Survey’s In: Small Businesses Still Want $500 SEO


Most search marketing agencies don’t have clients with astronomical marketing budgets. It’s a rare day when an agency lands a client like Proctor & Gamble, which in 2013 spent $234 million on Internet marketing. What you could do with a chunk of change like that! Chances are, you get pumped when a client comes in with a few thousand to spend every month. Most small marketing agencies’ clients don’t even have that.

Can Your Clients Afford SEO in 2015?

In December 2014, a survey of small online marketing agencies found that the reality is a client with a search marketing budget of $500 to $1,500 per month. Every client, whether the budget is on the low end or the high end, expects great things. Small budgets are a big challenge — especially when the clients have no idea that their grand expectations don’t match their tiny budgets.

The survey found that small business clients allocated 36 percent of their marketing budgets to SEO. That’s more than twice the amount spent on other online marketing services (12 percent each to PPC, email marketing, and social media marketing).

SEO on $500 per Month

Generally speaking, a small business should invest in SEO, but many of the most effective tactics covered here on Search Engine Watchare out of reach. SEO is a far more delicate operation than it was when you could almost effortlessly get endless cheap directory listings and not worry about Panda and Penguin. Those days are long gone. Content marketing is now synonymous with SEO and it is a huge undertaking.

But while the work has become more challenging and time-consuming, according to the survey, search marketing firms don’t expect small business marketing budgets to increase much in 2015. So while the workload, time and effort increase, budgets remain stagnant. So…what can be done with $500?

Optimized Website

Some small businesses actually had the money to spend on a website in 2014. According to the survey, 36 percent of small businesses marketing budgets were allocated to website development. That’s actually a very promising statistic for the future of online marketing. Clients are finally getting it — a shoddy website doesn’t convert. Spending money on search marketing to send traffic to a bad website is not smart. A client with a good website makes our job so much easier.

Of those that did invest in website design and development, 51 percent spent between $1,500 and $4,000 and about 12 percent spent $4,001 to $10,000. Website design and development is a service that any small marketing agency can offer or outsource. Clearly there is demand for it!

Even a client with zero to spend on website development can certainly make some improvements. Spend a little time evaluating the site and make recommendations for the client to do on his or her own. Every website can benefit from adding fresh content, titles, descriptions, fixing typos, broken links, missing images, etc.

Go Local

According to Moz’s 2014 Local Ranking Factors, 14.7 percent of local SEO can be accomplished by manually claiming the client’s Google My Business profile listing and enhancing it. Every small marketing agency can handle that without too much time, effort, and expense – 15.5 percent can be done with external local signals like NAP consistency, citation volume, and Internet yellow pages.


Where the Money Goes

The Moz survey estimates that link signals, including inbound anchor text, linking domain quality, and linking domain quantity, account for nearly 20 percent of a site’s ability to rank locally and even more for non-local businesses. Improving link signals may be beyond the budget of the $500 small business budget.

Start with a blog. According to HubSpot, companies that blog more than 15 times per month get five times the traffic that companies that don’t. Additionally, the Moz study found that onsite SEO accounts for 21 percent of a site’s ability to rank and blogs are great for onsite SEO. Maximize the chance of getting noticed by writing about trending news events or expanding on other author’s blog posts. Spend every last dollar working to promote your content to others and ultimately earn the links that will build your domains and page authority.

Promoting the content is the hard part, which is why nearly 59 percent of small marketing agencies turn to partner firms that have a good infrastructure in place.

Everything Else

  • PPC: Whether or not to allocate a portion of the budget PPC can be a tough call. SEO takes time to “work” and PPC is pretty immediate. Depending on the size of the budget, it might be wise to put aside money for PPC, at least until the SEO campaign gets some traction. A PPC retargeting campaign may be all you need and you won’t have to worry about unqualified traffic.
  • Social: Small businesses don’t typically spend much on social media, probably because they don’t see the need to pay someone to run it. It goes on the list of DIY projects for many a small business that intends to get around to it someday. Most don’t get around to it, or don’t do it well. You can earn some goodwill by setting up a Facebook and Twitter page (easy to do) and directing the client to share all the content you’re creating on their social media pages. Maybe someday, the client will have the budget for a social media campaign and they’ll turn it over to you.
  • Email Marketing: There’s still no glamour in email marketing even though data proves that email marketing is one of the best search marketing tactics around. Email marketing can be done on a shoestring budget and much like social media marketing, you can guide/push your SEO clients to do email marketing on their own if they can’t afford to pay you to manage a campaign.



In 2015, the top three in demand marketing services will be SEO, website development, and social media. Few small businesses have the budget to do it all. But with a combination of your expertise, outsourcing, and client participation, a small budget can go far enough.

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