How to Grow, Even When Resources are Limited

Nov 2, 2023It Depends - An SEO Podcast, SEO

In this week’s episode of “It Depends – An SEO Podcast,” we delve deep into the unique challenges and opportunities that SEO teams and marketing managers are facing in the current economic climate. The discussion focuses on what marketers can do to grow thir organic traffic even as resources are tightened or eliminted. 

One critical topic we address is the tough decisions many businesses have had to make, including job cuts and resource limitations. These decisions have certainly taken a toll on marketing teams, making it challenging to maintain previous levels of activity and innovation. We discuss the creative and strategic responses that SEO professionals and marketing teams can undertake to adapt to this new reality. The emphasis is on finding innovative ways to make the most of the limited resources available, ensuring that SEO initiatives continue to drive growth and visibility through organic search.

Throughout the episode, we offer valuable advice and practical insights for SEO professionals, whether you’re part of a large marketing team or a solo practitioner. We share tips and best practices for navigating the complexities of the current economic landscape, including optimizing your content, leveraging data-driven strategies, and staying updated on industry trends. It’s a must-listen for anyone looking to not only survive but thrive in these challenging times.

Tune in to “It Depends – An SEO Podcast” for a rich discussion on how to meet the unique challenges of the current economic climate head-on and discover innovative ways to maintain and enhance your marketing activities in an ever-changing digital world.

Transcript

Jay (00:47.769)
Hey Lindsay.

Lindsie (00:50.712)
How’s it going?

Jay (00:52.722)
It’s going fine. What’s going on in your world today?

Lindsie (00:56.82)
Well, you know, I thought about this podcast and I specifically told myself I was not gonna start with how’s it going. Like that was, I think how I’ve said it at the beginning of every single plan. I was like, I am not gonna say that. And here I am. So that’s what’s in my mind now, Jay. Are you ready? We’re already here.

Jay (01:15.966)
That’s the only reason people tune in is to hear how we’re doing and then everyone stops listening. So.

Lindsie (01:20.704)
That’s it, that’s all they care about is us talking about the weather changes and how we’re feeling in our souls. Good to know. So now everybody that just needed that can, they can leave.

Jay (01:32.762)
Yeah. So we’ve got a fun topic today. We’re getting into the impacts of kind of economic conditions on the realities of what SEO teams have to work with. So to lay a little groundwork there, there was a pandemic and that changed a lot of things for a lot of companies. You know, we had a lot more e-commerce, a lot more delivery.

lot more just buying stuff from home, people being bored, having nothing to do but shop on their phones all day long and buy things. And it was kind of interesting because companies hired a lot of people to fill that extra demand and kind of the change in how commerce is happening. But they hired as kind of like a permanent change. So it wasn’t just like holiday season, it’s busy or whatever, we get a bunch of temp workers.

It was, we have new departments, we have whole new teams, and then restrictions for COVID lifted. People were back out in the world a lot more, and they largely went back to buying things the way they used to. So a lot of companies that were impacted by this have had layoffs, even if they’re still up in staff from where they were pre-pandemic. That was a while ago at this point, so it feels like a pretty drastic change in head count.

And then on the startup side, you know, we have this kind of like funding bubble or cliff or whatever, whatever we’re calling it today.

Lindsie (03:06.752)
Whatever the thing is, whatever the sad thing we’re calling it.

Jay (03:09.934)
Yeah, probably depends on your perspective too, but interest rates are up a lot. They’ve been going up. They’re still going up. It seems like, and companies were valued at insane levels just a year or two ago. So one, the money just isn’t flowing like it used to. Valuations are maybe a little more realistic or conservative these days. And then some of these companies that were valued as, you know, unicorns.

infinite amounts of money. They’re due for another round of funding and then maybe gonna see a big downturn in how much money they’re getting. And that just means, I don’t know, a lot of this isn’t, this isn’t an economy podcast. So this is about marketing. So like what does that mean for marketing?

Lindsie (04:00.984)
I think it means a lot for marketing. It’s unfortunately one of the things that feels the most impact, I think, from consolidation and reduction in staff because we’re not creating the widgets or the software or the things, we’re just trying to help sell it. So I think that there has been, from what we have felt, from the people we talk to on a regular basis, this is absolutely being felt in a day-to-day.

