How would you handle a $3,000 monthly SEO budget for a local business? One expert shares his week-by-week plan.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Featured Image: patpitchaya/Shutterstock
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Corey Morris serves as the Chief Strategy Officer for Voltage. With fifteen plus years of experience in the digital marketing … [Read full bio]
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