SEO For Start-Ups: Budgeting and Forecasting

If you have been searching for SEO services near you, have you ever heard this line from an agency…

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


If you hear this from an SEO company in Orange County, 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 your first eager client.


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 site 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?


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…


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.


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.


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.

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