if it doesn’t bring about conversions.

This comes back to point four, setting expectations correctly.

If you have agreed that conversions is one of your key metrics for showing success then a long-tail keyword strategy in isolation may not be your best course of action.

However, if the goal is to increase visibility or organic traffic only then it may be more suitable.

Your strategy needs to focus on what will meet the goals of the campaign. Look for opportunities that will bring about the best ROI.

8. Think Outside the Box

With a limited budget in a crowded industry, you will need to get imaginative with how you spend your resources.

Google’s standard organic results might not be your best starting point.

This sounds very counter-intuitive.

Depending on your SEO goals though you could be better off looking at another way to increase organic traffic to your site.

If your product is very visual, then consider focusing on ranking your images for image searches and carousels. This could land converting traffic to your site easier than if you are trying to rank for head terms associated with your product.

Consider Other Search Engines

Perhaps Google isn’t the search engine you should focus on immediately.

Depending on the industry you may find you have a high percentage of organic visitors from other search engines.

StatCounter shows Bing’s share of the U.S. search engine market to be 6.33% in October 2019.  I recently accidentally conducted a Yahoo search when using a very old laptop that had the default search engine changed.

There are still people not using Google.

This might be a focus point for you.

For instance, Bing Places is often forgotten by companies that are focusing on Google only.

It may be that you can rank your site’s local businesses’ Places easier in Bing than in Google due to lower competition. It may be enough to move the needle of converting organic traffic to your site.

Similarly, if you have a lot of video content, then optimizing them for YouTube’s organic algorithm may allow you to drive more awareness of your brand. Again, it all comes down to what the goals of your campaign are.

9. Ignore Best Practice

Something that is often a time-sink is trying to conform to “best practice”.

The results of audits by less experienced SEO professionals may highlight issues like the XML sitemap not being referenced in the robots.txt or page titles exceeding 60 characters.

If you are in a position where you need to be very careful with where you focus your efforts then trying to tick all the “best practice” boxes is likely to be a waste of time.

Often, these items will do little for your SEO other than make you feel like your above criticism from outside agencies trying to poach your job.

At worst, they can be detrimental to your work by stealing your attention away from results generating activity.

Everything you include in your strategy needs to have a clear objective that goes towards achieving your desired ROI.

Will adding a reference to the XML sitemap in your robots.txt cause an external development agency to charge for an hour’s work?

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Is that worth coming out of your budget if you could add the XML sitemap’s location to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools?

Why are you going back through all the meta descriptions on your site to ensure they are less than a certain number of characters when Google may well change them in the SERPs anyway?

It can feel risky leaving your work open to criticism from less-informed parties.

Your strategy is not about ticking boxes. It’s about driving results.

All of your activity needs to reflect that.

10. Learn from Your Competitors

A good way of saving some time and resources is to look at what your competitors are already doing. Find out where they are getting their backlinks from.

See if any of those sites are worth approaching for your own links. Understand how their copy is out-ranking yours and use that knowledge to improve your own.

See who has the featured snippet you are coveting and improve your copy so it is structured similarly. Ensure it better answers the searchers’ question.

It has to be stressed though, just because another site is doing something does not mean your site should be doing it, too. The search algorithms are complicated.

There can be many reasons why a poorly optimized page might be ranking above yours. Don’t just blindly copy what you see others doing. Ensure your changes fit in with what you know about the algorithms.

It is also crucial that you don’t look too far out of your website’s industry for inspiration. These are not your competitors. They are not the websites that yours will be competing with in the SERPs.

Therefore the reasons they are ranking number 1 for a term that is not relevant to your site does not mean your site will start ranking better for the terms that should be driving traffic to your site.

11. Use Your Colleagues

Another factor in developing a winning SEO strategy on a small budget is borrowing resources from other places.

