Few businesses have a monthly advertising spend that stays consistent through the year. Budgets tend to be increased at times when return is likely to be higher, and dialled back for slow periods. The most obvious examples of these is ad spend in B2C retail, where the spend in Q4 usually outweighs the total spend in the 3 Quarters before it. Most businesses don’t apply the same thinking when it comes to SEO budgets though, with spend being on a straight line throughout the year. At PAPARICO, we know that isn’t always the best approach.
Why are SEO budgets usually set monthly?
There are strong arguments for a consistent monthly spend. SEO rarely has the same immediacy as, for example, paid-social or paid-search. Building targeted, organic traffic from search can often be more about building momentum than short term wins. Similarly, having periods with no-one “at the wheel” of SEO can lead to issues going unnoticed and having impact that can be costly to recover from. Slow-and-steady does indeed often win when it comes to SEO.
Regular monthly spend is also convenient. Unlike paid ads, the largest part of a SEO budget covers the time and labour involved. Dialling it up means finding more skilled resource, and dialling it back leaves that resource under-utilised. Whether you manage SEO in-house or work with a third party, poor resource utilisation could lead to higher costs.
Consistent budgets make sense, but they’re not the best approach in every instance. Let’s look at some strategies where shorter, intense bursts of SEO activity can have more impact.
Making the most of industry highs
The most common strategy used with short-term SEO campaigns is to give a business an extra push around the high points of their industry’s sales calendar. Most businesses have predictable periods when sales are more likely to be higher: Christmas for retail or New Year for travel, as examples. Aligning campaigns with those high-converting periods will often bring the greatest return on spend and push sales peaks higher.
A great example of this is the work PAPARICO did with events catering company Country City Catering. A three-month burst from March to May ensured that Country City Catering had visibility in time for the summer peak in new business enquiries.
The problem with targeting industry wide high-periods is that your competitors will likely be doing the same. This means that this approach is best used in addition to year-round activity rather than as an alternative to it. In fact, many industries are competitive enough at these key times that not increasing spend can reduce your share of voice to competitors at the exact time you want it most.
Making the most of more targeted highs
Finding high-periods that your competitors aren’t also gearing up for can potentially mean even greater impact for your short bursts of SEO. Company events, such as product launches, discount periods, PR events and offline advertising can be amplified by aligning them with SEO activity.
Even if your marketing calendar is looking empty, thinking about what your customers are searching for and when, can uncover opportunities.
For example, a chocolate gifts company would have expected highs around Christmas, Easter Mothering Sunday and Valentine's day, but competition will also be high at those times. With come creativity campaigns could be tied to other events: Congratulations for graduates, end of term gifts for teachers, or even piggy-backing off major TV events: Maybe the retailer sees a market for Chocolates to enjoy on Eurovision night. The key is understanding your audience, the conversations they’re having around the year and looking for tie-ins that work for your business.
Reacting to events
It’s not natural to think of SEO as a reactive tactic, due to the slower timescales involved. Not everything has to happen in an instant though, and short burst campaigns can help businesses capitalise when markets change.
This was exactly the strategy we employed with World of Zing when world events led to a big uptake in the numbers of people drinking cocktails at home. Combining SEO with advertising, email marketing and social media marketing (all managed by PAPARICO), brought an immediate return and gave them a valuable audience to further grow their business within this trending market.
Hitting harder with small SEO budgets
When SEO budgets are limited, stretching them across 12 months can leave a business unable to compete in a meaningful way against better-funded competitors. This can be even more difficult in the case of startups where the competition may also be better established with all the advantages that brings.
Compressing that budget into a 3 month campaign can increase the impact it has. This can be an effective way for a small business to gain valuable sales and new businesses to build traction. It is also a great way for more established companies to test SEO (and SEO providers) if they haven’t before. Of course, all of the other tactics above apply in this case too, so timing will still have a big impact on success.
Ongoing SEO / Burst SEO / Both - Which is right for my business?
How best to pace your spend is very dependent on your business, your objectives and the industry you operate in. The best way to find the correct answer for your situation is to talk to an expert. At PAPARICO, we are experienced in running both short and ongoing campaigns not only across organic search but also paid search engine advertising, email and social media. We can help you understand the options most appropriate for your business and how to get the most return from your spend. Why not contact us today, tell us a bit more about what you want to achieve and start putting our expertise to work.