Can You Still Bootstrap SEO?

Bootstrapping SEO

Budget. How often did you dread this word?

It’s often too small. Or it’s merged with other departments and you never really know how much is there for you. Not to mention that you might not have control over spending it.

Or, as it is often the case, there is no budget at all.

In my first in-house gig my SEO budget was zero. They perceived SEO as a cost, not an investment and the company was reluctant to give any money for it.

Yet they wanted results.

Things were different back then though. Back then you had options to bootstrap you efforts. Sure, none of them were great but at least you had some. You could manually submit site to directories, fire off articles to article directories and do a lot of other no cost stuff that would help you rank. Sure, many of those techniques would be black hat today but they worked back then.

In fact, few years ago SEO was perceived as a bootstrapping marketing opportunity. A low cost way to promote the site or a business (it does sound a bit funny today though, doesn’t it?)

Today the situation is quite the opposite. Most of those low cost techniques no longer work. In fact, many others are being devalued with an astonishing regularity. Not to mention that SEO can no longer be used as a main growth engine for a business, and that’s for many reasons.

Yet problems with budgets remain the same, at least for many SEOs.

Sure, smaller companies started to realize the importance of having an in-house SEO and hire accordingly. However, the money they have set aside for the SEO often aren’t enough.

A lot of big players still perceive SEO as a cost rather than investment (the recent change in serving keyword data won’t help much with that perception I am afraid) and are reluctant to allocate larger budgets to it (although I have to say, the situation changes at a much faster pace here).

Smaller agency clients also seek help with a budget that often covers the fee but doesn’t leave a much space for anything else.

Of course the situation is not all doom and gloom. Many of us get a chance to work to quite decent budgets. But there are still many SEOs who need to bootstrap their efforts these days.

And the questions is, can this be done?

What Would You Need The Money For Anyway

Before going further, it’s worth to discuss what would you spend the money for (even if for a benefit of the new SEOs out there).

  1. Content – definitely. You can write all the content you need yourself but it is a time consuming labor, especially if you want to scale it up. A budget allowing you to hire some writers could be really handy.
  2. Creating graphics and other linkable assets – again, potentially all of this could be done in-house. You could create infographics or even use your IT department to develop an app you are going to use to drum up links etc. However, quite often you don’t have such resources, or talent in-house and a cash for hiring someone to do it for you would help.
  3. Tools – this one speaks for itself. There are some free alternatives to many but they are often not enough. Simply.
  4. Expanding Your Skills – I have always believed that education is part of the job. And those tickets to conferences etc. cost money.

and much more.

So, Can You Still Bootstrap SEO?

I think you still can. It’s not as easy as it might have been but it can be done. You just need to take a slightly different approach to it than before:

  1. Optimize the hell out of your own site. Not something you need a huge budget for. Yet, investing a lot of time in getting your site optimized can, as we all know, yield some great results.
  2. Get creative with link building and skip the ways that would normally require a budget. Some ideas:
    1. Get your CEO interviewed for top industry portals (or business portals). You can gain some amazing links this way.
    2. If you have access to a development team, get them to create an app for you. Promote the app to earn hundreds of links.
    3. Keep close to your brand and marketing teams. Use what they do to build links. If they run a competition, use your digital media contacts to promote it and gain links to the competition page.
    4. Run a link bait or ego bait campaign. Let those links come to you.
  3. Build a blog and attract links through your posts. Sure, it will take time to get results but if done well, it is almost a guaranteed way to attract audience.
  4. Build connections with other bloggers. For obvious reasons.
  5. Master copywriting and promote your company through writing.
  6. Build media connections. Use company news as an opportunity to submit press releases directly to your media contacts for a guaranteed exposure.
  7. Participate in online discussions about your brand but also product and industry.
  8. Invest time in local SEO, get your site listed in Google maps. It costs nothing and offers great results.

In fact, there is probably a hundred more ways you could rank a site without having to spend money. The key is to be creative and, realize that you might have to wait a bit longer for effects.

How About You

How would you do SEO with no budget for it? What methods would you use to rank a site if you had not a single dime to spend on it?

Creative commons image: 401(k)2013 via Flickr

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