Search engine optimization (SEO) was never a particularly expensive strategy, unless you were trying to rank for the most popular and hard-to-obtain keywords available, in which case you were probably big enough to have the budget for it. Still, many business owners worry about the cost of SEO, and either become apprehensive about the prospect of starting the strategy or start to worry about their potential results in the early stages of its execution.
SEO is an evolving being, and while the ranking volatility can be frustrating and confusing at times, it’s actually becoming simpler to execute—and in some ways, cheaper. 2015 is shaping up to be an interesting year on the SEO front, and budget-conscious business owners can rejoice in hearing that SEO may be cheaper and more affordable in the foreseeable future.
2014 was an eventful year for local SEO, as Google came out with the nicknamed “Pigeon Update,” an algorithmic change that overhauled the process Google uses to generate local-specific results. Previous changes made it possible for Google to analyze user intent behind a query, rather than just dissecting the keyword phrases at face value, giving local businesses with high-quality sites a chance to rank even if they weren’t obsessing over keyword density.
The Pigeon Update itself significantly altered the local SEO landscape by incorporating non-traditional offsite elements of a company’s online presence, namely the quantity and quality of user-submitted reviews on local directory sites like Yelp. That means even businesses without a hardcore SEO strategy could earn a higher rank in Google simply by having the greatest number of great reviews in their specific category.
In terms of spend, this change is highly significant for local business owners, because it’s an indication of Google’s dedication to rewarding great businesses rather than businesses that spend the greatest amount of money. Since most local review sites explicitly forbid companies from buying or influencing user reviews, this element of ranking comes down to business quality rather than any ongoing efforts. That means you can be successful in increasing your rank simply by improving your core business and asking your users to take some extra time to rate you. This simple change costs nothing, and as long as you stay committed to improving your customer experience, you’ll stand to benefit.
Though the number and quality of SEO resources hasn’t drastically improved over the past year, 2015 still features the greatest lineup of fantastic web resources available to entrepreneurs and webmasters. For the most part, these resources are free or inexpensive, and harnessing them effectively can greatly improve the efficiency and success of your campaign.
The channels available for content syndication, customer engagement, and increased web exposure are diverse and easy to find. Every year, new social media platforms emerge, new formats of communication begin to take shape, and new types of content become popular. On one hand, it can be intimidating to take all these channels into account, but because of their widespread availability and diversity, you’re sure to find perfect fits for your situation and strategy. Take some extra time to explore the new social media platforms available and analyze which ones would be best to use for your audience. It won’t cost you anything, and any additional mention or communication channel for your brand will add to your core domain authority.
Free Measurement and Analysis Tools
If you’re trying to go it alone, you’ll need the help of online tools to get your job done effectively. Fortunately, in 2015, most of these tools are cheap or free, and can help you accurately measure the progress and results of your campaign. Hopefully, you’re already involved with Google Analytics, which is free and relatively easy to use as an analysis tool, but social discovery and listening tools are also important for finding new materials and better understanding your audience. Open Site Explorer, Hootsuite,and Social Mention are just a few options.
Decreased Service Offerings
In 2015, SEO service plans will start to become more affordable for two reasons. First, SEO is becoming simpler. While it’s still going to take a significant amount of time and money to rank for certain high-profile keywords, achieving a baseline search visibilitywith an SEO agency is going to cost less. Second, SEO is becoming more easily broken down into smaller components. That’s leading to an influx of freelancers and specialists, who can help you with particular elements of your strategy in a more efficient, precise workflow at a lower rate than you would pay for a comprehensive plan. This reason won’t reduce the total cost of a full-fledged campaign, but it will grant you more flexibility to customize and improve the efficiency of your campaign.
While pay-per-click ads through Google are only peripherally related to search, they’re still an important considering factor for companies trying to achieve greater online visibility in 2015. Unfortunately, the increased demand for ad space has driven the prices of PPC up, and that rising trend will likely continue for the foreseeable future. However, the arrival of new types of PPC ads—namely, through Bing, Yahoo, and social media sites like Facebook—could help to alleviate that increased demand and provide lower-volume, less expensive options for webmasters trying to improve visibility on a budget.
In short, traditional PPC will become more expensive in 2015, but there will be newer options available to those committed to including the strategy in their campaign.
Every year, more companies get online, more webmasters start SEO campaigns, and more keywords become the target of strategic development. Unfortunately, the amount of space on SERPs is remaining the same despite this increase. That means, every year, it’s a little bit harder to rank for competitive keywords, and every keyword gets just a little more competitive. As a result, traditional ranking strategies will take more time and money to be effective.
However, Google is continuously making updates that reduce the power of companies who simply pour money into keywords until they dominate the competition and instead increase the power of high-quality businesses. If you aim for a lower-competition, alternative strategy focused on user experience rather than keywords, this increased competition won’t be a financial problem.
While the competition gunning for high-profile keywords is at an all-time high and still growing and PPC ad costs are through the roof, SEO as a whole is getting cheaper for webmasters. Local SEO strategies are simpler and easier to manage, and quality user experience is held in higher regard than technical factors, so high-quality businesses should have no problem achieving a decent rank on a limited budget.
If you’ve avoided starting an SEO campaign due to budgetary concerns in the past, now might be the perfect time to get your strategy rolling. It’s still a long-term strategy, so you may not see instant results, but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to reap the rewards. If you’re still concerned about the cost compared to the eventual ROI, start out small, with a minimal budget for the fundamentals. Once you start seeing increased traffic and increased revenue, you can scale as you deem appropriate, but procrastinating entirely will only result in lost opportunities.