This can be achieved in several ways:

  • Educate your colleagues so they work in an SEO-first way. If your development team fully understands the implications of their coding changes they can work alongside you on technical SEO. Talk to your PPC team about their audience targeting for brand terms searches so they don’t cannibalize organic traffic.
  • Use their data. Other internal teams and external agencies working on your brand will have their own wealth of data that could be useful in informing your strategy. Make sure you are liaising with paid media team to find out what search terms are converting for them.
  • Ask for their assistance. If time and skills are limited in your SEO team then you may also need to get creative with asking for help from other members of your team. Can a designer help with your outreach assets, or a developer help you identify the cause of your spider trap? You may have the right resources at your disposal already, just not within your direct team.

12. Improve Existing Content Before Writing New

A final suggestion for making the most of your limited budget when creating a winning SEO strategy is to improve content you already have.

What can you optimize that is already on your site?

Think about videos, images and audio files.

Look into the schema markup available for your content. This can help its presentation in the SERPs which may gain you more visibility without having to spend money on new content.

Look at the copy on your site that is ranking on pages two or three. See if there are tweaks that can be made to get it ranking on the first page.

You must make sure the assets you already have are working hard for you.

Conclusion

It can be a struggle to drive well-converting organic traffic to a site when your budget is small. It isn’t impossible though.

Some of the most exciting SEO happens when you need to be creative with your time and resources.

More Resources:

Search Engine Journal

MARKETING

3 ways marketers can prepare for a cookieless future

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What is a customer data platform (CDP) and why do marketers need one?


Marketers around the world are anxiously awaiting the deprecation of third-party cookies, searching for ways to adapt their campaigns. At our MarTech conference, Sharon Kratochvil, Vice President of Global Analytics at Michael Kors, talked about the strategies her team implemented to prepare their brand for this “cookieless future.”

“The first campaign that I was asked to run at Michael Kors took 12 hours to produce, which even five years ago was 11 hours and 59 minutes too long,” she said. “Needless to say, most of our marketing activations were batch and blast.”

Kratochvil’s team opted for a CDP (they went with ActionIQ’s) to organize and activate valuable first-party customer data, which is crucial in a future without third-party cookies: “Our vision was to leverage all of our customer data, not just subsets of that customer data. So that was key for us, as was the in-memory processing. We could define business variables on the fly, which is critical as we continue to evolve our marketing.”

Timeline of third-party cookie changes. Source: Tamara Gruzbarg

The key to Michael Kors’ successful adaptation wasn’t the CDP itself — many marketers opt for different data management tools. The solution lay in the first-party data strategy their team enacted.

Use a CDP to gather first-party data

“The CDP allows us to be agile in our marketing,” Kratochvil said. “It gives us speed and flexibility in executing customer marketing campaigns and journeys.”

CDPs are designed to maximize the value of first-party customer data, making it a helpful asset for the coming third-party cookie deprecation. Kratochvil’s team used it to gather, organize and distribute this information to enhance their campaigns.

“It allowed us to automate all of our core campaigns, both digital and CRM, so those audiences were always fresh,” she said. “We pushed them regularly. We leveraged the most recent data.”

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She added, ”It’s enabled us to seriously increase our segmentation and our personalization, both for marketing campaigns and journeys.”

Whether brands opt for a pre-built CDP, a custom CDP, or another type of data platform depends on their acquisition goals and priorities. The aim is to glean the most insights from your first-party data.

“The goal was always to get our customer first-party data to work for us,” said Kratochvil. “As we started to build out our single view of the customer from our data lake, any insight we generated could be activated.”


Looking to take control of your data? Learn about trends and capabilities of customer data platforms in the latest edition of this MarTech Intelligence Report.

Click here to download!


Implement customer segmentation by channel

After getting their technologies in line for first-party data procurement and activation, Kratochvil’s team began segmenting their customers by channel. This made targeting customers easier while offering a testing environment.

“We started with segmentation by channel,” Kratochvil said. “We have multiple channels: outlet stores, lifestyle stores, e-commerce, and collection stores. It’s simple segmentation, but it’s very powerful. We tested things like the cadence, the content, and those messages that resonated within each channel.”

