Remember back when the credit crunch was new? Every other blog post, including a fair few of mine, urged firms not to lose faith in online marketing, not to hack at their search engine marketing (SEM) budgets or lay off members of their online PR team.

I still think it’s important to hold marketing nerve. If you are to
grow your business then a successful marketing strategy is essential
and budget cuts are not going to help.

However, as the country
shudders its way out of a historic recession, achieving an estimated
0.1% of growth in the last three months of 2009, it’s time to face
facts. Your money need to work harder.

British business is not out of the woods yet and many firms are going to be unable to grow their marketing budgets for the foreseeable future.

So, boost your sales and step ahead of the competition by making sure every penny you spend achieves as much as possible.

Overhaul your pay-per-click (PPC)

Getting the most out of your paid search budget is an art; it requires dedicated time, thought and experimentation.

I meet would-be clients who can’t understand why we don’t funnel all their budget into the most searched-for terms, but it is much more complicated than that.

Highly popular terms will inevitably cost more but they won’t necessarily make a conversion any more likely. However, if you target more specified searches, you’ll often pay less and gain greater numbers of visitors.

Best of all, those visitors will be even more relevant than the ones being driven to your site via a generic, popular search term.

I always offer ‘car insurance’ as a prime example: it is very expensive to place ads for and your visitors won’t necessarily convert.

However, dedicate some of your budget to specific terms, such as ‘car insurance for young drivers’ and you’ll pay less and potentially earn more.

You may also be in a sector that could benefit from Google’s ad scheduling service, were you can pick when your adverts appear.

Only careful analysis of click through and cost will allow you to make the most out of your money.

Be sensible about socialising

No one is a bigger fan of social media marketing than me;  SEOptimise has benefited hugely from a sustained social marketing campaign.

However, I do see many companies dedicating considerable amounts of their time engaging with single customers through social platforms.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful way to build up some loyal brand fans or to overcome negative comments made through Twitter or via a blog.

Yet time is money and it’s important to spend that time where it will have the widest possible reach.

If you need to cut back, perhaps in order to dedicate more time to a successful PPC campaign, then maybe one-to-one socialising can take a back seat – just until you have a bigger budget to play with.

Be confident in the basics

There’s not much point ploughing money into your online marketing strategy if you haven’t bothered with your onsite optimisation.

Basic work like optimising your own pages won’t cost the earth but it will make sure that your website is working as hard as it can. Otherwise, your SEO work will never amount to much – it’s like trying to put a decent roof on a cardboard box.

Remember what actually matters

It may sound basic but I often meet people who have lost track of why they optimise their sites. High visitor numbers are great but that isn’t enough on its own – it’s all about conversion.

Are your visitors doing what you want them to do once they reach your site?

Don’t let your SEO company rest on its laurels just because it’s increased visitor numbers to your pages. They need to be sending relevant consumers to your site; otherwise it’s just a waste of everyone’s time and your budget.

Yes, there is often more you can do on your pages to inspire people to buy, or sign up, or whatever it is you want to achieve.

However, your SEO agency has to take some responsibility for the quality of the traffic you’re receiving.

Don’t lose long-term vision

If you’ve invested cash into a long-term online marketing solution – for example, working on your website’s organic optimisation – don’t drop the ball because there are more immediate returns to be made through PPC.

That may boost your budget’s short-term earning potential, but it wastes whatever you had previously spent on the work you’ve now dropped.

Don’t cut a budget if that will waste money you’ve already spent and damage your long-term strategy.