Strategic Ways to Use Your End-of-Year Marketing Budget

Find out what SEO and Content projects you can launch with your remaining marketing budget that sets 2023 up for success amidst a recession.

Marketers will have less to work with for 2023 as budgets are being slashed across the board. 

The expectation is that we’re preparing for a downturn and a recession is on its way. As companies scramble, many will make business decisions that could bury them for years to come, while others will capitalize on timely opportunities and well-designed brand fortifications. 

How you spend your remaining 2022 marketing budget could determine the health of your company in 2023.

According to the Willis Towers Watson 2022 Salary Budget Planning Report:

  • 75% of survey respondents stated that they’re having problems attracting and retaining talent; at the same time, 12% said they are planning company restructurings and layoffs
  • In response, companies are boosting 2023 salary budgets to a 20-year high (4.6%)
  • A red-hot labor market and wage pressures have complicated preparation for a possible downturn. Demand exceeds supply, so competition is still fierce

How enterprise budgets will be affected in 2023

We see more companies reducing headcounts and preparing to decrease their marketing budgets. 

  • Snap (of Snapchat) announced in August that it would “lay off 20% of its staff and cut money-losing projects, blaming a deteriorating economy.”
  • Amazon laid off 10,000 employees (3% of its workforce)
  • RingCentral laid off 400 employees 
  • Meta let go of 11,000 employees 
  • Salesforce laid off hundreds of employees 
  • Twitter let go of 3,700 employees
  • Intel is expected to lay off 20% of its workforce

This isn’t limited to a single industry or vertical either. 

Companies in a variety of industries are pulling back. They’re increasing salaries, laying off employees, and slashing budgets to prepare for a possible recession. 

Ebiquity’s 2023 Media Budgets survey of 43 multinational companies, including five of the world’s top 10 advertisers found that:

  • 29% of the world’s largest advertisers plan to slash ad dollars next year
  • 74% of respondents agree or strongly agree that the recession influences their ’23 budget decisions
  • 48% plan to decrease their offline media budgets in ’23
  • 42% plan to increase their digital media budgets in ’23
  • 40% say their budget will remain the same in ’23
  • 28% plan on increasing their total marketing budgets in ’23

This is a mistake. 

When budget cuts are on the table, marketing is often the first to receive the chop. However, Bain found that “hasty or blanket cuts can severely damage sales and the brand’s stature.

In the 1990–91 recession, McDonald’s decided to drop its advertising and promotion budget, but Pizza Hut and Taco Bell didn’t follow suit. As a result, those chains both saw double-digit sales growth, while McDonald’s sales declined.” 

McKinsey found the same thing. 

Their research found that “while cost-reduction opportunities are real, they don’t all pack the same punch. Scale back too aggressively, in the wrong areas, and you may wind up sacrificing long-term value for short-term earnings.”

Barbie Mattie, VP, and Principal Analyst at Forrester, agrees. She writes: “cuts to satisfy current pressures could easily hinder long-term competitiveness. An advantage that marketing leaders have this time around is that they can draw from lessons learned over the past two years. For instance, companies that have thrived during that time (growing by more than 20% year over year) have invested more heavily than their peers in postsale customer engagement. They also have placed greater emphasis on brand perception.”

Pull back, and you may struggle to recover. 

Funnel your end-of-year marketing budget towards advertising, and you may have little to show for it. 

The same can be said for search engine optimization. We’ve seen firsthand how many companies bungled their SEO programs when the pandemic hit. They slashed budgets and competitors that stuck with it came out ahead. 

iPullRank found and CEO Michael King shared his experience with a client on Round 3 of SEO Battlezone: Slashing Your SEO Budget:

“I’ll give an example from a client that we have been working with for a number of years. They’re specifically in the home lending space and at the end of 2019, they came to us. They’re like, ‘Things are going really well, but we need to figure out how we can expand this.’

