The big question, when it comes to SEO, is ‘how much money should I spend on my campaign?’
and, honestly, there is no easy answer. In SEO, as in marketing in general, there is no set formula for determining budget. Sadly, this is one of the main reasons why the profession gives rise to so many con artists, who ultimately give the rest of us a bad name. With that in mind, I’d advise you to work with a company you trust, with a proven track record and some happy customers.
My advice for working out your SEO spend is that it is worth investing in some upfront planning that will allow you to estimate your return on investment (ROI) as accurately as possible from the outset. Any good SEO company will advise you of the same. Incidentally, I would give exactly the same advice if we were talking about offline marketing as well (an area in which I have some experience). So many companies with lower budgets see planning as a waste of money because the chunk of the budget allocated to planning is not being spent towards directly generating business. They want to begin to see results on day 1. Who doesn’t? But if you want to create and sustain a successfully business generating campaign you need to plan it.
You wouldn’t ask a builder to start work on your extension before he’d made his plans would you? You find a good builder and you invest in plans, then building work for a quality, long lasting structure. Apply the same principals to your SEO.
‘I have £X per month to spend, what can you do for that?’
This is not an uncommon statement and is often heard from small business owners seeking SEO services. It seems perfectly reasonable doesn’t it? If they run a van hire company, for example, they will know that a customer with £X amount gets 2 vans per month, while a company with £Y gets 3. However, we don’t have a van to give you; the only thing that makes SEO tangible is the results it generates.
You may have identified 5 sets of keywords and know which, owing to budget limitations, you want your site optimised for. This is probably based on the amount of traffic you think each keyword can generate (which, in itself is likely to be something of an assumption unless you have run prior campaigns) but generating ROI is very different to generating traffic; a million clicks and no sales is worth zero. There is a great post by Rishil on SEOmoz that explains how to work out SEO ROI, so I won’t go into more detail about that here but I’d urge you to have a read of that.
As is mentioned in the SEOmoz post referenced above, there is no set way to determine ROI. The results of prior campaigns are a good indicator and, where there have been no prior campaigns, paying for an initial Adwords campaign is a great way to pit keywords against each other to measure success – of course this has the added advantage of (hopefully) generating hits from day 1. The more keywords, the more complex (obviously) but time spent planning and working out/testing the long tail is usually the surest way to maximise the results of your spend.