Some time ago, we brought on a client in a pretty competitive field that had a limited budget. Our proposal outlined what we could do and also noted the limitations they would have with the budget they were willing to spend. Rankings could be achieved, but growth would be slow.

It wasn't long before the client started noting the "slow growth" of their pet keywords and wanted to know what else could be done about that. We started talking about Link Building and the investment needed in order to do it effectively. Unfortunately, all it came to was talk and no action.

Over the course of a year, we saw some very competitive terms move up in the rankings, but few hit the first page. With the budget we had, it was really an impressive feat. As the 12-month contract came to a close, the client again started talking about increasing their budget for the next year. We gave them a number of options, all significantly more expensive, but also options that we were confident would get results.

At this point the client also decided to shop around for some other SEO options. In that process, some of the communications were passed to me as an "FYI". I found them fascinating. One response talked about how there was a problem with the implementation of the SEO if they were not getting rankings. Interesting theory, but quite a leap.

Our client used these emails to ask us to figure out why this other SEO thinks they should be performing better than they were. My response, each time, was to tell them that we also thought they should be doing better and that the new programs we outlined for them will deliver results more quickly than the current plan.

This happened several times over a few months. Each time we'd tell them that they chose a plan that they understood would have slower growth for the most competitive terms. Growth was happening, but the new options provide something more robust.

It basically comes down to what you can offer for the cost being paid. This is something that the SEO they were shopping around to just didn't consider. Could the total campaign be more effective? Yes. Could it be more effective on the budget they were investing? Not so easily, and only with time.

I think the client realized this once they started getting quotes back that far exceeded any of the more expensive quotes we provided. Despite all the shopping around, our client ultimately stayed with us, as we weren't "significantly" over their budget, and many of those they contacted were.

It's nearly impossible to analyze the quality of the results of an SEO campaign without factoring in the budget. That's not to say you can't analyze work that has been done, you can. But, you can't give an opinion as to how much SEO, Link Building, Social Media, etc. has been implemented unless you consider the monthly investment.

SEO results take big-mindedness and a willingness to budget what is needed to get the results you want. If you're coming to an SEO with a limited budget, be willing to accept the fact that the results come with limitations. Lower budgets mean more time is needed to get results. In competitive fields, if you're being outspent by your competition, a low budget may actually get you further behind.

That's not to say budget is everything. In fact, in the wrong hands, big budgets can still be a waste of time, at best, and detrimental to your long-term success, at worst. But, in the right hands, a small budget can perform ok, a comfortable budget can get you some good results, and a large budget can dominate the SEO landscape.

So, stop thinking small when it comes to SEO. Think big, and do what it takes to make it big!

March 25, 2011

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


If they are an "established company",I wonder why they are so cheap.

And if they are new,I bet they have come to the wrong table.

I love this sentence: It's nearly impossible to analyze the quality of the results of an SEO campaign without factoring in the budget.

We run into this same problem all the time. When clients don't have a big enough budget, results definitely come slow. Then after 6-8 months, they start asking other SEO companies if what we are doing is providing value and almost 100% of the time the answer is no. One, because they don't know the size of the budget and what was accomplished with the budget, or two, because they flat out want their business.

Good post, I think to become successful with SEO, we need a really good link building plan. Link building is the core of successs and people tends to just rely on the SERPS to check our success.

I think the main problem is that clients really have no idea of how much time and effort goes into implementing a successful SEO campaign. The bottom line is you get what you pay for. If you want dramatic results, you have to be willing to pay for it.

When performing SEO on a small budget, advanced tactics are almost left out completely. You can do some basic foundation SEO with a small budget but will be left focusing only on core activities. If you try to do a little bit here and a little bit there, you'll spread your tactics too thin and will not see much traction. It may be a better approach to go all in or nothing at all.

Client on shoestring budgets tend to be the most finicky when it comes to reports. I think it's worth it for a company, or freelancer, to selectively choose their clients with whose budgets aren't their main concerns. It's a lot less stressful when the client understands that SEO in 2011 takes more than on-page and directory listings.

