If we want to market ourselves and our clients effectively, sooner or later we need to bite the bullet and expend some capital.
There’s only so much we can do for zero cost – and yet, even when that time comes, it’s still difficult to part ways with our hard-earned funds in the hope that it will come back to us in the long term.
Having said that, SEO doesn’t have to be as expensive as some in the industry profess.
From the outset, there are many ways we can defer and reduce costs of creating, optimizing and maintaining a website along with the supposed costs of SEO.
Here are some that we have found to be effective, without sacrificing quality or efficiency.
Project Management (free)
Everything begins with a plan. SEO should be no different.
There are many moving parts to marketing and SEO as a whole, and we would argue the case for the need of a solution for managing the entire project. While strategy and efforts can be managed via spreadsheets, there are better alternatives available to us i.e. simple software that is easy to grasp and free to use. For that, we recommend solutions such as Trello.
The visual organization of Trello’s boards is something of an outlier. While many companies are now trying to copy their design and emulate their success (while charging for it!), Trello remains a perfect solution for anyone looking to manage their SEO projects at no cost and maximum efficiency.
With a solid foundation established, we can now begin the work at hand…
Domain Registration (<$2)
You’d normally expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $12 to register a top-level domain, but those prices only account for one portion of the market. There are a number of domain extensions which cost less than $2!
Which ones, you may ask?
To name just a few. Yes, they may not be as appealing as a .com or .net, but considering availability of such domains (or lackthereof), these second tier domains are a fantastic alternative and have already become a norm in the internet world. Moreover, it does not make a difference to search engines which top-level domain you decide on.
For a straightforward domain registrar with great prices, we highly recommend Namecheap.
With a domain in hand, we need somewhere to host it…
It’s common to see hosting companies charging $10, $20 or even $100 a month for hosting – but there are much more affordable options.
If you’re looking for something cheap but reliable, we recommend you give any of the aforementioned services a try – which means – with only $5, we’ve got ourselves a domain and a website!
Now, the question remains: how do we design, create and manage the content that follows?
There’s no need to be paying for a content management system.
The only reason to pay for a CMS would be if domain and hosting was included in your package such as a Shopify or Wix. Even with those extra perks considered, however, it would still be more cost effective to order each item individually and go with a free CMS.
With a site and a CMS now in place, it’s time to find the right keywords to target…
Keyword Research (free)
This may be a controversial opinion, but most paid keyword research software is unnecessary.
There are many free keyword research tools out there, and they work pretty well! We even compared every keyword research tool recently and were able to witness first-hand the strengths and weaknesses of each one.
Which free keyword tools do we recommend?
These keyword tools each have their own unique method and source of generating keyword ideas and contextualizing them. When you combine the results of all, along with your own brainstorming skills, you can generate a list that is sufficient and have you equipped to formulate a keyword and content strategy as good as any other.
Let’s optimize our site with the right keywords, and check on our progress so far…
SEO Audit (free)
Similar to keyword research software, we can typically find good SEO audit tools for no cost if we look far enough.
Luckily, there are many out there that don’t charge for an initial scan. They include:
- SEO Mator
- SEO Site Checkup
- Woo Rank
Using this list, you can quickly get an idea of what areas of your website need attention and what can be done better.
The extra benefit of testing all SEO audit tools is to identify which ones were able to discover the most issues and what they missed, which will help you in the near future when deciding which software to invest in when your website becomes large enough to warrant the cost.
After doing what we can to fix any issues, it’s time to build some backlinks…
Link Building (free)
There are many ways to go about doing link building without spending a dime. For example, we can:
- Find broken links for website owners, reaching out to them and notifying them of said broken links in the hope of a backlink as compensation.
- Offer our guest writing services to bloggers in the same industry in exchange for a link.
- Analyze where the competition is currently receiving their links from and attempt to acquire them too.
- Search the web for any mentions of our brand and request a link be placed for it.
- Reach out to the many services we personally use and offer a testimonial in exchange for a link.
You are only limited by your own creativity. There are quicker methods to build links that involve some capital, including event sponsorships, acquiring companies, creating scholarships, fostering partnerships, applying to the chamber of commerce etc. but these types of expenses are ambiguous and not well-suited for a newer company like ours.
Are we ranking for anything yet? Let’s find out…
Rank Tracking (free)
Rank tracking is an interesting topic. While it is useful to know where you stand and what needs improvement, rank tracking can lead to an unhealthy obsession and subsequent discouragement to continue SEO.
It is important to note that SEO is a long-term return on investment and rankings aren’t important in the beginning as much as building a great resource that delivers exceptional, timeless value.
Although nearly all rank tracking software on the marketing incurs fees, there is one you can currently use for free known as SERPfox. It will routinely check your rankings and indicate where your site currently is placed, along with what rankings it had in the past, allowing you to track the trajectory of your overall rankings and SEO developments.
Now that we’re all set up, it’s time to give users a reason to keep coming back and other website owners a reason to keep linking to us….
Content Marketing (free)
Creating valuable and engaging content is the ideal way to conduct SEO for any business. While content mediums and methods vary per industry, there are some which we believe can be applied to any, including (but not limited to):
- Infographics & Data Visualization
- Research & Guides
- Comparison Tables
The great thing is, none of these need to cost anything at all. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Blogging is merely publishing content around interesting topics in your niche on a regular basis. Hey, we’re doing it right now! It’s already included in most content management systems, which we know is free, so there’s no additional cost to start blogging. It may take some time to see the results of your hard labor, but it has been proven to be a viable and reliable way to make great content and further advance your SEO goals.
