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Desperately Seeking SEO: Where Your SEO Budget Should Come From

You’ve decided it’s time to invest in SEO to build your brand online. Now you just have to find a way to pay. The first obstacle businesses often encounter when embarking on their SEO projects is where to get the cash to pay for it. For that matter, who should pay for an SEO? How do you determine its portion of your final budget? Who should make these decisions?

So many people maintain the misconception that SEO is free – and that traffic from Google, Yahoo!, and MSN is free. While the organic search results are free, the work required to be ranked in the results is not. Businesses have to find the cash to pay for a third-party search marketing firm, for copywriting services, Web development time, and even some link-building strategies require cash flow. None of these things are possible without a budget.

SEO Is a Marketing Tool

The first question-where does the SEO budget come from-can be very simple or quite confusing, depending on the divisions within your company. A common misconception is that the SEO budget should come from the overall IT budget. This, however, can cause many complications. Because of the technical, website-related work that goes into SEO, many businesses allocate SEO control and budget responsibility to IT and/or Web development teams. This can cause a loss of direction in SEO goals, a power struggle between IT and marketing, and tension over budget burden when the SEO benefit is clearly seen within marketing’s bottom line.

. . . with the benefit comes the burden-budget issues and related decisions are best managed by the marketing team.

SEO is a marketing tool and should be managed and monitored by the marketing department. And the benefits of SEO are directed to online marketing, so with the benefit comes the burden-budget issues and related decisions are best managed by the marketing team.

Carving Out an SEO Budget from Traditional Marketing

Determining your SEO budget is simply a matter of research and review. First, you research and estimate your potential ROI with SEO, and then you review the status and ROI of your current traditional and online marketing tactics. Once you’ve established these metrics, you can carve out a budget for SEO from your existing overall budget or make a case to your CFO for additional money to build on existing marketing success with SEO.

Knowing your potential with SEO is step one, and there are many available resources for estimating how much you might gain from SEO. First, talking to other, similarly situated companies about their own experiences and returns from SEO is a great way to get an idea of the results you might experience. Just be careful not to ask your competitors-you won’t get the full story and they are not likely to divulge many details. Second, look to industry research resources such as eMarketer, MarketingSherpa, or Forrester. These resources often offer free research, statistics and survey results through their sites, or newsletters which break down typical SEO investments, ROI, tactics, etc. Broken down by B2B, B2C, online retailer, or lead-generation companies, you can find the stats that best represent your company. Also, consider investing in a relevant research study to get the details and full picture research so you can make a more informed budget decision.

If you have marketing tactics that are not producing solid ROI, consider reallocating funds from these to SEO.

Now review your existing marketing tactics-both online and traditional. Look at what is giving you the best results and where your ROI is lower than expected. Businesses often allocate funds to traditional marketing tactics, such as print advertising, because they are expected to do so or because they always have. Investing in these “traditional, expected” marketing elements is rarely scrutinized as closely as newer marketing tactics. If you have marketing tactics that are not producing solid ROI, consider reallocating money from these to SEO. You most likely can carve out an SEO budget simply by adjusting other marketing strategies and how money is allocated. If you are seeing strong ROI from all current marketing tactics, or you’re a new company without the history to evaluate effectiveness just yet, use the research you’ve done to make a case for additional funds for your SEO project.

Marketing Decisions Are Collaborative

Although SEO is primarily managed by your marketing team, the benefits and burdens of an SEO project should be communicated to many different departments within the company. You’ll need the buy-in from more than just your marketing team. When SEO is managed in-house, your budget isn’t merely dollars and cents-it includes human capital. Budgetary decisions need to be made regarding the use of current employees, who will pick up the slack of the re-delegated workload, and the possibility of hiring additional support staff or freelancers to fill the gap.

IT and Web development teams may be taking on some additional projects when you embark on your SEO project-if you’re doing this in-house, they may bear the majority of the burden with upfront website alterations and modifications. Keep IT involved in the initial decision-making process when you decide to take on an SEO project, and keep them in the loop with budget decisions, major project decisions, etc., to make sure you communicate a respect and understanding for IT’s input and work.

Don’t forget the accounting and finance departments along the way. You’ll want to share research about projected ROI, actual ROI, and project milestones along the way. This will ensure that the people making budget decisions understand the benefits, not just the costs, associated with your company’s SEO.

Stay connected with your sales team. Whether your website is lead based or e-commerce, your sales team will see a direct benefit from your SEO project. Keep up communication with the sales team so that you can understand the full scope of the sales benefits of your SEO project and to get ideas of how SEO can better serve the sales team. Sales personnel can best quantify the end benefit of SEO for you, and they will be the ones who understand the details and nuances of the benefits.

Finally, make sure your marketing team is open and communicative throughout the SEO project-establishing a budget is only the beginning. Successful SEO is constantly monitored, evaluated, and modified. You’ll need many people within the organization to be well-informed to keep your SEO project growing.

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