What we were finding is about 25% of all of this reduction is happening to marketing departments. So this is in the digital space, but this is also just generalized marketing. And people were really spoiled for a while in maybe a great kind of way where we had all of the resources we needed. You had built out SEO teams with a content person, a development person, and now it’s like…

in some cases for our clients, there’s a single person standing. And the question becomes, what can that single person standing do? And I feel like at this moment, I wanna say like not all hope is lost. It is a probably a harder moment and a shift, but it’s not impossible. And there are things to continue to invest time and energy into.

and maybe it’s not unicorn SEO, right? Whereas like here are all of the amazing things we could and should do, but there’s a lot that we can still do with our time and effort. I think what’s really interesting and exciting kind of selfishly for me is that this is a moment where we see a lot of investment into SEO because people don’t have the money to put it into.

really expensive ventures. Like you’re not funding a massive conference or able to maybe spend tens of thousands of dollars at an event or even advertising can get really, really expensive for certain spaces. So it’s like, how do we use something that is a consistent growth model that is investing in our overall visibility? And that’s where I think organic search really shines. I think this is

Lindsie (06:26.168)
This is a moment for SEO and excited to see kind of what blossoms from this moment.

Jay (06:36.962)
Yeah, and the interesting thing compared to past, you know, recessions or just blips in the economy is SEO has not gone away for most businesses during this time. You know, folks have realized that you can’t just like pull the plug on it and hope to maintain all of that traffic from search engines and all the revenue that comes with it and all that good stuff. But it’s more like the older days in terms of the resources. So folks that are newer to doing SEO.

Lindsie (06:53.501)
Mm-hmm.

Jay (07:06.662)
might not have had this experience, but for a long time it was super common that at the SEO person or SEO agency or team or whoever it is, they’re the ones that are they’re doing everything. Like they’re writing all of the copy, they’re implementing the changes, they might be designing like new layouts for pages or at least doing mock-ups and things like that. You were expected to do a whole lot and then all of a sudden with this rapid expansion over the

You had a copywriter to work with, you had a designer and a developer to work with, and people were going to implement stuff for you, and people were going to like help you in all these other different facets of your work. And, and now it’s, you know, again, the SEO need is still there, but just the resources and extra people that you have to work with maybe, maybe aren’t. So, so what does that, what does that mean in terms of like the boots on the ground folks?

doing SEO, how is their reality changing? How do you keep moving forward and being effective with this kind of shift in resources?

Lindsie (08:14.088)
Yeah, I think there’s a number of things. I’m gonna talk about three of them. And I think three that are really, really important. And the first one is understanding your external resources and relationships. So a lot of internal marketing folks, SEOs, still have an outside agency that’s supporting them. And whether that be SEO, PR.

advertising social media, you have these relationships and these partnerships, talk to them. What should we be evolving and adjusting to based on resource constraints? Because let’s say your SEO team was sending you, you know, 15 documents for implementation each month and now it’s just you. Well, that needs to be reduced and altered. So maybe the SEO team can now provide you with

HTML formatting in your documents so you can just copy and paste in a lot easier way. Or perhaps there’s a way that they can get into your platform and implement changes as approved. You know, we work in so many different CMS environments, it’s like, you need help with your Shopify site? Like, we can adjust our time and give you implementation support to make sure you’re moving forward. Now, I’ll say that this is good partnerships.

I’ve also heard a lot of places that it’s like, this is your scope and we will not move from that. And I think that is not great in my personal opinion. I uh…

Jay (09:48.582)
Yeah, but yeah, but to hang on that first point a little bit, like, it’s not even just aligning your focus and using resources to get stuff done. But also one of the problems that we run into is you might have a manager, marketing director, whoever that has to review and approve this stuff. And suddenly they have fewer resources to work with. They have more responsibilities. So if you have like.

SEO, PPC, social and PR and email are all, they all have five completely different initiatives that they’re working on that all need to be reviewed and approved. That’s gonna be a lot of work for whoever’s doing that review. So if it’s, we have like one unified approach, we’re all talking about the same thing, or at least three or four of us are, that’s gonna really expedite just getting stuff done.

Lindsie (10:38.409)
Right.

