Many of the small businesses we work with have a small marketing budget. That means when it comes to evaluating the services they spend on, they are often looking for cheap SEO tactics. Not cheap as in worthless, but cheap as in not breaking the bank.
Ultimately, the goal is to get pages on your site to rank in the top 3 positions on Google. Studies have shown that approximately 62% of search engine traffic goes to websites ranked in the first three positions (33% to position one, 18% to position two, and 11% to position three). That means only a third of it goes to the other seven results on the first page. Then things drop off significantly after that…
Getting results with SEO is definitely an investment. And it’s not an overnight success kind of thing. Rising to the top of the rankings for all of your biggest keyword terms can cost a pretty penny and/or take some time to build the momentum you need.
But there are some great SEO tactics that can help you get some nice traction, without spending a ton of money. This case study looks at work done recently with a client of ours. We’ll break down the work that was done, the results of that work, and explore suggestions we have to drive even greater impact.
The Digital Marketing Strategy, Specifically for Local SEO
The large majority of the marketing budget went towards other strategies (ads, etc). But we kept some regular search engine optimization work in the mix. The reason is simple. Over the long-term, earning rankings sticks better. Google Ads stop delivering the moment you stop paying for them. But if you earn a spot on the first page, then you’re more likely to keep it (at least until someone proves they’re better than you).
But, we had to keep the budget investment in SEO as low as possible. So we focused on what I considered two “must-have” tactics that I believe every small business should be doing. Those tactics are content marketing (business blogging) and local citation link building. Here’s the breakdown of the work we did every month:
- Local Citation Link-Building ($197) – After running a full citation audit, we would add/update ten online business directories (i.e., Yelp, BBB, Thumbtack, etc), ten geotagged photos, and ten social profile links every month.
- 1 x Blogger 500 ($97) – Our team of SEO writers would research and find trends to write 500-word blog posts targeting general keyword terms related to the client’s industry.
- 1 x Blogger 1,000 ($173) – We would also research and write 1,000-word blog posts related to high-value keyword terms we wanted to build authority around.
So for less than $500/mo we were building links and developing a core of content on the website with a focus on high-value, local search terms. We did this consistently, month after month, without fail. And consistency is one of the keys to building momentum with search engine results.
The Results We Saw
The initial baseline report at the end of December 2018 showed a very low volume of total keywords, especially those on the first page. Just one term ranked on the first page, and there were only six total keywords on the first three pages. And while there were other terms ranking on pages 4-10, the overall volume was still pretty insignificant.
The September 2019 report (nine full months later) showed a very different picture. We increased the number of keywords ranking on page one of the search results from 1 to 10, and the total for the first three pages from 6 to 82. Additionally, the total number of terms ranking anywhere in the top 100 positions on Google increased from 81 to 505.
While the total volume of terms appearing on the first page of search results isn’t overwhelming, this definitely shows a trend of increasing opportunity to get found. The breadth of keywords fueled by the blogging strategy coupled with the authority driven by link-building is a solid mix for driving visibility.
The Impact of Cheap SEO, and Driving Better Results
This data shows some encouraging trends, however, there are still some big opportunities to improve. Here are a few key take-aways:
1) Consistently adding content and building links drives positive results. This is an important concept in the strategy. These results are what we’ve seen over a nine-month period. If we did a couple of posts here and there or stopped the link building, then we wouldn’t have experienced this kind of success.
2) It’s an active and ongoing strategy. With this latest report, there are 10 keywords ranking on the first page, and only 5 of those in the coveted first three positions. However, our SEO strategies look for low-hanging fruit to push forward, and that’s everything from positions 4-30 (the rest of page one through page three). Those are the terms that are doing well enough where a little boost could bump them higher onto the first page. Looking at the current data, in this case, there are 77 opportunities in this range to focus our efforts to get significant rankings. Time to get to work!
3) The lower budget for SEO means slower results. Cheap SEO can drive some results. Some. But to be completely honest, these results aren’t driving a ton of traffic yet. And at the current budget for SEO spending, it’ll still take some time to experience big impact. Investing more in additional content (I like to see 4 posts per month) and additional link-building tactics (guest posting, content syndication, etc) will drive stronger and faster results.
There’s plenty of good news in this data. But, there’s also still a great deal of opportunity. The key is to stick with it, follow the data, and keep building based on what that data is telling you. Got questions about how a strategy like this can drive more traffic for your business? Grab some time with us to talk through your digital strategy. (Talking is always free!)