We went back to them and said, let’s expand the keyword coverage and effectively create more content so that we’re up and down the journey in more redundant ways.

We laid out this bigger keyword strategy, this bigger content plan, and we actually got started on it at the end of 2019.

Then 2020 hits and then the pandemic hits. We had already laid this foundation with all of this content. They were already ranking for all of these keywords once the rate environment got so much better for people looking to buy houses.

If you are thinking about doubling down or even if you’re not thinking about doubling down, like maintaining your existing investment, I would say, how do you expand your keyword footprint?

Because the reality of it is, a lot of behaviors are also changing as a result of the ‘recession.’

It’s worth revisiting your audiences. It’s worth revisiting your keyword research and targets. It’s worth updating existing content and also expanding that. There are two benefits to that:

  1. You’re gonna meet the audience where it is right now.
  2. You’re gonna be in a better position as compared to your competitors that are cutting back.”

The proof is in the revenue. One iPullRank client in the mortgage industry doubled down on SEO and content during the pandemic, and when market conditions changed, they added $2.4 billion in incremental revenue.

How enterprises handle end-of-year marketing budgets

It’s common for enterprises (e.g., Accenture) to take an up-or-out approach to their business. It’s no surprise that many enterprises take a use-it-or-lose-it approach to budgeting as well. 

Let’s be honest. 

Departments and business units are in constant competition with each other. There’s an internal struggle for resources that drives department spending. 

  • Retaining their current budget. If your end-of-year budget is unused, you’ll lose it. It’s also likely that next year’s budget will be lower; it becomes difficult to justify an increase when your department failed to use last year’s budget productively. 
  • Increasing their current budget. A budget increase means your team has to deliver more value. Your team’s amazing results during the pandemic may cost you your job today. Departments that are hungry for growth will need to (a.) justify their current budget, delivering more value, and (b.) produce a strong justification (via forecasts, projections, surveys, etc.) outlining why your budget needs to be increased.
  • Defending against internal competitors. The internal conflict between departments (e.g., sales and marketing) is a common issue. The sales department thinks marketing isn’t producing enough leads; they feel they can do a better job, so they ask for a bigger budget. These internal conflicts are often the results of operational silos and turf wars, but this kind of competition produces rivalries and turf wars all on their own.   

CMOs are always under an enormous amount of pressure. 

Thanks to our economic climate, and the uncertainty in the coming year, that pressure has only grown. 

How do CMOs distribute their end-of-year excess marketing budget?

Gartner released The State of Marketing Budget and Strategy 2022; there were some surprising insights in their report, insights that showed us CMO’s approach to budgeting. 

“The Majority of CMOs Shrug Off Fiscal and Geopolitical Uncertainty Consumer goods may represent the canary in the coal mine — an early indication of budgetary challenges that are coming down the line for other industries. If this is the case, it appears that CMOs are not heeding the warning signs. Despite inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, supply chain issues exacerbated by China’s lockdown measures and unprecedented talent competition, CMOs appear sanguine.

In the face of a barrage of bad news, CMOs hold on to a belief that their own economic outlook is strong. For example, the majority of CMOs surveyed thought inflationary pressures hitting their business and their customers will have a positive impact on their strategy and investment in the year ahead.” 

It’s no surprise that CMOs aren’t worried. 

Source: Gartner.com

Gartner disagrees with CMO’s optimism.

“These results reveal a potentially dangerous state of marketing cognitive dissonance. Those distanced from the epicenter of geopolitical and fiscal upheaval feel impervious to its potential impacts. However, the shockwaves

of disruption and uncertainty will be experienced by all, and a recession looks increasingly likely.”

So how will CMOs adjust their budget planning? 

You know the answer. 

They’ll work to increase their budgets. 

If these CMOs are bullish on their ability to generate results in a down market, they will move forward. They’re going to invest their marketing dollars aggressively. Smart CMOs will place their dollars in channels that produce strong short- and long-term returns. 

