SEO For Start-Ups: Budgeting and Forecasting

Budgeting and Forecasting for SEO

SEO forecasting can get tricky. You might be listening to other agencies telling you, forecasting cannot be done for search engine optimization. Simply, we are here to reverse the narrative, and give you a comprehensive guide on budgeting and forecasting for SEO. 

“You know it’s not possible to predict the return on investment of SEO and content marketing right?”

WRONG! If you hear this from an SEO company you should run a mile. 

Now, I’m not saying you can precisely pinpoint ROI. SEO forecasting is not an exact science. 

Bottom line, though: if you’re a bootstrapping start-up looking to determine where every dollar of your spend is going, you’re in for a treat today. I’ll show you step-by-step how to establish the viability of an SEO campaign. 

If you’re an SEO just starting out and looking for basic tips about costing your campaigns, you’re in luck too. 

So, get things started on the right footing if you want to budget SEO for you first eager client. 

How to Forecast SEO

1. Start With Keyword Research

In order to forecast properly, you need to target the right keywords. Before, start preliminary research in an excel document. Find long tail keywords. These are keywords comparable to a phrase. Think of the keyword “shoes” in comparison to “blue shoes guide” it is a bit more specific and long tail. When you find the proper keywords, take the volume and divide it by 2. 

Keywords Volume Difficulty
blue shoes 4,000 70
blue suede shoes 19,000 70
royal blue shoes 1,500 65
navy blue shoes 900 65
light blue shoes 500 70
  25,400 68

Therefore, 25,400/2 is 12,700. We divide by two because 50% of searches do not lead in a click.

2. Look at Historical Data

Sometimes there is seasonality in businesses. It is always nice to have two to three years of data to project these seasonal dips. Think about November. Business to consumer type businesses have Black Friday sales. Business to business typically have dips in Q4. It is important to project those seasonal dips. 

3. Current SEO Investments

What are you currently spending budget on? Is it SEMRUSH? A budget for VA’s? Link Building? Content Creation? 

Put it all in a spreadsheet like this one shown on the right. 

4. Baseline and Stretch Goals

Think of these as numbers you can change that will alter your projections and forecast. In our spreadsheet we call them the “Percentage Increases With Investments.” Baseline forecasting is simple. Do a trend analysis in excel and it do the revenue projections for you. 

The next is stretch. Typically these are high projections. Think of a larger investment in SEO. Think of spending $2,000 per month on SEO. But, you were not spending any money previously. Baseline is a standard goal and stretch is larger investments. 

5. SEO Forecasting and Projections

It is standard. This portion of the SEO forecasting document works synchronous. 

Sessions – The amount of people who come to the website per month. 

Conversion rate – Of how many people come to the website, who converts? This could be a purchase or a phone call. 

Call Volume/Transactions – The number of people who call or purchase. 

AOV – Of the people who order, what is the average total of each order? 

Total Revenue – Self explanatory  

RoAS – return on ad spend. Total of revenue divided spend. 

Budget Correctly

Keyword research is the foundation all SEO campaigns are built upon. You’ll want all commercial terms and money terms for the site in question bundled in an Excel sheet. Include all keywords you’re looking to rank the website for. 

While keyword competitiveness will influence your budget, you can get a reasonable overview without diving that deep.

As a general pointer, when you’re looking at page sessions on the site, you should divide this figure by 2. Only 50% of searches end up in clicks. I’ve seen too many SEOs neglect this and then wonder why their data seems skewed.

You’ll also need to consider the average order value (AOV) on the site along with conversion rates (number of visitors making a purchase).

With this information at your fingertips, the math is simple:

  • Transactions x AOV

Lay the result of this calculation over the contract duration.

SEO is a marathon and not a sprint. When you’re responsible for someone else’s money, it can be hard to suggest it could be six months or so before they can expect an ROI on their SEO spend. That said, when you have hard data to back up your projections, it’s a much easier sell.

So, given that SEO is a long game, you need to make sure the site in question is set up optimally.

How can you achieve this?

Focus on the Foundation of Your Website

A quality audit tells you exactly how to audit your business at a URL level.

A word of warning here: avoid those push-button reports from SEMrush and Ahrefs at all costs. They might be remarkably convenient, but they are also wildly imprecise.

