SEO

May 12, 2022

Alex Lindley

Alex Lindley is an expert copywriter and on-page SEO strategist.

SEO on a Budget: How to Rank When You Can’t Afford a Big SEO Contract

Here’s the problem: Pretty much all businesses with websites could benefit from SEO, but not all businesses can afford it. Perhaps surprisingly to those who aren’t familiar with everything that goes into it, SEO is expensive. Sticker shock is common, and the aftermath often involves business owners giving up or, worse, going with one of the low-budget SEO scammers.

But SEO on a budget is possible. You just have to know what’s important and build on that. This post has the answers (spoiler alert: it’s all about content). Read on.

What Does Full-Fledged SEO Cost?

A lot of tasks and strategies fall under the umbrella of “SEO.” Keyword research, content production, competitor analysis, monthly reporting, existing content optimization, site speed optimization, link building, internal linking, external linking, meta tag optimization and the many other tasks that might be considered technical SEO are all part of a full-fledged SEO campaign. 

That’s a lot of hours of work. And SEO firms often charge upwards of $200 per hour. But I actually don’t recommend paying for a full-on SEO campaign by the hour. A flat monthly fee can be far more cost-effective if you’re working with the right agency.

Unfortunately, those flat fees are often unaffordable for many small and medium businesses. They vary widely by industry and included tasks, but you’re looking at anywhere between $2,000 and $15,000 per month on average.

Things to Forget When You’re Doing SEO on a Budget

If you get a quote from a trustworthy SEO provider that’s somewhere in that range, and you can afford it, then great — you can stop reading this. But if you’re one of the many business owners who gasp when they hear those monthly prices, don’t give up on SEO. Just figure out which parts of the package are most important to your business.

Here are some of the things you can consider dropping when you’re doing SEO on a budget:

  • Link building
  • Site speed optimization
  • Technical SEO tasks
  • Directory buildouts
  • Image SEO
  • Video SEO
  • Complex internal linking schemes

To be clear, it’s not ideal to leave any of these items off of your SEO to-do list. But you don’t have to look far to see examples of competitors who are doing quite well in the rankings without so much as considering many of the bullet points above. 

Why is that? Because SEO starts with written content.

It’s All About Content

It truly is about content. The words on your website are how Google and other search engines understand your business. That understanding informs where in the rankings and for which terms your various website pages and posts will rank. 

In other words, if you can afford only one part of an SEO campaign, opt for content production. That’s blog posts, pillar pages, landing pages and the like.

All of the other things can come later, but you have to start with content. I’m certain there will be technical SEOs and link building experts dying to give me a piece of their collective minds, but I’m not saying those things are unimportant. In fact, they’re extremely important over the long term. But in the short term, content is what matters most.

The Pricing Conundrum

It sounds simple, and it is simple. But there’s a conundrum when it comes to pricing. When you go all in for a huge monthly SEO campaign that includes all the bells and whistles, content often comes with it. Unfortunately, that content is often, to put it bluntly, not good.

It still works in many cases, though, because you have all these other positive signals coming in to bolster the subpar content: incoming backlinks from authoritative websites, super fast page speeds, a highly crawlable site, great internal and external linking structures, highly optimized meta titles and descriptions and more.

But if you can’t afford all of that and do only content, it has to be great content. It can’t be average. It can’t just be OK. It has to offer real value. It has to be engaging and highly readable. It has to be unique. That means you have to pay more for it.

You can’t get away with subpar content written for $0.05 or less per word when you’re not doing the other parts of SEO. Really, you shouldn’t ever publish low-quality content, but that goes double if content is the only SEO action you’re taking. 

Content + Time = Rankings. Start Today.

SEO on a budget is possible, but you have to focus not just on content, but on great content. And you have to give yourself enough time. Even with all the extra stuff, SEO takes a long time. Six months is a common benchmark for when you start to see results. And if you’re only doing content, you need to give it longer than that.

So, start now. Find an experienced SEO content writer — like the lovely writers of Hire a Writer — and tell them your goals. The right writer will make it happen — big SEO budget or not.

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