How to use Digital Marketing to Grow your Business during a Recession

Recessions are scary and it’s only natural to look for ways to cut costs and improve efficiencies when the economy goes sour. It’s not uncommon for marketing budgets to be among the first to suffer. Unfortunately, this short term thinking can lead to long term pain, especially in the realm of search engine optimization.  

Pausing SEO is not a zero-sum game. When you stop investing in it, organic rankings are at risk. You open up the doors to competitors. You may not see the effects immediately, but think about this; a keyword in the top position gets 32% of all clicks. If you pause a campaign and drop to #3, that drops to 10%. Think of the cost associated with losing 2/3 of all the traffic associated with every KW that slips from #1 to #3 while you were “saving money.”

Analyze and Track

Instead of cutting budgets arbitrarily, management should take a hard look at those areas that can generate the best ROI. Marketing is often one of those areas. Although consumers are certain to cut some spending during a financial crisis, it can be difficult to predict exactly where less money will be spent.

That is why tracking consumer behavior is imperative. Campaigns that were once successful, may not be effective in a downturn. Understanding what customers’ value at the moment can help you optimize your online strategy. 

Getting the Biggest Bang for the Buck

Google utilizes a number signals for ranking pages on the web. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are playing an increasingly important role. That said, two signals carry more weight than any others:


Link building gets a bad rap. Not because it isn’t important, but because it’s hard. That said, as long as backlinks remain one of the two most important ranking factors, link building is a “must-do” activity. Specifically link building that conforms to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.


Great content is the foundation for every successful digital marketing campaign. Great content is useful content. Great content is the kind of content that other websites feel a need to link to.

Content and backlinks consistently produce the best online ROI and should never be cut.

Low- to no-cost Digital Marketing

If your marketing budget does ultimately get decimated, there are few low to no-cost ways to be online. We all know about Facebook.  Businesses should have or create pages to engage with consumers. Just keep in mind that organic reach on Facebook is almost nil. Facebook groups probably offer a better opportunity. Just keep in mind the golden rule of online communities – give more than you take from these groups. 

Email is also free, so sending out email blasts to customers can drive sales. Incentives like coupons or an extra bonus (e.g. 2x loyalty points for every purchase) are popular with buyers. Publishing eBooks that provide real value is another tactic to employ. 


Business owners need to resist the urge to cut marketing budgets in tough times. Short term gain – particularly in organic search is almost certain to lead to long term pain. Be smart, run the numbers, and double down on those areas offering the greatest ROI, like content and backlinks.

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