Empathy Inc. found that “73% of marketers believe that they will increase budgets in the next fiscal year. And a whopping 86% of CFOs agree with that statement despite economic uncertainty.” (emphasis added)

What about distributing their end-of-year budget?

Smart CMOs will spend their end-of-year budget on initiatives likely to produce long-term value, giving them a jump in the upcoming year. They’ll focus their attention on the channels that will help them to produce more with less. 

Should you throw your excess budget toward advertising? 

It’s easy, low-hanging fruit.

A shot of advertising would immediately drive traffic to your offerings and produce quick, short-term gains. That’s part of the problem, though. Everyone will see this effort for what it is, an attempt to exhaust your budget before it expires. 

So, what’s the problem with that? 

If you’d like to persuade the C-suite to increase your budget, advertising comes with a list of problems.  

Well, why not? 

  1. Customers don’t like advertising
  2. Customers don’t want to see advertising
  3. Customers don’t trust advertising
  4. Customers don’t need advertising

We use paid media because it’s effective in the right hands, but marketers still waste 21 cents of every media dollar spent. It’s an indispensable part of a balanced marketing plan, but a haphazard approach is throwing money away.

What’s a better option? 

Follow this three-step process to maximize the value you receive from your end-of-year budget.

  1. Assess your goals, current projects, and portfolio
  2. Ensure that your investments are linked to the company/marketing strategy
  3. Optimize your projects and campaigns to maximize returns 

What opportunities can be maximized? 

The opportunities from end-of-year Content and SEO 

Paid media works. 

It’s alluring due to the near-immediate response and reliability. That’s also the problem; it’s necessary, but there’s no compounding. When you turn it off, everything stops. 

Then there’s owned media. 

Content and organic search are wonderful because the rewards compound. The value we receive today continues indefinitely into the future, frequently with minimal maintenance requirements. 

Here’s an example. 

Let’s say you create one 10x post

This single post generates $750 of value each month. 

Your team capitalizes on this and produces a series of ten posts, each earning $100 per month

At this point, your monthly total is $1,750 per mo

You reinvest, generating 50 posts that earn $100 per month. ($6,750  per month)

You repeat the process, producing 500 posts that earn $100 per month + 20 10x posts earning $750 per month

At this point, your monthly total is $65,000 per month or  $780,000 annually

These small numbers demonstrate the point. 

Here’s the thing. 

This doesn’t include the value you receive from organic search. If you maximize your profit per keyword, the value compounds quickly again

Ahrefs shared data on this. 

“The average #1 ranking page will also rank in the top 10 for nearly 1,000 other relevant keywords (while the median value is more than two times smaller – around 400 keywords).”

And high-volume keywords? How many of those can a single page rank for?

Source: Ahrefs.com

There are some exciting insights here. 

“It turns out that ranking for 2-3 keywords with over 1,000 searches per month is quite common. While ranking for more than one 10k+ keyword with a single page is very rare.”

What does this mean? 

If you can optimize your existing content, you’ll find the value continues to compound as you squeeze more value out of each post and keyword.

That’s the goal.

Here’s the big problem staring you in the face. 

You may not be getting the right users (i.e., customers!) from your organic search campaigns. Believe it or not, your customer’s keyword phrases communicate intent, oftentimes indicating the kind of customer you’re attracting. 

Here’s what I mean. 

Imagine that you’re in the market for a Peloton exercise bike. You know, this thing: 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

If you’re an ideal customer you may use keywords like: 

[peloton] bike 

[peloton] shoes

[peloton] accessories

Is it worth getting a [peloton]? 

[peloton] bike vs. bike plus

[peloton] dimensions

[peloton] elliptical

[peloton] financing

[peloton] membership 

[peloton] membership cost

Now compare that list to the one below…

[peloton] alternative

[peloton] coupon code

[peloton] for less

coupon code [amazon]

coupon code [peloton]

competitor (a low-cost competitor)

[peloton] price

Can you ride a [peloton] without a subscription

[peloton] no subscription

See the difference? 

