3 Ways to Perform SEO on a Shoestring Budget

seo help

As the SEO landscape continues to change in 2013, many tactics that had previously been low cost, easy to implement and effective are becoming less and less effective. For this reason, a lot of small businesses are struggling to choose the right areas of focus to get quality results from SEO on a limited budget. The truth is that things like comprehensive content marketing plans can be very expensive to execute, and for many small businesses a hefty monthly retainer to “do SEO right” might not be a legitimate possibility.

So what can a small business that’s on a budget do to improve their search rankings without exposing themselves to a high level of short term risk?

SEO Help for Those on a Shoestring Budget

1) Leverage External Expertise Strategically

One way to leverage external expertise on a limited budget is to contract with an agency in a specific, strategic way. Rather than engaging in a full-on retainer-based relationship, you might consider:

  • An SEO Audit: Have the agency conduct an in-depth audit of your site and give you a list of items to improve. You might consider doing this annually with a different agency every year to get a “new set of eyes” and different ideas for opportunities.
  • Monthly Consultations: Some SEOs will sell hourly phone consultations, which like an audit can be a nice way to get some quick insights for a limited fee. If you have $200-$500 a month to spend, you’ll likely be much better off getting 1 hour of time from a skilled SEO than you would be if you spent that money on services (as you’ll likely either get an extremely limited amount of quality link building, or a lot of lower quality link building that’s likely to hurt you more than harm you in the long run).

In either of these scenarios, you’ll have to be able to actually execute on the advice generated in the audit/consultation. But you’ll put yourself in a position to get a premium quality SEO plan on a restricted budget.

2) Generate Blog Posts by Curating and Aggregating Content

Your blog is one of the most effective SEO tools you have in your arsenal. At least it can be, if you use it right. But one of the most common stumbling blocks encountered by bloggers and business owners is a lack of content. Fortunately, there are tons of resources you can use to generate content ideas. (Think AllTop, Twitter, Google News and many of the sites you’re already using on a daily basis.)

The key to coming up with great content ideas is to shift your thinking from that of a content consumer to that of a content curator. What topics are trending? What are your readers and customers asking you about most frequently? What posts have been re-Tweeted hundreds of times on Twitter? Armed with this data, put a new spin on it – and you’ve got yourself a blog post.

Another useful way to generate share-worthy blog content is to collect quotes from internal subject matter experts and create a blog post surrounding this information. If there’s a hot-button topic in your industry, consult your leaders and ask for their insights. What are their perspectives on the changing trends, up-and-coming events, or recent happenings? If your internal experts have recognizable names, you’ve already got one factor in your corner contributing to the share-worthiness of your content.

A good way to do this can be to simply create an email distribution list for the right folks within the company, brief them on what you’ll be doing, then when news breaks send a simple question to everyone on the list and ask for a few sentences / paragraphs on the topic. You simply need to format the responses and you have what’s likely to be a highly useful and interesting piece of content.

3) Identify and Contribute to Authoritative Blogs in Your Niche

Another way to develop quality inbound links to your site is to create guest blog content.

This is a great low budget tactic if you’re aiming your efforts at quality blogs and avoiding typical guest posting mistakes, because you’re able to develop thought leadership, get referral traffic to your site, and build authoritative links in exchange for your own expertise and effort.

The main takeaway here isn’t necessarily that you should choose these three specific tactics, but rather that in looking for low-cost SEO options you want to consider:

  • Quality Not Quantity: For the actual aspects you’re outsourcing if your budget is extremely scarce, you want to avoid riskier, higher-volume services and focus on extracting very specific value from experts in small doses.
  • Use Your Relationships & Expertise to Get Links: Whether its getting experts (internally or from other sites and companies in your niche) to contribute to your content or contributing your content to other sites, you have expertise and have built relationships over time that you can turn into links

Combining these two (selective involvement from an SEO and a lot of effort from your own team) can net you some great results.

SEO Concept Photo via Shutterstock


Tom Demers Tom Demers is a co-founder and managing partner with Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content. Learn more about Tom by following him on Twitter @TomDemers or find him on Google Plus.

