Let’s face it, search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most critical components of an effective digital marketing strategy. In this ever-increasing digital world, if people can’t find your website through a search engine, they won’t do business with you. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t give enough attention to SEO or they think they’re covered by using the Yoast WordPress plugin (hint: they’re not). One of the main reasons businesses neglect SEO is because they believe hiring an SEO marketing agency is too expensive.
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So, you’re probably wondering “how much does SEO cost?” and I can only answer with “it depends.” I know that can be a very frustrating response for people. We all want simple, straight-forward answers. What does it depend on? Why can’t I just give a concrete answer or even just a ballpark estimate? Unfortunately, SEO prices can vary quite a lot, depending on which factors you take into account. There are just too many choices, pricing models, etc. The question “how much does SEO cost” is a very tricky one.
That’s why I’m here to help
In today’s article, I’ll give you a comprehensive rundown on the price of SEO services on average. It’s not what I would call an industry-standard but it should give you a pretty good idea on what to expect when working with an SEO agency.
How Much Should You Spend on SEO Services?
The cost of SEO services will depend on the size of your business and the extent of the services you need. SEO costs also can vary from one agency to the next. However, I have to emphasize that when it comes to an SEO agency, you get what you pay for. When searching for SEO services, don’t choose price over quality—a cheap SEO package isn’t worth it.
Gone are the days when digital marketers have it easy by gaming the system—directory submissions, keyword stuffing, free-for-all backlinks, etc. Nowadays, it’s all about delivering quality and value. Most cheap SEO companies will not be able to deliver on that front. Like with many industry professionals, you need an SEO company with a proven track record, ethical tactics, and vast experience.
The typical cost of SEO services is difficult to estimate. There’s a wide range of campaigns, pricing plans, and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all package. On average, SEO projects on a monthly basis can cost between $400 to $10,000, depending on a lot of factors like the extent of service. For instance, a small local business with a 10+ page website will have a widely different marketing needs when compared to an e-commerce store that sells thousands of products.
At the end of the day, your marketing goals and needs will determine how much you spend when working with SEO experts. It all comes down to how big and extensive your SEO project is. If you have a larger website, it’s safe to say that it will cost you more. It’s also worth noting that SEO is not a one-and-done deal, it’s an ongoing process. That’s why I always recommend to my clients to go with an SEO plan to keep their websites fresh and updated as opposed to a one-time SEO project.
How Do You Determine SEO Pricing?
To answer the question “how much does SEO cost”, you need to know more about the most common SEO pricing structures.
To be honest, there are not many SEO companies that offer hourly or on-demand services. However, it can be an option for business owners. Hourly SEO services are typically more of a consultation job. At face value, hourly SEO packages may seem like an attractive option. After all, you know exactly what you’re paying for.
Although this pricing structure is not for everyone, it’s a good option for businesses that have a good grasp of their SEO strategies and need a little help with execution. You bring in an SEO expert consultant for a few hours as needed.
If you bring in a consultant, there’s accountability and transparency since the time worked will always be logged. Thus, you can track where the consultant is devoting the bulk of their time and effort. And of course, the predictable cost and the ability to directly control how much you’re spending are the best benefits of this pricing structure.
As for the drawbacks, the most notable one is the slow progress and it may take you more time to see results.
Average Hourly SEO Cost: $100 to $150 per hour
2. One-Time SEO Projects
If you don’t want recurring bills and keeping tabs on hours, a fixed-price contract or project-based model might just be for you. It’s worth pointing out that project-based SEO services are popular with agencies and clients. Your SEO needs will vary depending on the status of your SEO, the size of your website, your competitors, and your goals. Because of this, there’s a huge range of potential prices for this model.
If you have a good handle on your SEO needs and have a solid strategy in place, this pricing model is a good option to consider. Think of it as bringing someone on board to help fine-tune and execute your existing strategy or if there’s one area of your SEO that needs some work. This allows the client to pay a pre-determined fee for a custom SEO project.
