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One Month With $3,000 In SEO Budget For A Local Business



One Month With $3,000 In SEO Budget For A Local Business


There are few things more frustrating for a marketer who specializes in SEO than a client or employer who wants instant results on a tight budget.

After all, SEO is a long-term game.

It requires patience and strategy.

Nonetheless, this scenario happens all the time.

So, as marketers, we have to know how to adapt and produce good results quickly and on a small budget, especially if the client or our boss is only giving us one shot to prove our worth.

Achieving good – no, great SEO – is certainly doable in a short period of time. I’ve done it. My team has done it.

The key is in knowing which SEO tasks to prioritize.


To illustrate my point, I want to introduce you to my favorite hypothetical client, Voltage: The Salon.

This salon wants to market to the Millennial and Gen Z population by providing upscale, fashion-forward services.

Planning For A $3,000 Initial 1-Month SEO Budget

This salon wanted to work with me because they’re new.

They don’t currently rank well for [salon near me] or any other relevant keywords.

They don’t have a Google Business Profile listing, either.

We’re really starting from scratch.

$3,000 doesn’t feel like a lot, yet it falls squarely into the $1,000 to $5,000 range identified as the most common average budget in SEJ’s State of SEO report.

This is what 26.8% of respondents said they’re working with; another 23% are being asked to produce results with just $500 to $1,000 a month.


Back to our salon: their business goal is to get more clients and boost revenue.

To do that, they need more conversions, which they’re measuring in two ways:

  • Phone calls.
  • And appointments booked on their site.

They determined that the way to do this is to “show up on Google.”

I convinced them that SEO was the best way to rank well on Google long-term.

They gave me $3,000 and a month-long trial period.

At the end of that month, we’ll see where the website is at and determine how to proceed.

You know as well as I do that I’d better be able to show results or they’re not putting another $3,000 into SEO next month.

Key Details

  • Industry: Beauty.
  • Business: Hair salon.
  • SEO monthly budget: $3,000.
  • My hourly rate: $100.
  • Total hours allocated: 30.
  • Timeline: 1 Month.
  • Location: Kansas City Metro.
  • KPI: Increase in calls or appointments booked using the form on their website.

SEO Week-By-Week

The best SEO work often begins by running a technical audit, especially in cases like this where it’s a completely new engagement.

We don’t know the site’s history and need to uncover any potential issues that could sabotage our best SEO efforts.

Week One

If you are short on funds and time, don’t use what little you do have trying to optimize a website that won’t perform well due to technical errors. That would be a waste.


A technically sound website provides a solid foundation for stellar SEO results in the future.

Keeping this in mind, I use my SEO tools to run a comprehensive technical edit on Voltage: The Salon’s website.

It only takes an hour or two to crawl this site as it’s not very robust.

After my SEO tool finishes crawling the site, I check out my error list to find that it’s longer than I expected.

I set out to prioritize which errors are the most important to address. I make a list.

We’re now down three hours.

Next, I divide my list into errors that are easy to solve in a short amount of time and ones that are not. Standard practice is to fix errors marked as ‘critical’ or ‘error’ first, so I start there.

The most pressing errors I notice are:

  • Pages not passing the mobile-friendly site test.
  • Several pages are blocked for indexing.
  • A redirect loop.
  • Pages with very slow page load times.

I estimate these fixes will take me about five hours of work to address, and I intend on completing them this week.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go as I would have liked.

While I was fixing the errors, I had to put in extra work adjusting server settings and looking in the hosting account to find the easiest and most sustainable areas to improve page speed.

On top of that, some of the admin functionality wasn’t working as expected making normally quick edits turn into research and troubleshooting.

The five hours I anticipated spending on fixing these errors turned into seven.

This leaves me with about 20 hours for the rest of the month.

  • Hours Used This Week: 10.
  • Estimated Amount of Hours Left: 20.

Week Two

I fixed the technical errors, but it took me longer than I expected.

That set me back a bit, but it was necessary to set the site up for success.

Regardless, my priority for this week is to get my client’s site set up on Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Business Profiles.

I begin with the low-hanging fruit and set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console.


I submit the sitemap and move on.

Next up, Google Business Profile.

I set aside more time for this task as I recognize its importance and need to do some work to optimize for “hair salon near me” and “top hair salon near me.”

This takes about an hour.

I thought ahead and asked the owner of Voltage: The Salon to claim their listing and now I need to make sure the information listed is correct.

This includes NAP (name, address, phone number) and the services my client offers.

I will optimize the Google listing after I have completed some keyword and content research.

Setting up these accounts takes about three hours.

  • Hours Used This Week: 4.
  • Estimated Amount of Hours Left: 16.

Week Three

To make the most of the time I have left, I am going to do keyword, competitor, and content research.