A good way to enhance the visual appeal of your blog is through rich media such as images, videos and gifs. Luckily, there are free stock photography websites such as Pixabay and Pexels which can help you find what you need and they will not charge you for using their images. For free stock videos, you can check out Mixkit.
Infographics & Data Visualization
Infographics i.e. “information graphics” are a great way to gain links without having to pay for a thing. You don’t need to be a graphic designer or even hire one. There are many free graphic tools out there that can help you specifically create any kind of infographic you want to make.
Some free infographic creation services include:
For inspiration, it’s always a good idea to look at previous infographics that have done well and see what ideas or concepts you can materialize for your own category or industry. You can even mimic the same approach as previous works and update them for the current time, especially if newer data has been released since publication. An example would be our infographic where we display the ROI of all marketing channels.
Research & Guides
When you conduct extensive research or develop a detailed guide for an audience, something happens: people learn something new and insightful, which can help them in a pragmatic fashion. And that is why they are good kinds of content to attract links relatively easily.
The next logical question is, then, how do you go about creating such content?
While there is no defined method, some ideas would include:
- Making case studies on clients you’ve worked with in the past.
- Recording interviews with people and publishing your findings.
- Reaching out to thought leaders in any industry and make a “round up” post.
- Conducting polls and surveys based off the responses of a significant amount of users.
None of these require money to do. As long as you have an email address, you can access a wealth of information with enough outreach and collecting responses to condense and summarize in the form of content for your website.
Many people like to compare products and services before making a purchase. Factors such as price, features, specifications and compatibility are but a few points of data users are interested to investigate and compare, however most will not want to invest a large amount of time in order to make accurate and realistic comparisons.
This is where a comparison table comes in.
Comparison tables are a quick and easy-to-understand format for anyone to analyze and compare 2 or more products or services instantly, side-by-side. What could normally take hours to compile for the average user has been condensed into a few minutes, thus becoming a valuable resource for any who are interested. You can see our own version of one where we made a comparison of the best overall SEO software.
It is for these reasons that comparison tables are a great way to generate valuable content and place your site in the best position to gain new links from it.
Video is in demand and on the rise. One report estimates that video will make up 80% of all online traffic by 2021.
Video is also great due to its adaptability to other mediums that are still effective today, including transcription to text and repurposing for images. Not only that, but longer videos can be chopped up into many more pieces of content for greater reach and visibility at no extra cost.
While not a direct benefit to your websites search engine visibility, podcasting benefits SEO in a number of supplemental ways.
Podcast listings are appearing in SERPs more now than ever. Combining this knowledge with some strategic keyword research could lead people directly to your site via listeners and sponsors.
Podcast episodes can also be embedded directly on your website, providing an opportunity for people to stay on your website longer, engage with other content and rank for extra terms you otherwise couldn’t have.
Furthermore, if your podcast involves interviewing others, leveraging their audience and having the guest link back to your podcast episode on your website creates further authority and increases your visibility by a great margin.
You can start a podcast today, with zero cost, using a service like Spreaker.
Now that we’ve developed great content, we can start promoting it immediately…
Indeed, creating an amazing website and worthwhile content is only half the battle. Informing the world about it is the other half, and arguably the more important one!
Back in the older days, outreach involved a lot of manual labor, expending a considerable amount of effort in both personalizing and sending mass emails one by one. These days, thankfully, there better alternatives available to us.
A fantastic solution for outreach right now is Sendia. It’s extremely simple and free to use, and can send bulk email in just seconds while still having the ability to personalize and track opens for each email. It also comes with a schedule feature if you want to delay your outreach for higher open rates.
After we’ve reached out to every potential source we can think of and subsequently wait on replies and potential inbound links, let’s keep the momentum rolling with a secondary channel…
Social Media (free)
Social media may not have a direct impact on SEO, although it does have supplemental influence on link acquisition and content development.
A great way to both create and react to an audience on Twitter would be through TweetDeck. For Instagram, there is Gramblr which is available for both Mac and PC users and allows you to upload and schedule content proactively.
To actively manage multiple sources of social media, however, we would go with HootSuite, which offers a free plan until you are at a point where upgrades are necessary.
With extra channels driving traffic to our site, it would be a good idea to begin analyzing visitor activity…
Most webmasters stick to Google Analytics and don’t ever venture beyond it. But GA isn’t the be-all and end-all.
There are many ways to analyze how people are using your site.
A popular alternative is Clicky, which can do almost everything Google Analytics can, along with a few extra features.
HotJar allows you to gain useful insights about your visitors in a variety of ways. For example, you can:
- Generate heatmaps to see what areas of your site are not relevant or a point of confusion.
- Survey your audience to see what they want from your site.
- Check your conversion funnels and see where people are dropping off.
- Record how visitors interact with your site.
The best part about analytics is, you can use them all simultaneously and decide which one is most helpful and can lead you to make better decisions for your website!
And there you have it — an extremely frugal (almost free) way to perform all necessary SEO tasks when you’re on a restricted budget.
All in all, we observed that with only $5, we can create, host and optimize a website for search engine visibility at a sensible level.
Don’t let lack of resources be an issue any longer! SEO can be (and is being) done on the cheap, so get out there and dominate your industry today 🙂
Sebastian Hovv is the CEO & founder of SEO 101 and the author of the book, The Little White Book of SEO. With over 13 years of experience in SEO, he has become an expert in the field and a contributor to the world of online marketing education through the online courses and learning material SEO 101 provides.