However, this pricing model has some downsides that should be mentioned. For one, it’s easy to be overcharged, especially if you’re new to SEO or new to working with SEO companies, or both. You could end up paying more than you need to. Also, once the project is finalized, any changes or additional milestones will cost you extra.
Average Cost of One-Time SEO Projects: $1,000 to $7,500 per project
3. Monthly Retainer
SEO maintenance retainer is a pricing model where the client pays a fixed price every month in exchange for a fixed amount of services. This pricing plan is growing a lot more popular over the years because it provides the best ROI. Unlike SEO consultants or project-based services that tie you into a contract, retainers typically don’t have contracts and pay monthly. In most cases, if you’re not happy with the way things are going, you can discontinue next month.
However, don’t be surprised if the retainer will have you sign a contract for at least 6 months of service.
This is the best model for businesses that are looking for a hands-off approach since the SEO company will handle most of their SEO efforts from end-to-end. The agency will typically provide monthly updates so you know the impact of your investment.
Search engine algorithms and consumer behavior are constantly changing, and SEO is an ongoing process, so this model makes a lot of sense. It can also be beneficial if your business operates in a highly competitive market; you need to constantly monitor and respond to your competitor’s SEO moves. Plus, working together in an ongoing capacity will build stronger relationships and trust between the client and the agency.
As for the disadvantage, some agencies may offer you features and services that you don’t need, so you’ll be stuck paying them every month.
Average SEO Monthly Retainer Cost: $500 to $10,000 per month
7 Services You Should Expect From Your SEO Agency
Now that you have an idea about how much SEO cost, it’s time to review the services that you can expect from an SEO company. Although every agency is different, you should partner with an agency that’s capable of providing a complete SEO package. Here’s a look at the services that an SEO agency should provide:
1. SEO Audit
To know exactly what needs to be addressed on your website, an SEO audit is required. An audit means that the agency will take an in-depth look at your current SEO strategy and your website. Don’t worry if you don’t have an SEO plan yet, the expert will still inspect your website and note its strong points and areas that need improvement, as far as SEO is concerned.
Although there are many free SEO audit tools that you can use, they simply can’t provide enough comprehensive insight when compared to a team of SEO experts. So when you’re searching for SEO services, make sure that they can perform a full audit of your website.
Conversely, it’s a big red flag if an SEO company can’t provide an audit. How can they gain an in-depth understanding of your SEO status and requirements? How can they create a custom SEO strategy for your website? The best SEO strategies are ones that specifically cater to your business, brand, and needs.
2. Competitor and Market Analysis
Even if you’re in the most-niche industry possible, you need a team of SEO specialists that can perform competitor analysis. With the right analytical skills and tools, an SEO agency can determine your business’ online and offline competitors. This information is handy for sculpting your SEO plan as well as find out about your competitors’ strategies that you can use against them and exploit their weaknesses.
In general, SEO companies will conduct an initial analysis of the competition. However, you should choose a company that can provide competitor analyses on a regular basis. This means that your SEO team will continually check on what your competitors are up to.
Ideally, you want a team of SEO specialists that analyze your competition every quarter or so. This gives you an edge because your team can create competitive strategies for you. Talk about keeping your enemies closer.
3. Customized Strategies
Not all businesses and brands are created equal, and thus, no two marketing requirements are ever alike. You’re partnering with a digital marketing agency because you want an SEO campaign that meets your brand’s unique needs. With a customized strategy, maximizing your SEO’s return on investment (ROI) becomes possible. This means your business gets more visits, calls, orders, and conversions.
A custom strategy is one of the main advantages of partnering with an experienced SEO agency. Sure, you can work with cheap SEO agencies that deliver cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solutions but don’t expect to make it to the first page of the search results. That in itself may not sound so bad but remember that 75% of searchers don’t scroll past the first page of Google. Worse, you could be penalized by major search engines for using outdated, cookie-cutter solutions which put you under a significant disadvantage. There’s simply no way around it—custom SEO strategy or bust.