One customer has their mind made up, the other is looking for a low cost option to get the same result. Believe it or not, these keyword clusters have a significant impact on your revenue.  

Are you targeting the right people? Not sure?

This probably means you’ll need to examine your keyword portfolio closely.

You should be able to examine and prioritize the available keyword opportunities available to your business via search. If you’re going to examine your keyword portfolio, you’ll want to do it across these five dimensions.

  1. Persona-Based: A close look at your current and prospective customers to discover the products, services and information they’re looking for. 
  2. Content-Centric: An analysis of your current content, distilling (topically and thematically) the key phrases that are relevant and crucial to your business.
  3. Analytics-Based: Hard quantitative data (search volume, CPC, CTR) from advanced tools and your in-house analytics to truly quantify (traffic, leads, revenue) the opportunity available to you.
  4. Competitive: An examination of the ranking data and the precise difficulty of each ranking zone, presenting a picture of your current performance against the competitive landscape. Can you achieve the results you want, is it a worthwhile investment for you to make at this point? 
  5. Directional: Have you mapped each keyword to a potential target page? How is that keyword performing on that specific page?  This analysis is essential as it allows your copy teams to easily optimize content and develop new content based on keyword gaps.

Update your keyword portfolio (with help)

We’ll help you execute a targeted content strategy with a data-backed keyword portfolio that:

  • Drives revenue down the organic search funnel
  • Builds authority across your topic clusters
  • Serves as the foundation of your integrated marketing

Get a portfolio of keywords that shows you where your most profitable opportunities are, segmented by funnel stage, personas, value.

Learn more

CMOs are under a lot of pressure to perform. Marketing teams need to demonstrate that they’re producing value with the budgets they already have. The compounding value of content and organic search gives you a clear way to demonstrate your value. 

Properly structured organic search campaigns can deliver value in the short and long term. 

Using your end-of-year marketing budget productively

What can you do to maximize the value you receive from your end-of-year budget? Is there a simple way to determine where you should focus your attention first? 

As a matter of fact, there is. 

Here are five options to maximize the gains you receive from your end-of-year budget. 

Improve page performance via the content rebalancing framework

If you’re investing the resources needed to produce rankable content, you’ll need to address the inevitable downside of all marketing. 

Decay. 

Content decay refers to a consistent decline in organic traffic, rankings, and visibility. Every piece of content goes through a specific lifecycle (e.g., momentum, growth, maturity, and decline). Content rebalancing allows you to refresh your content, improving performance, rankings, and revenue. 

The options are as follows:

  1. Refresh the content
  2. Merge content and redirect
  3. Redirect the URL entirely
  4. Keep the content as is

Content rebalancing also improves internal linking opportunities. 

What you need: 

  • Content audit: This should be a qualitative and quantitative look at all of the existing content on your site, with recommendations on how each content piece can be improved to achieve business goals. You can’t rebalance, optimize, or improve your content if you don’t know what’s there so a content audit is an important first step.
  • Production brief: This is a package for projects that include keyword research, technical direction, and content optimization. Your brief should include elements of your keyword portfolio, as well as the items mentioned above. Your production brief should be treated as a foundational document that enables your in-house or agency team to move rapidly into production, generating quick (but notable) wins before the end of the year. 
  • Content plan: A cross-channel strategy for content development, maintenance, and governance. This plan should clearly delineate your target audience, core strategy, brand voice and tone, content calendar, structure, and governance.  This plan should come before any actual content development is done. 
  • Content promotion: You’ve created 10x content, what happens next? Your content will need a jump start to achieve its true potential. We’ll place your content in the right hands, ensuring that influencers seed the internet with your thought leadership, sharing (and linking to) your content aggressively. 