Instead, you want to generate a report of sessions for each specific URL. You also need the keywords that URL is ranking for – both exact match and secondary keywords – so get this data from your Google Analytics. Consider your time on sessions, AOV, and conversion rates and start auditing the site using these figures.

A quality site audit is important because:

  • It shows whether your site had a solid structure at a URL level
  • It prevents you from investing money in a site if it’s set up in such a way it inhibits growth

By taking the time to understand how Google crawls your website, you can ensure you make things easier for the big G. It’s in your own interest to do so.

Now, with your own site – or your client’s site – in order, it’s time to focus those crosshairs on the competition…

Get the Right Competitive Analysis

When you’re doubling down on your competitors, keep one thing firmly in mind…

Exporting tools are next to useless. They might be quick and super-convenient, but you’ll be making decisions based on weak data.

Here’s where you need to get creative and build yourself a template so you can streamline competitive analysis of multiple sites. If you have no idea where to get started, check out this video. I break down my own template so you can use this as a springboard.

You should be probing for weaknesses in your three main competitors. Once you’ve established what they’re doing wrong, you can formulate an SEO strategy to capitalize on what your opposition is NOT doing.

Think about link velocity as an example. Link velocity expresses how many do-follow links the site has had over the past 90 days. When you’re building links, consistency is crucial. If you see your closest competitors have weak link velocity, ramp up your own link-building campaign and elevate yourself above them.

Here are some factors you should assess when measuring your competition:

  • Length of content: words per page and words per article
  • Quality and frequency of content
  • Top-performing pieces of content: style and structure
  • Is the content rich in images and video?
  • Backlink profile of the site
  • What is the site’s domain authority (DA)
  • Any linked social media accounts

If you’re still not sure how to get started making this kind of template, read on as I have a special offer for you right at the end today.

Link Wrapping and Tier Link Building

Assuming you have the foundations of a site solidly in place, it’s time to start thinking about growth.

If you’re looking for explosive and ongoing growth, there’s no substitute for creating links to high-authority, relevant sites.

Have you ever heard of tiered link-building?

If not, this strategy is simple but devastatingly effective. Unlike many SEOs in LA County, I don’t hold back with my secret sauce. I’m here to share as many tips with you as possible and to help as many people as I can.

So, tiered links.

Say I write a guest post for Search Engine Land. If this post contains a link pointing directly to my site, that’s considered a tier 1 link.

Imagine I then write another guest post for Forbes. In this post, I link to the Search Engine Land article. This is the post in which I first linked to Jackson Digital. We consider this a tier 2 link.

When you wrap links in this way, you can generate increased link equity and authority as you juice up all pages on the site.

It’s not a question of whether links work, simply a case of which links you will build, and how aggressively you want your campaign to be.

Top 10 SEO Factors to Follow Right Off The Bat

Do you ever get to the end of an article and think, “That was great, but what do I do next?”

I’ll make that super-simple for you…

Here are 10 tips you can put into action immediately whenever you start SEO-ing a new site:

  1. Make sure your site follows all basic on-page SEO best practice
  2. Complete all metadata, images included
  3. Structure your content strategy logically
  4. NEVER publish crappy content
  5. Stick to a regular posting schedule
  6. Take your time with keyword research and make sure you are targeting relevant, viable terms
  7. Ensure that Google has your sitemap
  8. Make certain all elements of that sitemap are on-point
  9. Establish a link strategy and follow through on it
  10. Build tiered links through link-wrapping

Are you still unsure about how to forecast the revenue of an SEO campaign? 

We will be offering free 30-minute consultations where you can ask me about any aspects of revenue forecasting SEO. This is a $500 consultation I’m giving you free of charge, so get in touch today and arrange for a convenient time to speak. You won’t regret it.

About Author

Ryan Jackson

SEO and Growth Marketing Expert

I am a growth marketer focusing on search engine optimization, paid social/search/display, and affiliate marketing. For the last five years, I have held jobs or had entrepreneurial ventures in freelance and consulting. I am a firm believer in an intense side hustle outside of 9 to 5’s. I have worked with companies like GoDaddy, Ace Hardware, StatusToday, SmartLabs Inc, and many more.

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