26 Reactions
  1. Anita Campbell

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for a balanced and sensible approach to SEO. For many small businesses SEO is fraught with mystery and even a bit of worry (biz owners hear vague things about “black hat” and wonder, is it shady?). Then people are hesitant to go out and buy services for SEO, because it feels like something you have to buy on the black market. Or alternatively, some of the rates quoted can leave you reeling – it’s Wall Street lawyer hourly rates.

    So here you are as a small business owner. You feel either like you are priced out of the market, or like you have to prowl around at night until you find someone willing to sell you SEO out of the back of a van in a shady neighborhood. Not a pretty image in either case – LOL.

    Your advice helps.

    – Anita

    • Hi Anita,

      Yeah absolutely, and the fact that some of the cheap / shady services actually used to work to varying extent and are becoming not only less effective but more detrimental makes it even more confusing so leveraging services at the low end of the market with caution is definitely important.


  2. Great post, Tom.

    One of the top SEO posts this year.

    You are spot-on with so many things.

    When it comes to a budget for SEO services, you made a great point about doing things strategically; focus on a couple of key items that are needed to help your online authority stay (or remain) on top.

    The Franchise King®

    • Hi Joel,

      Thanks so much for the kind words! And I definitely agree just by maintaining focus and doing a small number of things well you can really increase your ROI vs. trying to do too many things on a tight budget / limited resources and spreading yourself thin.

      Thanks for the comment!


  3. I regularly do free consults and even seek out small business owners that have potential to leverage their website to give them suggestions that they can execute themselves as a way to help with the hope of someday winning their business as they grow. While it does set some people back because they feel that they can’t get something for nothing, I think it’s a good way to help small businesses while feeling pretty good about myself. Honestly, I can’t see charging someone 200 bucks for a consult when I can often pick off 5 things that they can have a high schooler do for them to help their site and SEO.

    Overall, very cool post and thanks 🙂


    • charlie eddleman

      I have what I call a micro company which has been owned and operated since 1986 and appreciate what you say. I find it very hard to find someone who is willing to consider helping without trying to figure out how to help themselves instead!
      I’m looking for some SEO advise and would welcome your contacting me.
      Look forward to hearing from you.

      thanks, charlie

  4. Great points, Tom. So many small businesses have limited budgets for SEO but realize they need it. The problem comes when they try to take a “wholesale” approach and try to buy the most links they can for as little as they can. It’s much better to do as you suggested and use the limited resources on strategies that will have the most success while keeping things “clean”. –David

  5. Copi Valdivieiz

    Great Post Tom!

    Actually Blogging is something that has grabbed up the trend as they are the prime ones that are crawled and indexed by the Google bot. They generated there unique URL and are indexed easily. With the availability of large number of SEO tools it won’t be of much concern to get the SEO done on Shoe String budget.

    • Thanks Copi – blogging is definitely another great way to increase search traffic if you have the resources internally.

      Thanks for the comment!


  6. It’s important to be more resourceful when doing SEO on a small budget. It would help to make the most of your contacts and in-house expertise.

  7. Tom, I think a lot of small businesses will revert to DIY type SEO activities due to budgetary concerns. Having a consulting agreement with an SEO expert is a great idea.

    • Hi Stephen,

      I agree a lot of folks will definitely move in that direction, and as I mentioned many times depending on your sitation that might make the most sense.

      Thanks for the comment!


  8. I’ve always been told that content is king. I’ve seen so many bloggers using tons of pictures as their post content, with little text. I don’t see that being a very effective way to generate traffic. Only so much they can do with titles and alternative text.
    Thanks for this info!

  9. Great article Tom. Content is king these days and the best way I have found to lift my site up the rankings is to use my internal website blog and write new articles once or twice a week and then also to use Blogger and WordPress blogs. I have a small online shoe business and doing my own “content SEO” has helped me more than paying Indian companies for dodgy backlinks.

  10. The best way to optimize very cheap would just be having strong content. Make sure your content directly relates to whatever you page is about. Thanks for the post

  11. I think guest post is not a cost saving options. This is probably the most expensive SEO part, however, this is very effective.

  12. SEO is most important tool for every blog and website this post is very informative.