With 2013 looming, it’s time for small business owners to set budgets and decide how to allocate next year’s marketing dollars. While we believe our do it yourself SEO education is critical (knowledge is power), simply planning ahead is the best place to start. Setting your budgets with specific goals in mind—then monitoring and re-forecasting every quarter, will give you a better understanding of your customers and allow your company to grow.

Components of an Online Marketing Budget

Let’s start by defining the classics component of an online marketing budget. These will differ from company to company and are dependent on your overall strategy such as looking to build brand awareness or sell X number of widgets.

Inbound Marketing

At the most basic, inbound marketing can be defined as ‘free’ traffic to your site. This isn’t exactly accurate as it involves your time (never free) or a dedicated individual/company to improve your online presence across the web. But, as most marketers will tell you, inbound marketing typically offers the highest conversion rates because people are seeking you out rather than you pushing a message at them.

The common components of inbound marketing:

  1. SEO
  2. Link-building
  3. Social Media
  4. Content (blogs, video, etc)*
*Content Marketing Institute has just released a 2013 B2C Marketing study which looks at 2013 trends from a B2C vs. a B2B perspective. Interesting to note that on average, B2C companies will spend 28% of their marketing budgets on ‘content marketing’ and 45% plan to increase budgets for content marketing in the year ahead.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)

While we are advocates of organic traffic, consider a PPC campaign in conjunction with your other marketing efforts. The two tactics paired together can improve click-through to your site, especially with brand awareness. An advantage of pay-per-click advertising is that you only pay for the ad when a customer clicks on it. Start with a small amount, even $10-20/month, and then measure the ROI.

Banner or Website Display Ads

Banner and display ads can get you more ‘eyeballs’, this can be quite affordable on smaller, highly-targeted websites. Display advertising tends be more expensive on websites with higher traffic. With this outbound marketing strategy, you are pushing your message to anyone that lands on the site.

Offline Tie-ins

An argument can be made for listing offline initiatives as a separate line item in your online marketing budget. Always include your web URL on any correspondence, printed material, show signage or places where your target audience might find you. Develop promotional giveaways and advertise them in offline sources that people drive people to your site.

Email Marketing

Don’t overlook this powerful tool. Your customers want to hear from you on topics of interest. They want the latest news and events and, outside of blogs, this is a great way to share timely information.

Slush Fund

Allocate a portion of the budget for the unknown so you can invest in opportunities as they arise. Don’t find yourself left behind because you have no funds available to invest in the unexpected.

Line Items

Determine the line items for your budget—development costs, design, freelance, or placement fees are a few considerations. You should have a history of what you spent last year and what the ROI was on each item. If you’re just starting out, setting up and measuring your expenditures now, gives you the history and data you need to revise your marketing dollars next year.

Set aside an hour or two and plan your budget for the year ahead.