Improve crawl budget (large sites)

If you’re part of an enterprise, your website probably has lots of pages. Large websites can struggle with technical SEO challenges that feel overwhelming.

Your crawl budget refers to the number of pages Googlebot is set to crawl over a period of time. 

Google is the only one who knows how much budget is allotted to your site. Google looks at crawl health, popularity, staleness, links, and limits set (via robots.txt). 

Why your crawl budget matters. 

Googlebot wastes more time on low/no-value pages and less time on pages that searchers find valuable. This leads to poor rankings and a dramatic decrease in search visibility. Fixing this means addressing these problem pages – restoring deleted pages or creating 301 redirects pointing to the page(s) most relevant to your searcher’s query. 

There’s a limit to Google’s patience. 

“If the site responds really quickly for a while, the limit goes up, meaning more connections can be used to crawl. If the site slows down or responds with server errors, the limit goes down, and Googlebot crawls less.” 

Addressing crawl budget issues is a straightforward way to boost organic search performance. 

What you need: 

  • Log file audit: How is Googlebot crawling your site? Are they running into trouble? Crawl budget not what it should be? This audit should provide you with a detailed look at search engine activity, with an eye for spotting opportunities to improve accessibility that may not be found via a standard crawl. 
  • SEO site audits: This is a detailed examination of the technical, content, link, and page speed issues limiting your site’s visibility, traffic, leads, and revenue. If you don’t have the in-house expertise you need, work an agency partner *cough* who can provide you with in-depth and prioritized recommendations outlining where and how you should focus your attention. 
  • Technical recommendations: A detailed set of technical recommendations that maximizes your visibility in search and social media. These audits are primarily focused on technical performance and responsiveness, not on marketing or promotion. 

Eliminate duplicate content

When your web pages fight for the same keywords, your rankings, visibility, and revenue suffer. Duplicate content stunts the growth of your web pages. You receive a smaller portion of the traffic and conversions you’re supposed to receive. 

Duplicate content issues include URL variations, incorrect prefixes, content scraping, and crappy CMS.  

You also have a revenue leak when you have issues with duplicate content. Your conversion rate is lower than it should be because all other metrics (traffic, visibility) are lower than they should be. 

Addressing duplicate content is an essential detail that impacts revenue directly. 

What you need: 

  • Content audit: This should be a qualitative and quantitative look at all of the existing content on your site, with recommendations on how each content piece can be improved to achieve business goals. You can’t rebalance, optimize, or improve your content if you don’t know what’s there so a content audit is an important first step.
  • Backlinks audit: An in-depth look at every internal link in your site’s link profile. This audit should immediately identify potential problems, as well as opportunities where your site is leaking link equity (and revenue). Do specific pages need to be deleted? Which pages need a 301 redirect to better content? What needs to happen with pages that are competing for the same keywords?
  • Log file audit: How is Googlebot crawling your site? Are they running into trouble? Crawl budget not what it should be? This audit should provide you with a detailed look at search engine activity, with an eye for spotting opportunities to improve accessibility that may not be found via a standard crawl. 

Boost rankings with internal links

Good internal linking allows link equity to flow from one page to another. It’s the strategy Wikipedia uses to achieve the stellar rankings they do. You’ll want to identify the top-performing pages on your site (tier one), then rank to tier two and three pages, spreading your link equity around. 

If you have internal links buried inside plugins or applets, tucked away in JavaScript, hidden inside forms, or behind internal searches, you have a problem. 

What you need: 

  • Backlinks audit: An in-depth look at every external link in your site’s link profile. This audit should immediately identify potential problems, as well as opportunities where your site is leaking link equity (and revenue). 
  • Domain acquisition support: Link acquisition and content marketing work like gangbusters but sometimes, the process takes too long to mature. If you’re a large brand with resources, you’ll need to know how to identify, vet, and acquire domains rapidly, redirecting the link equity from these sites to your brands to rapidly grow authority and rankings. 
  • Log file audit: How is Googlebot crawling your site? Are they running into trouble? Crawl budget not what it should be? This audit should provide you with a detailed look at search engine activity, with an eye for spotting opportunities to improve accessibility that may not be found via a standard crawl. 