I budget a fair amount of time for each of these tasks but overall, hope to spend no more than 10 hours doing this.

We begin with keyword research.

As expected, there’s a fair amount of competition for this keyword, but the search volume for applicable keywords was high.

I proceed to determine which keywords are the best for this particular website.

I put these keywords in my preferred SEO tool to track them and start my competitor research.

I want to see what their competitors are ranking for and the kind of content they are producing and do this by performing a gap analysis.

As it turns out, well-ranking salons in the area are producing a fair amount of written content.

That goes on the list of things I want my client to work on in the future.


I was able to regain the hour I lost at the beginning of the month because this task only took 9 hours to complete.

  • Hours Used This Week: 9.
  • Estimated Amount of Hours Left: 7.

Week Four

This week is all about optimizing for the keywords I want Voltage: The Salon to rank well for.

I will do this through both on-page and off-page SEO.

I know that creating content is a priority, but right now I am more concerned about the overall site structure being poorly optimized.

I fix it in hopes of improving user experience, crawlability, and more.

Next, I optimize the page builder and image sizes to further improve the site speed.

This takes me about three hours to complete.

I add meta tags, headers, and body copy that’s specific and keyword-focused to lead-generating pages.

Then, I index the pages I have worked on.


This takes me approximately three hours, as well.

Lastly, I spend about an hour adding content to this client’s GMB listing including photos, posts, and more.

At the end of the month, I check to see how the site is performing and create a report detailing:

  • My findings.
  • What the client can expect to see in terms of future results.
  • And my recommendations for continued SEO work.

I did this on my own dime as I saw it as a value add and also for my own benefit to show the opportunity for more work and partnership going forward.

My report details the extent of the work I have done, much in the same way I did here.

My goal is to communicate the value of what I did and showcase the foundation that was built for future SEO success.

My plan for follow-up SEO work is to bolster the content on the site, continue to target keywords pertaining to user intent, and build this client’s local search presence so they rank well organically and in Map Packs.

  • Hours Used This Week: 7.
  • Estimated Amount of Hours Left: 0.


My goal for the first month of this campaign was to lay the groundwork for good SEO in the future and start the client on the path to ranking well for keywords that relate to the services they offer.

Overall, I accomplished this goal.

I resolved technical errors, created a Google Business location, complete the necessary research, and began doing on-page SEO work.


Voltage the Salon’s website is now in a position to rank better both in organic search results and show up well amongst other Map Pack listings.

If you find yourself in a similar position, with your client expecting the world on a tiny budget, don’t panic.

SEO requires patience and planning, but you can get the results you want and your client expect if you can prioritize what’s most important.

More resources:

Featured Image: patpitchaya/Shutterstock

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How upskilling your paid advertising skills will tackle economic downturns



How upskilling your paid advertising skills will tackle economic downturns

30-second summary:

  • Marketing budgets are often the first to be slashed in a downturn – upskilling your existing team with digital marketing techniques can provide huge efficiencies and minimize the impact of cuts
  • Creating an upskilling program does not need to be expensive or time-consuming if a well-thought-out strategy is adopted and results are constantly measured
  • Nurturing your own in-house talent pool also increases business resilience, improves marketing innovation and creativity, and reduces reliance on third-party operators
  • Choosing the right skills for your team to acquire depends both on your immediate goals and long-term business strategy – done right you can steal a march on your competitors
  • Sarah Gilchriest, Global COO of Circus Street, discusses the key skills brands need to cultivate to stay competitive during an economic downturn

We’re entering what is likely to be a pretty tough global recession. As consumer sentiment worsens, brands will increasingly look at ways they can cut costs to protect their bottom line. Unfortunately, we all know that marketing is usually one of the first budgets to be slashed.

It is seemingly much easier to stop a campaign or give an agency notice than it is to sack a developer or reduce infrastructure costs. However, more often than not, cutting marketing is a false economy that worsens the impact of a downturn by slowing a company’s growth. So, is there a way for brands to instead maximize their digital marketing output while also freezing or reducing costs?

The answer may be found in upskilling.

Training while cutting costs?

Now, your first reaction may be that training programs are expensive luxuries that make little sense if your goal is to cut costs. There are a few things to unpack here –

  1. Size and scope of training matter. You can make an outsized impact by training one or two individuals who then share their knowledge with their wider team. The right strategy (which I’ll discuss further below) can lead to a highly targeted program that gives the most critical skills to those who will be best placed to use them immediately.
  2. Next, there are a lot of freely available supporting resources that can significantly reduce costs and help to embed learning.
  3. Finally, let’s put costs in perspective. The ROI on a well-executed training scheme pays for itself and the initial outlay pales in comparison to most other business functions. Put simply, you get a lot of bang for your buck. 

