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.
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