Lindsie (10:44.056)
and I think is just better strategy. I think when there’s more money flowing, we’re more likely to, again, shoot for the moon and do all of these different things. Like, this is a moment to hone in, bring in who you have, what you can do, what you should be doing, and find those efficiencies and utilize the resources you have.

Honestly, in many cases, it is a lot cheaper to invest more into an outside agency than hiring people. Like, maybe you can’t get additional budget. That’s absolutely a conversation. But maybe you can argue for a few more hours here or there, which is not a full-time head. And just having those relationships and knowing who to pull in will allow you to be more successful in the long term.

Okay, so that’s the first one, external relationship. Second one, I feel like we talk about AI, everybody does all the time. Use it as an efficiency tool. This is something that we have at our fingertips, but please do not use it for everything. This is not your copywriter. I can’t say that loud enough. Chat GPT is not your copywriter. It is not going to replace your copywriter or your developer, however.

It can be used to get you started, get you structuring your information, filling in spaces when you’re drawing a blank. Like this is something that you can absolutely use to make you more efficient.

Jay (12:27.29)
Yeah, especially as SEO has shifted to a more technical role for a lot of people, like writing copy from a blank page. Like that’s not easy for anybody, but it seems to be a lot more challenging. So if your job is to create an outline and then do review and fact-checking and stuff like that, that fits maybe more into the comfortable skill set.

Lindsie (12:32.289)
Right.

Lindsie (12:36.609)
So hard.

Lindsie (12:52.232)
And you can produce more and still have quality. But I’ll say again, don’t use AI to do your whole job because it’s not gonna, you’re gonna get hurt for that in the long run for certain. But in this kind of same vein of conversation, I think automation and AI integration into a lot of the tools that we already use can be overlooked. So whether you’re using HubSpot or MailChimp or…

Any of these solutions that are helping you do your job better likely have automation that you may not be taking advantage of. So whether it’s reaching out to the platform for what you can do, doing some research, like use the tools you already have because there’s likely more capacity to support you than you even realize.

Jay (13:45.918)
Yeah, a lot of times there’s these features and stuff that you say you’ll get around to looking into it someday. But when you’re swamped with work and have a lot more on your plate, that’s the time you need those resources the most. So put aside the time to figure out how to do that stuff.

Lindsie (13:52.46)
Yep.

Lindsie (14:03.328)
This is someday. And I think there’s just a lot to be had here. So then last piece, and I think this is one of those tying back into kind of all of these comments is just being creative in the resources you have, the tools that you have, and understanding and playing with where you really need to be. Like we talked about, okay, you maybe have an SEO agency and a PR agency and a social agency.

or somebody who does all of those things, do you really need to be there? Like, is it critical that you’re creating TikTok videos for your B2B manufacturing company? Probably not. And so, but maybe you are, and that’s where your greatest return on investment is today. I don’t know, I don’t know everybody’s business out there, but I think that this is, as you said at the beginning of this kind of

this conversation, it’s like, we need to focus and focus on where you’re gonna see that growth and the financial growth that you need to show from your efforts.

Jay (15:16.542)
All right, so yeah, be creative. Pull in additional resources and partnerships, and AI is a thing. Remember, it can help you.

Lindsie (15:28.364)
Do it, use it.

Jay (15:31.586)
So I think the last thing, you know, we have these kind of general principles you can follow in these times. What about like, I have, you know, I was doing SEO, now I’m doing SEO plus four other things, or I’m an agency and our budget was cut. Why don’t we do a little just speed round of, say you’ve got 10 or so hours a month to do SEO for your website.

What are you going to do with that time to just be most effective with fairly limited time and resources? Do you want to go first?

Lindsie (16:08.716)
Sure, or we could go back and forth. I’ll give an idea and you give an idea. Should we do that? Go, okay. Well, we’ll figure it out as we go. So one of the things that I would do and highly recommend is focused optimizations in a singular topic area. I think we get real excited to do lots of things, but hey, we wanna own, you know, this lease accounting software.

Jay (16:13.826)
Go ahead.

Lindsie (16:37.868)
space specific to this type of information that we support and provide. Okay, let’s focus all of our energy and attention there for as long as we possibly can and try to focus on, okay, what is the product page look like? What is the call to actions? Is it linking to our service pages?