These tests were designed to prove the value of segmenting customers by channel using first-party data. This allowed them to easily personalize each interaction.

“Throughout this whole process, we created controlled tests so that we could prove channel segmentation did drive incremental revenue,” she said. “A key tenant was not just to do it, but to show that it worked and build confidence in the concept of segmentation and personalization.”

Kratochvil’s team adjusted channel segmentation on the fly throughout this testing process, further optimizing customer experiences while creating solid revenue streams.

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“A good example is our win-back campaigns,” she said, “We might start with email, but then we would want to go to a digital channel if we weren’t getting a response.”

Identify customers using first-party data

After gathering their customer data and implementing channel segmentation, Kratochvil’s team used the insights gleaned to begin identification.

“Our first action was to introduce durable, server-side cookies so that we could have control and visibility into that data,” she said.

Server-side first-party cookies can help marketers glean much of the customer information that used to come from third-party cookies. And although they lack the retargeting capabilities of their third-party counterparts, first-party cookies can assist identity resolution strategies to give marketers valuable customer data.

“Once we started issuing durable IDs, we had to be able to then resolve those IDs,” Kratochvil said. “We have a CRM system with known customers and they have an ID. We created another site-based ID that follows that customer, but we have to be able to resolve identities, matching the durable ID to a customer record.”

Although Kratochvil’s team resolved those durable IDs, there was a large pool of unknown visitors. Their CRM alone wasn’t capable of handling this vast amount of data.

Identity resolution platforms have the potential to address these issues. They can connect customer identifiers across many platforms to identify individuals, all the while complying with consumer privacy laws.

Whatever strategies and technologies brands choose, they need to be ready for the third-party data changes that are coming.

“This third-party cookie deprecation is real,” Kratochvil said. “It’s going to have a business impact and we need to be prepared for it.”

See also  How to Reclaim Your Keyword Data

Identity resolution platforms: A snapshot

What it is. Identity resolution is the science of connecting the growing volume of consumer identifiers to one individual as he or she interacts across channels and devices.

What the tools do. Identity resolution technology connects those identifiers to one individual. It draws this valuable data from the various channels and devices customers interact with, such as connected speakers, home management solutions, smart TVs, and wearable devices. It’s an important tool as the number of devices connected to IP networks is expected to climb to more than three times the global population by 2023, according to the Cisco Annual Internet Report.

Why it’s hot now. More people expect relevant brand experiences across each stage of their buying journeys. One-size-fits-all marketing doesn’t work; buyers know what information sellers should have and how they should use it. Also, inaccurate targeting wastes campaign spending and fails to generate results.

This is why investment in identity resolution programs is growing among brand marketers. These technologies also ensure their activities stay in line with privacy regulations.

Why we care. The most successful digital marketing strategies rely on knowing your potential customer. Knowing what they’re interested in, what they’ve purchased before — even what demographic group they belong to — is essential.

Read next: What is identity resolution and how are platforms adapting to privacy changes?


About The Author

Corey Patterson is an Editor for MarTech and Search Engine Land. With a background in SEO, content marketing, and journalism, he covers SEO and PPC to help marketers improve their campaigns.



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How to Build a Successful Remote Freelance Team for Your Business

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How to Build a Successful Remote Freelance Team for Your Business


More and more businesses are hiring freelance talent and consultants instead of hiring full-time employees. It’s not just that many millennials are unwilling to work a traditional 9-to-5 office job. It’s also that freelancing offers many advantages. Freelancers are more affordable for the businesses hiring them, and they also tend to be more productive.

If you run a company that hires and manages a large number of freelancers, and you are just trying to keep things running smoothly nowadays when everything is online, it’s obvious how important it is to be well-organized in order to better categorize and track large amounts of data and information you receive on a daily basis. As a result, putting in place a creative resource management system might be an ideal solution for you.

