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3 Options for Small Businesses That Can’t Afford an SEO Expert

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Relatively speaking, SEO has been and still remains one of the most cost-efficient marketing strategies available. Still, cost-efficient doesn’t necessarily mean cheap—it means the results you see from your efforts will provide a positive return based on how much you put into it. That means you’ll still have to make an original investment, and for small business owners with limited budgets, that can be problematic.

Hiring and in-house professional to handle all your SEO work means adding another full-time salary to your roster, and even that might not be enough to get you results—you might need extra help from a writer or social media expert to accomplish everything you want to do. Alternatively, it could mean hiring an SEO agency to take care of everything for you, but going too cheap means risking your site’s integrity, and more authoritative options can cost thousands of dollars a month.

Both options might be too much for the average small business owner, especially if your company is still in startup mode. At the same time, you know how powerful SEO can be, so what options are there to get started without compromising your budget?

1. The DIY Approach.

articleimage1527 The DIY Approach

Under the DIY approach, you’ll take charge of your entire strategy, learning what you can about SEO and applying that knowledge to your site alone. Rather than paying for another body in your organization or enlisting outside help, you’ll take advantage of the well-documented information on the web (like the articles in our blog) to guide you in adhering to best practices.

Starting with onsite optimization and eventually extending to ongoing strategies like content marketing, social media marketing, and offsite guest posting and link building, it’s entirely feasible for one person to take the reins of an SEO strategy—as long as you take the time to learn how to do it properly. Even if you spend hours a week studying to improve, there are two big problems with this strategy.

The first is that no matter what, you’re going to make mistakes, and when you do, there will be nobody to step in to take responsibility or help you figure out what to do to fix them. Of course, even an expert-directed strategy can run into errors and unexplained dips, but in those scenarios you stand a better chance of pulling off a smooth recovery. The second problem is the time factor. It takes many hours a week to maintain even the most elemental content strategy, and you have plenty of other tasks on your plate as a small business owner.

2. A DIY-Hybrid Model.

articleimage1527 A DIY-Hybrid Model

Under the DIY-hybrid model, you’ll invest a little bit of money in some outside help but still retain directorial control. Like the DIY model, you’ll rely on your own knowledge and instincts to direct the execution and handle the analysis of the campaign. You’ll decide which facets of the strategy are most important, how to execute them, and what your target goals are.

You’ll then communicate these needs to an outside party with low expense. For example, if you know you want to write one blog post a week to start, you can contact a freelance writer to take direction and handle it for you. For the most part, you can rely on freelancers and interns to take over these responsibilities, but you’ll still need to be there to direct. As an alternative, you can even contact an agency who’s willing to offer you individual elements of a full-fledged service at a discounted rate.

As you might suspect, there are a couple of problems with this approach as well. Obviously, freelancers and interns in your budget have limited experience in SEO, and you might have to step in and correct some of their work if it isn’t up to snuff. It’s also a difficult strategy to scale—when it’s time to increase your investment, you may have to scrap everything and start again with an in-house or agency expert.

3. Just the Basics.

articleimage1527 Just the Basics

One final option is to narrow your focus on SEO, giving your full attention to only the most basic elements of the strategy. This includes making regular content posts and making offsite posts when possible. Ideally, it would also include some level of onsite optimization, but if you don’t have an experienced web developer working for you already, this can be hard to pull off.

Under this strategy, you won’t worry too much about measuring results or hitting goals because you won’t be investing much time or energy. You could even distribute this minimum amount of work between you and your partners, so it only amounts to a group total of a few hours a week. This won’t earn you a substantial new stream of traffic or rocket you up in Google ranks, but it could provide a foundation for future growth when you do have the budget or inclination to adopt a more thorough SEO strategy. Consider this a kind of middle ground between doing nothing and pursuing SEO on a proper and complete level.

If you can’t afford to allocate a proper budget to SEO at the moment, try not to fret—using one or more of these three options, you’ll be able to start building your domain authority while generating the revenue you need to hire or enlist the help of a real expert. Do note that most of these serve as temporary measures, and if you want to continue seeing results months into your strategy, you’ll need to step up your game. Most agencies offer several different packages, so you should be able to find exactly what you need.

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Samuel Edwards

In his 4+ years as a digital marketing specialist, Sam has learned the ins and outs of online marketing. Additionally, he has worked with countless local businesses as well as enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including: NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP, and human rights organization Amnesty International. Today he continues to work with and establish SEO, PPC and SEM campaigns.

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