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Many businesses take the simple approach of stopping marketing campaigns or adjusting budgets. Sometimes extreme measures are necessary but you don’t have to abandon marketing altogether. There are several ways to market on a budget – both in times of crisis and in a regular environment.

Eliminate waste display advertising spend

If you’re using free apps on your mobile device, you’re familiar with ads that are hard to close. The problem here is that these ads are rarely targeted properly. They can appear in games and applications for children. For most businesses, placing the ads in mobile apps and games simply loses them money.

How to exclude games and applications for children from display advertising

  1. Log in to your Google Ads account
  2. In the left-hand side navigation of your Display campaign, choose “Content
  3. Next, select “Exclusions
  4. Click on the pencil icon and select “Exclude placements
  5. Finally, the applicable topics and and exclude them

Once this is done, you have two choices:

  • if you are satisfied with your current paid traffic, you can lower your budget accordingly, since before these changes a percentage of your ad spend went towards low-quality clicks
  • if you want more high-quality visits, you can keep the same advertising budget to take advantage of freed-up resources

Optimise your Cost Per Click on Google Ads

There’s a simple formula that lets you calculate your break-even cost per click.

Break-Even CPC = Conversion Rate x Conversion Profit

Knowing that value is now more important than ever, for two reasons:

  • you need to work with different budgets for the time being
  • the conversions rate changed across most industries, sometimes drastically

Before taking extreme measures, such as stopping some campaigns, calculate your break-even CPC and adjust your bidding strategy. You want to bid for about 70% of the value. A mere 30% decrease in conversion rate will mean you’re not making money anymore.

If you’re situated in a key industry, you might see an increase in your conversion rate. In that case, you might want to take a more aggressive approach and increase your CPC in a bid to become a leader in your niche.

Free digital marketing tools

It’s not always easy, or even possible. Some tools are so advanced that once set up and running for a year or two, it’s incredibly hard to transition to a new one.

In case you don’t fall into this category though, you can use these tools to save some money. It might not seem like much at first, but for many small businesses, every bit will count. And if you replace a few tools, the savings will add up to a considerable amount.

If you’re not using some of these tools yet, the free versions will help you get the most out of your limited budget.


Number one on our list, and for a good reason. For a free tool, Ubersuggest is very advanced. We’d say it’s the “most expensive” tool most small businesses will need. You can use Ubersuggest to get:

  • keyword research, such as monthly traffic, trends, estimated cost per click, PPC competitiveness
  • keyword and content ideas for your content marketing, including phrases such as questions or comparisons
  • a technical & SEO website audit with a list of potential issues

and more. If you’re only managing one website in your SEO tracker and you can export your list of keywords with their ranking history, you can’t go wrong with Ubersuggest.

Try Ubersuggest


AnswerThePublic is a powerful tool that generates long-tail keywords and phrases around your input. It’s fantastic for content marketing or PR campaigns. Roughly 20% of Google searches have never been seen before, and AnswerThePublic allows you to learn how people search in your niche.

Each query generates a “cloud” of terms, split into various categories:

  • questions
  • prepositions
  • comparisons
  • related phrases

On top of that, you get an alphabetical list of them all and you can export the report to CSV.

Your free daily searches are limited, but you can make a good use of them in combination with your findings from Ubersuggest and other tools – all for free.

Visit AnswerThePublic


Customer relationship management systems will be the hardest to replace. They are the prime example of a tool that becomes the core of your business. Your workflows often depend on them and switching to a new one is quite costly.

However, if you’re not overly attached to your CRM yet, there are quite a few CRMs that offer some sort of a free, standalone plan.

Most of them work the same way, though – they give you a very basic set of free features and by the time you find out you need more, you’re likely too attached to make a switch and you go with their paid plan. But we know two solutions with a free plan that are as close to a full-fledged CRM as possible.

HubSpot is the first solution we can fully recommend. Their free CRM offers everything you’ll need if you’re a small business or a first-time CRM user. If you’re not planning to exceed 1,000,000 users (yes, that’s a million), its core features are free and unlimited for as many users as you need. You can use it to collect leads, track email conversations, assign notes to your contacts, create tasks, and much more.