These systems ensure that your freelancer database is always current, while custom filters enable you to easily categorize your contractors and quickly locate the ideal creative resources. All of this will fundamentally alter the way you interact with your freelance workforce, making them realize that they are a valuable member of your team.

Determine Which Duties You Will Delegate

Even though many organizations think that freelancing services are only for design or software development, there are plenty of opportunities for other roles you can delegate to contractors. You may find that online businesses can take less time in between tasks and are more flexible than traditional, brick-and-mortar businesses. They can also be run by highly skilled freelancers working from home.

Explore alternative solutions. Could you hire a virtual assistant for administrative or bookkeeping tasks? You could look around your organization and see how many people are carrying too much work. For example, a pool of freelance copywriters could help your marketing manager to lighten their workload by taking over the copywriting assignments.

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Create a Procedure for Recruitment

You should plan an onboarding process that makes sure new freelancers understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. Introduce them to the employees with whom they will work, and ensure that everyone who needs to communicate is familiar with all of the tools and processes involved.

Onboarding is the process of ensuring that new hires are ready to work as productive members of your team right away. To get everyone on the same page about your business’s goals and mission, you’ll want to have a consistent and efficient onboarding procedure in place. Treating your freelance workforce the same way you treat your in-house team, will keep things running smoothly, allowing you to achieve your goals.

Include Freelancers in Your Company Culture

You may be wondering why including freelancers in your company culture is necessary, especially if you don’t know how long you’ll collaborate with them. But freelancers who feel like true members of the team are more likely to produce higher-quality work. So, simple efforts like maintaining open communication can result in better project outcomes.

You Must Believe in Your Team

To have a successful remote team, you must have faith in your teammates’ capacity to execute and deliver results. Trust, including trust in your decision-making abilities, will lead to your team’s happiness and success. If you’re measuring employee productivity by hours worked or time spent online, you’re probably wasting your time and energy. Rather than focusing on the amount of time spent online, it’s better to focus on performance and communication skills.

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Provide Feedback Opportunities

Providing feedback within a team can be tricky, but fostering safe channels and routines for doing so is an ideal way of keeping everyone on track. To keep communication lines open, you will want to make an effort to ask questions and give feedback frequently in an environment where it’s more difficult to do this in person. Exchanging honest, professional, and unbiased feedback can help you learn a lot. Identify employee issues early, work together toward solutions, and create a better workplace.

Demonstrate Your Appreciation for Your Team

By showing that you value an employee, freelancer, or consultant’s work, you will increase their commitment to your company. You can reimburse freelancers for the time they spend familiarizing themselves with your internal documentation, a new system, etc., by offering training or additional compensation. As an employer, it’s important to treat your freelancers with respect.  

Final Words

If you don’t have a well-structured system in place for managing a remote team, it could be more difficult to keep everyone on the same page. It may be helpful to keep in mind the time difference when you delegate tasks. Think about what will work best for everyone so you can reach your goal of a speedy turnaround. You can build a talented, cohesive team no matter where the team members are working from.



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Taboola automates personalized homepages

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Taboola automates personalized homepages


The new Homepage For You offering announced by native advertising and discovery platform Taboola will use AI to automate the curation of relevant and personalized content on websites’ homepages. The automated surfacing of content likely to engage readers will complement editors’ existing ability to curate homepage experiences.

Among publishers already using the solution are McClatchy and The Independent. Beta testing showed a 30-50% increase in CTR with use of the tool. The dataset on which recommendations are based includes some 500 million daily active users.

Why we care. Adam Singolda, CEO and founder, said in a release: “If you open up a social media app, you are greeted with content you really want to see. For publishers, the most loyal readers are those who visit a homepage directly and look for editors to tell them what’s important for them to know.”

This is a telling argument. Social media channels like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube present personalized, curated experience the moment they are opened based on the user’s previous behavior. A solution like Taboola’s should take publishers in the direction of being able to compete — although many publishers will still want to strike a balance between editorial content and native advertising.


About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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