Why paid advertising skills?

Paid advertising makes a lot of sense to focus on for a number of reasons. Generally, compared to other marketing fields, paid advertising is characterized by the sheer diversity of skills and techniques needed to fully execute a campaign. It is incredibly fast-moving and often requires you to leverage a number of different tech platforms. Consequently, many brands outsource this functionality to a network of agencies and freelancers. Those that don’t usually rely on one or two individual ‘power users’ or worse, skills are haphazardly spread among a range of departments leading to bottlenecks and single points of failure.

As such, digital advertising is usually the prime area where efficiencies, greater innovation, and marketing effectiveness can occur via upskilling. It is where your business can do much more for less. 

Identifying the right skills

Getting the right skill mix is where the rubber meets the road. A mixture of creativity, data analysis, platform knowledge, development techniques, and marketing expertise are all needed. To get started the best approach is to fully understand what capability your team has in-house. The crucial element is to remember that a lot of ability might be hidden because it is not used on a day-to-day basis. You would be surprised at how quickly a business ‘forgets’ about the previous experiences of team members after they have been hired.


Auditing team skills should expand beyond the marketing department

You don’t know what gems are lurking in other areas of your business until you start to look. This is also the perfect opportunity to identify both the potential of your employees to acquire new skills and also their individual aspirations. It is much easier to upskill someone who has a professional and personal investment in learning that particular expertise. The audit itself does not need to be complex – a simple matrix that enables people to categorize their proficiency and outline the areas where they would like to develop will suffice.

When you know what you have to work with, then it’ll become much easier to define the best way forward. Deciding the best skill mix comes down to first working out how to fulfill your most immediate needs. For example, taking a costly service in-house, plugging a weakness – where a team member’s departure would severely hamper your ability to function, or obvious gaps in ability that prevent you from undertaking certain digital advertising activities.

Build on the compatibility between your employee’s aspirations and your commercial objectives

This is then overlaid by areas where your marketing output can most obviously be improved and your future aspirations in line with your commercial objectives. For example, if in the future you want to more heavily target users on particular social media platforms or ‘exotic’ platforms like IoT devices and digital boards. Perhaps you can see the financial benefits of adopting headless CMS tech and would like to put in place the skills needed to make that transition after the recession. Maybe you want your team to have the insight to tell you whether the Metaverse has any potential for your business.

This may sound complex but once you get started the hierarchy of skills you need more often than not becomes very obvious. Remember, one of upskilling’s great strengths is its flexibility – if your needs change or you feel you have chosen the wrong skills – it’s very easy to change track.

Getting started in a cost-efficient way

How you train your team is very much up to individual preferences – everyone learns in different ways. Speaking to your employees and specialists will enable you to build a tailored teaching structure. It can be a combination of in-house learning, online tutorials, accredited programs, or book learning. You do not have to go all in on a full program straight away. Piloting can remove a lot of the risk. Start small – one team or a handful of individuals from across your company – and continually assess the impact.

A mistake to avoid

A common mistake businesses make is they wait too long to get their team to use their new knowledge. This can hold up the process and damage ROI. The best way to embed new skills is to apply them. Ensure that your team has an opportunity to practice their newfound expertise on real initiatives. Then keep a close eye on your business metrics – including team and customer feedback – to determine the impact. Unlike many other departments, digital marketing can have very clear outputs. This will let you know quite quickly if it is working. From there, you can decide on how to roll out your training scheme. 

Marketing doesn’t end with the marketers

As I’ve mentioned, diversifying the skillset of your team builds resilience and promotes more innovation. The reason is simple, if you only have marketing skills in your marketing department, you are naturally limiting the number of people who can provide useful insights that fuel innovation. You reduce oversight and feedback loops, and your marketing output will suffer from a lack of outside perspectives. 

By making your teams multidisciplinary and cross-functional you can spread useful skills throughout your business. Customer service teams can learn the fundamentals of digital marketing, marketers know how to do the basic dev and data work to enable their day-to-day, and your data teams can think like marketers if they need to.


Preparing for the worst doesn’t mean losing capabilities

If the worst does happen and you do need to make cuts to your team, having key skills shared across your business means that the damage to core functions will be limited.

To finish – I should highlight that much of what I’ve discussed applies equally to business owners as it does to individual freelancers. A downturn can be a daunting prospect if you are a sole trader. Upskilling can be one of the best ways to increase your value to clients now and future-proof your business.

If you have seen business drop off, the time you now have available could be best dedicated to more training. This may sound obvious, but a mistake many people make in their careers is failing to adapt to how demand for skills can quickly change or technology can come along that makes them obsolete. Adding more skill strings to you and your company’s bow is never a bad thing.

Sarah Gilchriest is the Global COO of Circus Street.

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