Try HubSpot

Bitrix24 is one of the hidden gems in terms of free CRMs. Similarly to HubSpot, their free plan is unlimited and packs several features that you would expect to pay for. On top of gathering contacts, you can use it to send quotes and invoices, create your own product catalog, integrate your VoIP/SIP telephone with it… and the list goes on.

List of Bitrix24’s free features


Includes tools to maximise your website potential.

How to execute marketing on a budget

We’ve talked about eliminating waste ad spend, and it goes a long way budget-wise. Most businesses will need to go the extra mile, though. If you’d like to double-down on your marketing with affordable options, here are a few techniques that you can use.

Monitor your website traffic and conversions

Sounds obvious, but trust me, every tool has its honeymoon. We’ll install it, love it, use it for a while and then slowly forget about it. When it comes to monitoring your website, this can’t be the case.

You need to stay on top of things. The specific developments in each country might influence how your business operates online. If you take the food industry as an example, many restaurants see a tremendous increase in online orders.

Many articles are citing industry-wide values for traffic and conversions, but we don’t want to do that. The fluctuations are so high between businesses in the same industry that it’s crucial you decide based on your own statistics.

Make sure to have the tools to analyse your traffic, and make sure to use them.

Consider how the current situation affects your customers

This piece of advice applies to all areas of your business but the implications might require you to put more work into the website specifically.

If you take the UK supermarket, Morrisons, during the pandemic they have added a new “food box” to their offer, which contains £30 worth of random essential groceries and home products. This was a change at a much higher level but the new product required a landing page to process the orders and promote the initiative.

They have created a niche product because of irresponsible panic buying, giving vulnerable people a way to get next-day groceries without leaving their homes.

Your requirements may vary, but it’s crucial to identify the unique needs of your customers on a regular basis. Depending on your findings you may need to double down on your investments, rather than make cuts.

Similarly, you must adjust your business to fresh challenges. At some point, Ocado shut down its online groceries website for nearly three days to optimise the store facing an influx of traffic.

Ensure your website is up to the challenge

There are multiple layers to this, but the main two are performance and accessibility. Now more than ever, your website needs to be fast and as easy to use as possible, for everyone. There’s not enough awareness about how many people struggle to use websites.

For performance, it’s all about speed this time. It’s one of the few aspects of a website that you can improve to see immediate results – and you might need them right now. A number of factors can bottleneck your performance under heavy traffic:

  • poor website implementation
  • using a shared server
  • exceeding your hosting’s bandwidth

The excellent news is that you can take action right away. Migrating a website isn’t always straightforward, but it’s a reasonably fast process – and performance optimisation is even more efficient.

As for the performance on your end, compressing images is one of the most cost-effective ways to speed up websites. You can reduce the size of assets by as much as 80% without compromising on the quality. It’s a great first step, but there’s also room for other improvements: optimising scripts, minifying HTML and CSS, and more.

We suggest using GTmetrix to learn about the areas you should improve in terms of page speed. Keep in mind that the reports are automatic. The algorithms scrutinise every feature and the results are just guidelines, rather than confirmed issues. Please consult them with a web agency before proceeding with changes, as some suggestions might have zero, or even negative value.

Become a leader in your field

Testing times create leaders. It often requires bold moves to become one, but making educated choices is the most important thing. If everyone in your industry is cutting the marketing spend and you’ve calculated that your current PPC is break-even, perhaps it’s worth keeping it that way to get in front of your competitors.

Investing and taking risks is hard, but testing times have created several major companies:

  • WhatsApp
  • Venmo
  • Slack
  • Uber
  • Groupon

Many people put other huge brands, such as Instagram and Apple, in the same basket. And while your ambitions might not be to become “the next big thing”, it’s possible to turn this crisis into a launchpad for your business. Start with thought leadership and show the industry, and your customers, that you care.


Includes tools to maximise your website potential.

Originally published Jun 27, 2022 3:15:05 PM, updated August 14 2022.

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