Bouquet in the hands of the bride

Question: Am I better off investing my limited marketing budget in SEO or magazine advertising?

“Good morning Stephanie & Jeff. I have been in business since 2006 as a wedding photography studio. We started small with 60 weddings per year and grew the company to about 300 weddings by 2010. In and around that time, the economy started hitting the Photography industry rather hard.

Would you recommend spending $750 a month on SEO to help in organic placement for added leads, or $500 a month on a full page ad in ‘The Knot’ magazine?

The added benefit of the ad with The Knot is that we receive an excel spreadsheet of NEWLY registered brides looking for photographers to which we used to send direct mail to. This did work, but the added expense of postage and cards equals the same amount that we would spend on SEO. Thoughts?”


Answer: Evaluate your marketing options carefully and choose a strategy that is in alignment with your biggest strengths.

If I asked to borrow $100 from you today and pay you back $200 next month, would you take me up on it?

That’s a 200% return on your investment!  Unless you don’t like making money, you’d go for it.

Smart marketing is an INVESTMENT, not an expense.  

The most important factor is not how much the marketing costs, but how much of a return it yields.  The tricky part is determining which type of marketing will give the best results.

Do you have past experience with either of these types of marketing?  If so, you can use that as a possible predictor of results.

Let’s examine each of these options individually.

SEO Services ($750 per month)

Woah, nelly!  That’s a lot of dough!

First of all, be extremely cautious about hiring anyone claiming to be an “SEO expert.”  Ever since Google’s Penguin and Panda updates, it’s extremely difficult (not to mention dangerous for your website’s reputation) to game the system by buying backlinks, a strategy that many SEO’s still employ.

Optimizing your website for keywords is no longer enough to get ranking and visibility in the search engines.  In fact, what worked as an SEO strategy even two years ago can get you penalized for over-optimization today.

SEO is no longer something you “do” to your website and then forget about.

 “Their goal should really be to make a fantastic website that people love and tell their friends about and link to and want to experience. As a result, your website starts to become stronger and stronger in the rankings.  If you think like a good marketer and think about what will appeal to people, you will find your job as an SEO and getting links or trying to build your links will be easier as well.” – Matt Cutts, head of the Webspam team for Google, quoted on Stone Temple

You need to create compelling content on a regular basis that naturally earns social media shares and comments in order to get free website traffic these days.

Any SEO who doesn’t include this as a part of their strategy is NOT someone you want to work with.

Rather than hiring this SEO expert, here’s what I’d do:

• Create great content in the form of 2-3 blog posts per week focused around local wedding topics of interest to your clients.  Include images, video and articles worthy of sharing that earn natural backlinks.

• Make them easily sharable by adding social share buttons to your posts.

• Share them yourself on your own social media accounts, in particular Pinterest, Facebook and possibly Instagram, since you’re a photographer.

• Invest in writers and assistants to help create and distribute content.

• Blog about other wedding vendors and link to their sites to get them to share your posts and link to them naturally.

The Knot Magazine Ad ($500 for a full page ad)

Again, if you have experience with magazine advertising in the past you can draw on what’s worked and what hasn’t to predict what your results might be.

Thoughts to consider:

• Is this your market?  Contact the magazine and get the demographics, psychographics and number of brides who get the magazine, not just the general distribution numbers that include various bookstores, businesses and organizations.

• Ask the magazine for referrals and contact them to find out what they’re doing to get results.  What type of ads do they post?  Are their businesses working a similar market to yours?

• Remember the elements of a great ad: simple design, an attention-grabbing headline and a great call to action.

• Design a way to track your ad so that you can directly measure the results.  Use a promo code, offer or special url that’s unique to this ad.

• You’ve noted that direct mail follow up with the list of brides has worked in the past.  How many leads and weddings does it yield?  Does that make it a good investment?

Choose the Marketing Match For You

Reflect on your own strengths and inclinations when choosing your marketing strategy.

If you like writing and you have gorgeous images to show off, creating regular content on your blog is a great strategy to get website visitors.  If you’ve designed successful ads that yield real leads in the past, draw on that experience for your future advertising.

The Verdict

Rather than hiring someone to “do” SEO work for you, I’d lean towards investing that $750 in creating a local blogging strategy and hiring some writers or assistants to help.  At the going rate of $10 per article, that will cover the cost of having someone write 1-2 posts each week for an entire year!

The content you create on your website is an extremely good investment because it will attract targeted website visitors from searches for years to come.

What do you think is the better investment?

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