Every year, marketing leaders are tasked with allocating their marketing budgets toward activities designed to achieve strategic marketing KPIs. Done well, planning the annual marketing spend sets a practical blueprint for executing the year’s marketing strategy.
Planning your budget includes selecting which channels you’re going to invest in so you can maximize the return on your marketing investment.
How much should you spend on advertising? Web? SEO? Video?
How do you create a digital marketing budget that will generate bottom-line results?
I like to take advantage of the budgeting process to carefully ensure my marketing spend is aligned with my specific marketing plan for the year.
Now is the perfect time to take a step back and see if you’re missing out on any strategic opportunities you could leverage in the year ahead.
How to Maximize Your Digital Marketing Budget
To strategically allocate your marketing dollars for the greatest return, you’ll want to invest in the marketing channels that will make the most impact for their cost.
How do you know what those are?
The specific percentages and levels of effectiveness can vary from year to year. Still, generally, marketers have come to accept that the main channels to expand brand reach, deliver leads, and generate revenue are things like:
- Email Marketing
- Paid Search (PPC)
- Content Marketing
- Paid & Organic Social
While most marketers are familiar with these types of digital marketing channels, they don’t always allocate each of them a separate line in their marketing budget.
For example, we all treat digital marketing channels like PPC and social media as their own categories in our marketing spend but often overlook the power of search engine optimization (SEO) as a marketing channel in its own right.
As a result, I often find that SEO is relegated to a subcategory of “web” in the budget, along with KPIs that the web team owns.
This is a mistake.
A short-term, tactical approach to SEO is not only unrealistic but also diminishes its power to drive leads and boost revenue.
Let’s unpack that idea by taking a closer look at how SEO works.
What is SEO in the Context of Digital Marketing?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the practice of understanding and applying website best practices prescribed by Google to ensure a website puts its best foot forward to rank at the top of search results.
(While Google isn’t the only search engine, it holds most of the market share, attracting over 92% of mobile and desktop users.)
It’s a common perception that SEO is a magic switch that you can “turn on” to support your marketing efforts. Need to generate interest in a product launch? “SEO it!” Want to increase traffic to your site? “Make it have better SEO.”
Most marketers who employ search optimization within their marketing strategy use it as a supporting tactic to boost up the other digital marketing channels such as social media, third party media, and PPC ads.
Using SEO in this way is a great first step, but if you stop there, you’re leaving money on the table.
Not only can the channel be leveraged more fully, but by viewing SEO as a magical tool that exists to support other efforts, you won’t give it proper credit when budgeting out your marketing plans. Undervaluing SEO can undermine your efforts to drive revenue for the business effectively.
SEO is more than just a supporting tactic to boost your content. SEO is a digital marketing channel in its own right, with campaigns that focus on optimizing strategic web pages for greater search visibility.
SEO: The Under-Utilized Results Multiplier
How do you pull that money from the table? Shift your focus from using SEO to support other marketing channels, and instead build it into the center of your marketing plan to stretch your marketing dollars.
SEO can amplify the impact of all of your other marketing activities.
To truly leverage SEO, work it into your budget at the outset of your planning process. If SEO is relegated to a subcategory of your digital marketing activities, fine — but make sure you have enough in there to invest consistently over the entire year.
Even better, make SEO a category of its own and make sure you have subcategories to support its different needs, for example:
- Technical SEO: You’ll need devoted web development resources for this.
- On-page SEO: You’ll need to produce new content and optimize the existing content on your site.
- Off-page SEO: Budget resources for social media, PR, and link building.
Reputable SEO companies can provide guidance about which factors to consider vis-a-vis your business goals when you’re investing in organic search.
If you’re trying to optimize for search on your own, it’s critical to make sure that you truly have the in-house resources you need to support each area of SEO. You’ll need to account for those resources in your annual budget.
It’s all too common to assume marketers should be able to “add SEO” to their already brimming plate of responsibilities. Instead of making this common mistake, proactively put resources to SEO as though you were building something entirely new (which, if you haven’t invested in SEO as a marketing channel before, you are).
Optimize Your Marketing Budget With SEO
Whether your digital marketing budget is sized for a SaaS start-up, small business, or enterprise operation, these budgeting tips will help you maximize your results — regardless of how much you have to spend.
1. Measure Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV) by Source
If you’re having a hard time advocating for SEO to a CEO or CFO that just-doesn’t-get-it, you’ll want to start your budgeting process by collecting the data you need to make the case for your investment.
Instead of presenting the impact of each marketing channel as a function *only* of cost per lead (CPL) and ROI, provide data about the customer lifetime value that each source generates.
Since it costs less to retain a customer than to attract a new one, it makes sense to focus efforts from the outset on the tactics that deliver customers who create the highest amount of revenue.
According to a study by Forrester Consulting, marketing professionals report that customers who find their businesses through organic search are more loyal and engaged. Because SEO-acquired customers spend more time interacting with a website’s content, they tend to be stickier.
Higher levels of engagement mean customers are spending more with businesses throughout their relationship with the brand.
Your CFO will love the added bonus: by focusing on the channels that maximize the triumvirate of ROI, CPL, and LTV, you’ll be able to leverage your marketing dollars to produce the most significant impact on your bottom line.
Win. Win. Win.
2. Build SEO Into Your Content Marketing
No, this does not just mean adding keywords to your blogs.
Integrate SEO into your content marketing efforts by generating pages strategically designed to rank for topics uncovered by keyword research.
