Setting the Right Budget for SEO

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    For many years as an SEO/Online Marketing professional I have been preaching that the most costly mistake made by SEO providers or online marketers is not spending the time to get the target keywords right, based on evidence-based research, or adapting the targets over time to changes in the market. After all, if you spend the whole year’s budget chasing the wrong keywords, good rankings on a report will not be much comfort to your accountant or sales manager.

    In recent years, however, I have come to realise that potentially the most costly mistake in online marketing is setting the wrong budget for the target keywords/market and the objectives of the campaign. With the now fierce competition online, and the dominance of influential players like Google and Facebook in Australia, you can’t afford to pluck a figure out of the air based on gut feel or what you think the average business has spent in the past.

    This brings me to the very difficult question of how to explain to a business decision maker the basis of a recommended or appropriate budget without getting too deep into the insanely complex world of online reputation comparisons (PageRank, domain authority, backlinks, etc.), traffic estimation (click through rates for different positioning strategies), sales conversion rates and so on. It would be easy for SEO professionals like me to simply say that the online world is so technically complex that a marketing manager or CEO is never going to understand what an appropriate budget is, and that they are just going to have to accept the advice of the SEO professional from whom they requested the quote.

    Quite frankly, I think that attitude would be a real cop-out. In all other forms of marketing, some level of accountability and transparency is required, and the technical environment of the online world shouldn’t change the need for same. We need at least some workable rules of thumb to promote trust in the current sceptical environment – if not promote improved decision making. That agreed, what I would like to do is to give some idea to decision makers what an SEO firm like White Chalk Road might consider or research before setting a budget or budget options for an SEO campaign.

    That task might be a little too detailed to cover in this introductory article so what I will do is leave the detail to my next instalment or blog and cover a few big picture mistakes and myths of budgeting for SEO below.


    1. Don’t assume SEO is mainly a technical exercise with a fixed unit of work and cost
    2. Don’t treat SEO or Online Marketing as a one-time exercise or a ‘cost’
    3. Don’t assume there is a right or set budget that applies to all businesses as far as page one listings are concerned. Not even on an ‘industry basis’ is this true. The right budget is the right budget for your business relative to your industry competition and your market objectives
    4. Don’t deal with an SEO provider who simply gives you a list of standard packages to choose from, especially if those packages are not married to a unique set of objectives/outcomes that have been discussed and tailored to your business
    5. Don’t assume the keyword searches with the most search numbers (demand) are the most profitable keywords for you if you rank high for them
    6. Don’t assume all keywords in your market have a similar cost or conversion rate if you are to rank number one for them.


    1. Do treat SEO as an ongoing investment in marketing to be integrated into your overall marketing strategy and budget
    2. Do seek a custom, market researched, quotation and link it to broad objectives and specific KPIs and reasonable milestones (6 months or 12 months or whatever)
    3. Where possible and relevant, do group your keyword targets into product/service themes and estimate both the time delay and cost of Google rankings on those groups.

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