That is true, i completely agree with this post. An SEO results good only when it has big-mindedeness and willingness to budget what is needed.

When dealing with clients that have a low budget, I tell them right up front that they are on a slow boat to page 1. If you want to take a faster route, here are your options and this is what it cost. Nick is right, they don't understand the amount of work that goes into proper off page SEO. They also expect results overnight. We have all our clients sign a separate waiver where they acknowledge that SEO is an ongoing process and takes time.

Some of our clients that claimed they were on a tight budget call us several months later wanting to up their budget and get on a faster train to page 1.

Agreed, many clients have a hard time understanding their ROI when it comes to SEO and Time Frames. It is especially hard to explain to a client the costs and time that will go into their campaign for the website they created yesterday and want to rank on page 1 for next week. I had a client today in Northern Virginia give me a call to come back after he hired someone else that was cheaper and literally went from page 1 to page 3 in a matter of two months. Now we are going to be playing catch up during his busy season. This was a bad choice on his part and one that will surely cost him money.

To all the comments and Stoney's article above I've 2 questions:

What's the budget amount vis-a-vis returns?

Does an SEO take up any site, or studies a site to figure out if it would make money to his best judgment?

The second question is important because the person who gives money gives for promises to be delivered whatever the amount. If his business is not sound, he has to be told that no matter what work is done, the returns may not match investment.

Which is why there is a big difference between "any person doing SEO" and "a thinking person doing SEO". The real worth of a good SEO is not how much he charges or makes claims as in the comments above. It is the understanding of his client's business, and the conviction of producing results.

Nothing less, nothing more!

In my experience as a the owner of an SEO agency, if you take on a client with a thin budget who wants to hit it big with a competitive keyword, you have to expect that you are going to get feedback like you got, even if you correctly set expectations from the outset. An additional fact is that if they leave your service because of it, you will forever be known by them as the SEO company that did not get them results. Choosing the right clients and strong customer relations are key to successful projects.

That's really true. I completely agree with you. U have to think big and straight when it comes to SEO. Link building is one of the most important aspect for SEO. And backtracking will help finding the errors.

Partha, Stoney's article hits right at home. I have a large client that is still of the "old-school" mind set, i.e. paper/tv/radio, The one person there that really understands the importance of a good online presence has an uphill battle getting the money required to really do a good job. The present budget does not even come close to what the site could be so I have to ratchet down what I can do for them based on the money provided, based on that here is my approach to your questions;

1) What's the budget amount vis-a-vis returns? I will always study a clients site, most specifically the traffic stats and hopefully they have a good program, like at a minimum google analytics. That helps me determine just how good or bad a site is in terms of ranking and shows me what is an easy fix and what will be hard, i.e. return the best results quickest, so the client can see that. This will help the person who you are working with at the company to give them more ammo to up the budget for SEO, social, etc... services.

2) Does an SEO take up any site, or studies a site to figure out if it would make money to his best judgment?

I always study the client as well as the site.

a) Determine that by interviewing the client and reviewing the website. I have actually turned down clients who thought their present SEO firm was not doing the job when in fact they were. I also showed them the evidence they were doing a good job on what the client was looking for, however I would also show them what I could do better for them. Be honest. If they don't end up as a client they might end up as a friend or at least someone they respect and may come to for something else at a later date.

b) Create a time sheet. See how long it takes to do the original interview, website review and follow-ups. Come up with an average. Then set the limit of time you will spend on getting a potential client. Once you reach that, either drop them and move on, or if you think a little more time is worth the effort then stick with it for a while. But don’t go overboard. It’s the cost of doing business. You have to set a limit on what you can spend/time with each client before you seal the deal or decide to move on.
c) Once you determine what is require, create and submit the proposal. That’s when the haggling may begin and take it from there. If it doesn’t work out for you, move on.

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Why Small Minded and Small Marketed SEO Doesn't Work