By design, the keyword research from your SEO campaign will identify topics of interest to your search audience — teeing you up to create content that answers their questions. To expand the reach of your content, add these topics into your content calendar alongside the other subjects you’re covering to serve your customers and target audience.
Strategically identifying these topics and writing in response to them will bring in far more traffic than you could attract with a “build it, and they will come” approach.
3. Focus on Quality over Quantity
The internet has nearly 2 billion live websites. As a result, consumers are barraged with information every time they sit down at their computers or pick up their phones.
Adding to the noise isn’t going to help you get ahead. Instead of putting your budget into creating more content, allocate the same amount to developing a smaller number of high-quality pieces of content that are ready to rank.
Make your content SMART by making sure it has the following qualities.
- Structured content that is easy to read. Use headers, short paragraphs, and simple sentences.
- Meaningful content that adds value to a topic through robust statistics, new information, and a unique perspective.
- Audience-oriented content that targets what your audience wants to know.
- Reliable content linking to other strong sources.
- Timely material addressing the latest developments in your industry.
SMART articles are more engaging and are likely to rank better in search results, bringing in better leads who are ready to convert.
Go one step further to create “evergreen” content that’s SMART *and* stays fresh.
According to Ahrefs, the average page in the top 10 of Google SERPs is two years old. When you create content that maintains relevancy over the long haul, it’s more likely to make its way onto page one of search results.
4. Think Long-Term
Speaking of the long haul, SEO is known to not always yield those attractive instant results. Marketers who aren’t familiar with SEO as a marketing channel can be disappointed when it doesn’t perform on the same timeline as advertising, for instance.
SEO done right is a long game, but the reward is sustainable growth that gains momentum over time and yields compounding results as you continue to invest in it.
Since your business goals are long-term, your SEO strategy should be too.
The fact of the matter is that over 90% of online content will not get any organic traffic.
But, by leveraging SEO as a primary component of your marketing strategy *now*, you’ve got a head start straight out of the gate.
You’ll be building site authority with sound SEO practices long before the rest of the pack understands what an efficient driver of traffic organic search can be.
Even if it makes sense to use PPC for a quick boost to promote a new blog post while you wait for it to start ranking in search, remember that traffic stops when you remove your paid ad.
SEO, on the other hand, yields increased results over time. Do them both to maximize your results.
The best way to approach SEO is to think long-term.
While you invest in a PPC campaign to generate immediate results, make sure you are also investing in longer term search engine optimizations that will generate compounding future returns.
5. Expand the Top of the Funnel (& Your Target Audience)
The keyword research from your SEO campaign can open the door to new segments of your target audience — people who don’t match all the demographics that you’ve painstakingly identified but who are already searching for products or solutions like yours.
Leveraging keyword research to expand the top of your marketing funnel will help you reach the largest section of your known (and as yet unknown) audiences.
Expert keyword research services can help you identify broad search terms that will reach as vast and relevant an audience as possible by matching content to search intent in the earliest stages of the customer journey.
Capturing a “problem-aware” audience allows you to maximize engagement with prospective customers and nurture them through the various stages of your marketing funnel as you educate them about the value of your solution.
Optimizing the top of your funnel with SEO gives you the power to pick up better leads, build trust and loyalty through a nurturing stream, increase conversions, and improve retention rates.
6. Optimize for Conversions
Bringing in more traffic is only half of your SEO goal.
Once you have your target audience’s attention, provide frictionless opportunities for them to convert.
Whatever your conversion goals are, make sure you have clearly-defined and highly-optimized conversion points on your website, then focus your online budget on funneling traffic to those points.
Conversion rate optimization will improve revenue generation and bring your marketing activities to a sharp point that benefits your bottom line.
Successful conversions are vital to justifying a bigger marketing spend in the future, so make sure you can adequately attribute transactions to the correct marketing channels in Google Analytics.
7. Leverage PR Efforts to Build Search Visibility
Many marketers employ PR agencies to help generate exposure and build brand awareness. With SEO at the center of your marketing efforts, the strategic focus of PR activities is clear:
The press pickups and article links you earn through PR generate trust and build authority signals that boost your credibility with Google and improve your SERPs results.
SEO isn’t a magical overnight solution. It’s a long-term strategy with a multiplier effect — improving the performance of your other marketing channels — while it drives results with compounding returns.
8. Enhance Your Team With Strategic Partnerships
Content creators publish close to 7 million blog posts every day. A search-engine-optimized website is an absolute necessity if you want to compete in the crowded digital landscape.
A DIY approach to SEO won’t necessarily save you money — neither will using a cut-rate consultant that promises you overnight results.
The opportunity cost of getting SEO wrong can be devastating to your business.
Allocate a portion of your marketing dollars to invest in a partnership with a reputable SEO agency that will help you optimize your digital marketing activities. A great SEO partner will work with you to set SMART goals and meet your annual KPIs.
Discover the Right SEO Partner for You
Leverage SEO to its fullest potential by building a complete SEO campaign into your marketing plans for the year, put it at the center of your budget, and use it to optimize your results from every other marketing channel you use.
Do you think you’re ready to work with an SEO partner?
Victorious offers a full suite of SEO services to help you maximize your marketing budget.
SEO isn’t magic, but finding the right SEO partner to work with does feel pretty magical.
Reach out for a free proposal and learn more about how Victorious creates SEO campaigns that pay dividends over time.