Optimize Core Web Vitals

Page load speed and mobile friendliness are important ranking factors. 

Google tells us a little bit about their plans. 

“We’re combining the signals derived from Core Web Vitals with our existing Search signals for page experience, including mobile-friendliness, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines, to provide a holistic picture of page experience. Because we continue to work on identifying and measuring aspects of page experience, we plan to incorporate more page experience signals on a yearly basis to both further align with evolving user expectations and increase the aspects of user experience that we can measure.”

What does this mean? 

Core Web Vitals will continue to grow in prominence. The user experience goes hand-in-hand with content marketing and organic search. It’s an important step that helps to maximize the rankings, traffic, and visibility you receive from searches. 

If your content is king, the user experience is queen. 

What you need: 

  • SEO site audits: This is a detailed examination of the technical, content, link, and page speed issues limiting your site’s visibility, traffic, leads, and revenue. If you don’t have the in-house expertise you need, work an agency partner *cough* who can provide you with in-depth and prioritized recommendations outlining where and how you should focus your attention. 
  • Technical recommendations: A detailed set of technical recommendations that maximizes your visibility in search and social media. These audits are primarily focused on technical performance and responsiveness, not on marketing or promotion. 
  • Implementation audits: A spreadsheet that enables you to monitor and gauge the performance of third parties implementation recommendations. This will tell you what to look for, where to look, and provide you with important questions that you’ll need to ask to stay on top of your project/campaign. 

Why you need an agency to maximize your opportunities

Companies are preparing for an economic downturn. They’re laying off employees, reducing their marketing budgets, and increasing salaries to retain key people. Even if they weren’t, the scope of this is typically too much for an in-house team to handle on their own. 

This is exactly why you need an agency. 

So let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way. When you work with an agency, you get a team of complementary specialists ready to go from day one. There’s no one to onboard and no one to train. You get a mature and experienced team focused on your account and loyal to your team (not the C-suite) for the price of a single employee. 

You know that. I know that. 

What you may not know is the fact that your agency team has specific resources and skillsets you do not. If your agency knows what they’re doing, it should have the following: 

  • A battle-tested process for each of the services they offer
  • Response plans that guide its decision-making (e.g., recovering from search penalties, crisis management, negative search, etc.) and aid with the recovery from a variety of worst-case scenarios
  • Overlapping, T-shaped specialists (e.g., local, organic, and paid search specialists) who can manage their portion of the campaign on their own, but integrate and harmonize with a team
  • A proprietary suite of tools that gives them (and you) an unfair advantage 
  • The ability and willingness to do what other agencies can’t or won’t do

These details make all the difference. 

Imagine walking into your budget meeting with compelling data showing everyone why expanding your marketing budget is the smart play. Management’s decision is obvious if your results continue to compound year-over-year.  

Use your end-of-year marketing budget to win

Marketers will have less to work with this next year as budgets are being slashed across the board. Your end-of-year budget can set your organization up for success in the new year. 

But you have to start now. 

The expectation is that we’re facing a downturn – a recession is on its way. Interesting changes are on the horizon as companies scramble to prepare for what’s coming. The competition for budget will become more aggressive. Use your end-of-year budget to maximize the results you receive from your content and SEO campaigns. 

Create value that compounds. 

As we’ve seen your content and search campaigns can produce exceptional rewards, thanks to compounding. Apply your end-of-year marketing budget to the right projects and you’ll find the value you receive from content and search compounds indefinitely into the future. 

Do you have an SEO or Content Project that you’d like to invest in with your remaining 2022 marketing budget? Set up a call with iPullRank and earn billions in incremental revenue.

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