Is it linking to the content pages? How do we make this ecosystem around this one thing? Focus. I think that would be my number one piece that I would recommend.

Jay (17:15.822)
I would say don’t get so obsessive over the technical, especially the stuff that doesn’t matter. If I was dealing with this little bit of time, I would spend 20, 30 minutes every month looking at like my indexing report in Search Console, see if there’s any giant red flags there, and potentially invest more time if something needs to be dealt with. But this whole thing of we’re going to…

go after every obscure 404 and try and get those fixed. I mean, maybe you shouldn’t have been doing that anyway. Definitely not in this scenario. So just keep looking out for disasters or things that are huge opportunities for improvement and worry about the rest of the stuff as you have time.

Lindsie (18:05.952)
I just had a thought of another really easy kind of automation type thing that you can do. Because I think competitor information is really critical in this time of change. Like what are the other sites doing? And you probably don’t have time to do like hours of competitive research. But set up Google Alerts for your business, for your competitors. It is free. It comes to your inbox.

It tells you what is new and what is happening, at least in terms of new content about these sites. And again, one of those things that free, easy, and gives you a little bit more information that you don’t have to work for.

Jay (18:50.706)
Yep. My next one was spend a little bit of time on, on link building every month. So you can do some like internal link improvements. If there are changes happening to your site that you’re not a part of, just go through and find new opportunities or just work on the potentially most impactful stuff from an external link building standpoint, like if you have the tools available.

Just look for new sites or pages linking to multiple competitors of yours, because chances are those are those kind of comparison articles and things like that, that maybe you can get in on. You can set up Google Alerts where if a page links to one of your competitors and it’s not from their own site, you can get an alert about that and just look for new link building opportunities. But try and just narrow down to the stuff that it is.

presented to you in a real straightforward way like this is almost obviously a good link opportunity and all I have to do is reach out to it and you know minimize the scouring the internet trying to Find new relationships and all that stuff that is going to take 10-20 hours a month just by itself

Lindsie (20:07.9)
I think that’s it. I don’t know that you can do a whole lot more with 10 hours. That may be more than what you can do with 10 hours a month. I don’t know any other thoughts.

Jay (20:17.822)
Yeah, I think we hit on the important stuff. Like my list by itself would be the quick technical review, the quick link building work, and then, you know, your point of picking a topic, I’d say you can take, whether it’s one new page on your site or one existing page that could grow, focus on that one page and the stuff that’s directly related to it. You know, if it’s like a product, the parent category or something like that.

and just try and make one positive movement on your site. And anything else you can do with that time is probably gravy.

Lindsie (21:00.064)
Yeah, I think treating things as true experiments as well. Like, we’re not gonna touch every page on the site. We’re not gonna do all of these things, but trying one thing at a time and like, does it work? Did it work? What impacts did we see? And when you find something that works for your site, because your site’s different than your competitors, different than the one that’s right next to yours, but if you can find things that work.

go for it and just like use that to your advantage. And once you find it, you can really exploit that and it becomes a ton faster when you know exactly what you need to do.

Jay (21:42.834)
Yeah. And I mean, obviously set reasonable expectations. I think we talked about this with like our startup discussion a few episodes back where if we’re dealing with this small amount of time and we’re trying to do everything that an SEO needs to do in just little doses, the results are gonna be, you know, slow moving, we’ll say. Yes. So don’t.

Lindsie (22:07.992)
slower. Yes.

Jay (22:12.086)
This isn’t something where we can slash our time by 80% and expect the same results we had beforehand.

Lindsie (22:21.108)
Yeah, for sure. All right, well, hopefully this was not all grim and sadness, but rather what’s happening, realistic things and tactics that folks can use and move forward even if they have less resources.

Jay (22:41.938)
Yeah, I think this is something that probably a lot of folks who have done SEO for a little while have experienced in different times. And it’s more common right now. And I think we just need to be honest about the fact that like SEO is still a thing and it needs to be dealt with and we just need to adjust. So go forward, try and do more with less and hopefully fatter times will come soon.

Lindsie (23:11.872)
They will, they will come, they always do. And then it’ll slim up again, but that’s all right. All right, Jay, thanks. Bye.

Jay (23:19.874)
See you later, Lindsay.

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