4. Off-Page Optimization
Off-page optimization is one of the more common features that you can get from an SEO package. It refers to the measures that can be taken outside of your website to improve its position in the search rankings. The most important steps for off-page optimization are:
- Link Building
- Brand Mentions
- Social Media Marketing
By default, off-page optimization should be included when partnering with an SEO agency. However, if you’re not sure if the company offers off-page optimization, it won’t hurt to ask. The agency should be able to provide you with an overview of their services along with the specific deliverables.
5. On-Page Optimization
On-page optimization or on-page SEO refers to the steps you can take directly within your website that will help you rank better in search rankings. Below are a few examples of on-page optimization:
- High-quality, SEO-friendly content creation
- Page titles and meta descriptions optimization
- Headings and content formatting
- Sitemap creation
- Web page content optimization
- Images and other multimedia elements optimization
- Link building (Internal and external links)
- URL optimization
- Mobile web page optimization
- Web design for SEO optimization
More often than not, on-page optimization takes up a huge bulk of SEO services. If an agency can’t provide on-page optimization measures, what’s the point of working with them? Find a company that has a well-laid out and concise on-page optimization plan for your website.
6. Reporting and Analytics
A strong digital marketing strategy involves SEO reporting and analytics. Collecting the right data and knowing how to interpret the information will allow marketers to know which strategies are working and what areas need improvement. On top of that, transparency is another thing that all SEO services should practice—that’s why regular monthly reports are non-negotiable when working with SEO companies.
With regular reporting, you’ll have a clear picture of the results of your SEO campaign. You’ll have access to critical data such as your organic traffic, search rankings, conversion rate, bounce rate, etc. This allows you to focus your limited resources on measures that give you the best results.
Despite the obvious need for SEO reporting, only 22% of marketers are using a data-driven approach to achieving favorable results.
7. Progressive Optimization
As I’ve repeatedly emphasized, SEO isn’t a one and done deal but an ongoing marketing strategy. This is why SEO consultation isn’t the best option for business owners. When it comes to SEO services, the partnership between the client and the agency is important. After all, you’re collaborating with the SEO company continuously—the team eventually becomes an extension of your business.
Partner with a company that’s going to optimize your website on an ongoing basis. Even if you’ve met your SEO requirements, your team should continue to find ways to take your SEO strategy to a new level. For instance, the account manager may identify a new set of target keyword phrases that can help you attract more relevant and high-quality leads.
Also, SEO is an ever-changing marketing landscape. You must see to it that your strategies are updated and timely, otherwise, your website could be penalized. A team that performs progressive optimization will catch such changes in SEO trends and policies, and update your website as needed.
Is SEO Worth the Money?
As mentioned, SEO can be done for free but for that to happen, you have to learn about it first. So, the better question: Is SEO worth paying for? As you can see from our price breakdown above, SEO is an investment, but one that is definitely worth it.
The results of SEO don’t come as fast as other marketing methods such as PPC advertising. In fact, you may take up to 6 months for you to rank for highly competitive keywords. However, with a solid SEO strategy, you’ll be able to increase your website’s page rank for target keywords. This is a long-term benefit that can make a significant impact on your business. If the speed of getting good traffic is important for you, SEO may not be the best route to take. In this case, you’re better off with PPC advertising. Or better yet, develop a digital marketing strategy that addresses short-term and long-term goals. SEO and PPC advertising complement each other and allow you to quickly grow your business while keeping an eye on the future.
Despite the lack of immediate results, SEO attracts higher-quality visitors compared to PPC. In reality, internet users don’t trust ads and ad-blindness is a very real thing. Over 70% of users will happily scroll past the paid ads to see the organic listing. Simply put, users trust organic results more than paid ads. They know that you’ve earned your position in the search rankings instead of paying for it. If the quality of visitors is important to you, SEO is worth the time and money.
Improve Your Search Rankings Now
So how much does SEO cost? As you can see, the cost of SEO can vary greatly from one business to the next and on your goals. Regardless of your marketing budget and requirements, we at Cardinal Digital Marketing will accommodate your needs and create a custom plan that best fits your business.
If you have any questions about SEO pricing and other related information, feel free to get in touch with us.