How can you successfully set up an efficient business blog on a very tight budget?

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Setting up online presence for your business can be overwhelming. So much to plan and so much to invest (in terms of both time and money).

How much would it cost to set up and market a business site? This is by far the most frequent question I’ve come across for years.

This quick checklist will answer your questions. Below I am giving yearly minimum expenses, but of course the less money you are prepared to pay, the more of your own time you will need to invest in figuring some of the tasks.

1. Setting up costs

To create a site you basically need to pay for the following things:

  • Your domain name (about $10.69/year for a .com domain)
  • Your site hosting

Some hosting companies will include the domain name for free, but you’ll need to start paying for it after the first year.

If you go with the shared hosting option, you’ll pay as little as $3.5 per month, sometimes even less. Here’s a good selection of shared hosting providers you can trust.

While I am torn over whether you need to invest into a shared hosting, knowing how much of a pain it might be to migrate the site to a dedicated solution in the future, I totally understand why it could be a valid option for someone who is trying to save money at the start.

More setting-up expenses will include a basic layout and a design. I would totally recommend using WordPress as a content management platform, simply because it’s a free, regularly updated (hence up-to-date) and easy to customize solution.

You can totally customize it at home for free and even use the free WordPress theme it comes with. It looks professional and modern enough. I was a total WordPress newbie when I started my own blog and I was able to customize the free theme to make it look unique and catchy on my own. And you can too.

You can also get a logo for cheap by shopping at Fiverr or DesignHill. But be prepared to spend at least $100 here. You may invest more in your design down the road, but you don’t want to have to change your logo in a year or so. A logo is something you’ll integrate into social media channels, video and image watermarks, downloadable assets, etc. It’s better to do it right once.

If you are going to sell from your site, WooCommerce is probably your best bet. It’s free, but you may need some paid plugins. This article explains what you may need and how much it will cost. Here are more WordPress plugins you’ll need – all of them are free.

So, to summarize, setting up budget for the first year:

  • Domain name: ~$10
  • Hosting: ~$40 a year
  • WordPress + WordPress theme + WordPress plugins: Free
  • Brand identity (i.e. a logo): ~$100 (at least)

Mind that I deliberately emphasize on the minimum setting up cost to allow for more marketing budgets. You want to see people coming and converting before you can reinvest into setup and design. Even very minimal website designs convert well!

2. Basic SEO and conversion optimization

If you are going to use WordPress, you won’t need too much SEO done. Installing Yoast SEO (free) would be enough for a start. Do go through its documentation thoroughly to make sure you clearly understand all the settings you are playing with. I’ve seen users unknowingly blocking all their pages with nofollow noindex meta tags when using the plugin settings.

Going through keywords is also highly essential at the start. Look at your competitors and find valuable phrases to optimize your page for. Keyword research is the most essential step when you start planning your SEO strategy. Serpstat seems to be the most affordable solution.

Make sure you have your conversion paths set up right from the very start. Don’t wait until you have traffic coming. Your website should be ready to convert even those first two visitors into your customers, or at least members of your community.

I use Sumo (formerly known as Sumome) for my lead generation and opt-in forms. It’s very easy and mostly free. You won’t need to pay any professionals to get it installed or optimized. Unless you have some solid traffic coming in, there’s no need to even upgrade for A/B testing and additional features. Once you are ready to play and optimize, it’s $29 per month.

Here are more landing page tools you may consider, depending on how much conversion optimization and testing you are planning to do at the start. And for other tools to improve your SEO on a budget, don’t miss our list of 26 expert-recommended free SEO tools.

If you are selling services or a SaaS solution, setting up sales management software is essential at the very start. Good thing, it’s quite affordable too. Pipedrive is a neat customer relationships management platform that will help you make your lead generation and onboarding strategy efficient. Moreover it has recently announced an integration with Ringostat, a solid and affordable solution that offers call tracking and call-back features.

So for SEO and conversion optimization, first year expense would be:

  • Yoast SEO: Free
  • Sumo: Free or ~$340 (If you get enough traffic to play with)
  • Serpstat: Free or $182.40
  • Ringostat + Pipedrive: $600 + $100 (You may want to start with either and then integrate the two when you are ready)

3. Yearly advertising budget

Since you aren’t going to see much organic traffic in the first months after the launch, paying for ads is one of the few ways to see people coming to your new site. If I were on a tight budget, I’d break the advertising budget as follows:

  • Facebook ads: $50 per month
  • Google ads: $100 per month (Depending on your industry, this is the minimum imaginable budget)

Yearly minimum advertising budget thus is about $1,800.

Now, if you are investing in advertising, make sure your landing pages are converting well (see call-tracking, A/B testing, etc. solutions above). Here’s a good post on what to keep in mind when starting an online advertising campaign.

Again, keep in mind this is a minimum budget, which assumes you are on a very tight budget but that isn’t going to prevent you from starting your new venture. If you know how to save, please do comment!

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