The SEO business has changed drastically in the last 5 years and many sites which used to do well and which had low budgets seem to be the key sector who have suffered the most since the Panda and Penguin updates. These small companies who relied on cost effective techniques for traffic and link juice used techniques such as article submissions, external blogs, forum posting and other similar techniques. This worked well and was highly effective before the Google Panda and Penguin updates. Times have long since changed though and the whole landscape for smaller businesses is now different.
Consider the travel sector. A search of one clients term and tripadvisor and wikipedia show how these 2 companies can often dominate the search results and make it hard for small travel businesses to rank naturally and genuinely for their term. So what can a small business do?
The good news is that just like the old days, there are many things that you can still achieve on a low budget but the economics have to be balanced against one other very valuable resource, the resource of time. Google are trying to push for high quality content and good usability and taking the time to create content rich pages is a very good strategy. The problem occurs though in that it is very labour intensive to write high quality content and particularly on a specialised niche. One option is to use a writing service such as iwriter.com but whilst affordable and some good writers are available, the quality is never as good as if you write the content yourself, about your expertise and speciality. The reader can tell when it is written by someone who has undertaken a 10 minute search of Google and then just regurgitated what they have read. This often in fact results in poor content being made even worse.
If you can set aside time for writing such as 2 hours a week to write 1 high quality page of say 1250 words or more, with good sized and relevant photos (and video also if you are able to), you will see that over time, your site will gain attention. One trick also is to ensure that you write to anyone you have mentioned in the content. The leads and partnerships you can build up just from letting people know that you have mentioned them is quite surprisingly. Point them in the direction of a well written and well thought out article and they can be quite responsible.
You can use this opportunity of the network you build up through your content generation to also build your Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter networks. Any contacts you make through the content are worth trying to join up with through your social network set-up. Make sure you have at least a Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook page and start to engage your target market. Social media is an essential element in the SEO phrase of development. You might also want to consider doing a Facebook ads campaign to drive traffic to your site. Facebook ads mean a much cheaper alternative often, to Google Adwords although Google Adwords can be better targeted.
Website design is important. In addition to good branding and aesthetics, try to make sure that your boiler-plate content is not too large. By boiler plate content this refers to the menus. If you have too many items on the drop down menus and too many links on every page of your website, you are in effect diluting the originality of each page on your site. You want each page on your site to be seen by search engines to offer high quality and original content and to fit in well with the theme of your website.
Think also about strong usability and make navigation of your site. Make it easy for people to find you and think seriously about guiding your visitors to the right places on your site i.e. through deep-linking. Make sure also to offer them related content when for when they have finished reading a particular page.