How to manage & spend your SEO budget? (feat. Steve Toth)

#1: Define your problem statement

Like they say, knowing what the problem is 50% solution. Take out a piece of paper and define the current situation of SEO, what your goals are and the time period in which you’d like to achieve these goals. List out current challenges that prevent you from reaching those goals.

Writing this out will give you a good clarity on what needs to be done.

Example problem statement:
SEO works great for us and is a big driver of our revenue, so we want to scale that channel to achieve our 2021 revenue target. Focusing on existing strategies that work gets us growth, but it’s slower than needed. For example, we have these long tail transactional pages that get us a ton of customers. I found new KW opportunities and doubled those pages, but it didn’t have a proportional impact on revenue.

I need to 3x revenue from SEO in the next 9 months. How to get to 3x in such a short time? Where to focus our time on? How do I find big opportunities? How & where should I spend my SEO budget to get 3x results? I’m looking to identify the right plan of action for the rest of the year.

#2: Get second opinion from a trusted group of advisors

Always have a trusted group of advisors who you can message or email anytime on a problem and they can give you their expert POV.

Don’t have a trusted group of advisors? I didn’t have any too. So I reached out to former colleagues, contacted similar people in my position via LinkedIn and also invited folks on my podcast to talk about my problem statement.

#3: Hire a third-party consultant to do a SEO audit

Hire a consultant, let them do a background check and give you their analysis. Often times they’d come back with suggestions you already know except that those suggestions are now backed by data and backed by someone who is a domain expert.

In my experience, the standard 80/20 rule applies with SEO consulations. 80% suggestions are the usual, but 20% suggestions are the real golden nuggets that will potentially bring in 80% results.

Their insights help you

  • become confident in executing strategic items that you originally thought were right to pursue
  • think outside of the box and uncover those top 20% gold nuggets that bring in 80% results

#4: Study your competitors

Can’t emphasise this enough. Not just product competitors, I also mean SEO competitors. Sites that serve the same type of visitors that you do, but get 10x more search traffic than you.

You should know the answer to these questions like the back of your hand:

  1. Who is your direct competitor?
  2. Who is your indirect competitor?
  3. Which competitor domain has 10x search traffic than your own domain?
  4. What are they doing differently?

#5: Update your strategy

Based on suggestions from consultant and competitor research, update your strategy with new priorities and understand what resources you’d need to achieve that.

This is the easy bit. You just have to spec out the tactical bits of this high level strategy and identify the rough budget you’ll need to execute it.

#6: Hire a full-time SEO specialist

(only applicable if you’re the marketing lead of your company)

Once this strategy v2 starts showing scale, it’s time to hire someone full-time who can scale this on their own.

You can then fire yourself from this process and focus on other priorities for your business and manage SEO on a high level.

Interview with Steve Toth (ex-Freshbooks) on SEO budget planning

I was particularly excited about this interview because Steve formerly led SEO at Freshbooks (who’ve done a phenomenal job with their SEO strategy).

Download the podcast episode here:

For reference, Freshbooks has tripled their organic traffic in the last 18 months.

Here’s a summary of what we chatted about:

  • What Steve’s first 90 days at Freshbooks looked like
  • How SEO budgets are planned at Freshbooks
  • The story of Freshbooks major SEO initiatives at that time – invoice templates, building a resources hub (500+ articles) and investing in link-building agencies
  • The importance of independent consultants when managing a SEO budget and how to identify a good consultant
  • The need for prioritisation when managing a SEO budget
  • The story of how Steve ended up starting SEO Notebook (a weekly SEO newsletter)

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