The cost of SEO or search engine optimization services seems to be one of life’s unanswered questions. A quick Google search shows a wide range of choices – from someone offering their services for $200 per month, to agencies that have a minimum spend of $10,000 per month just for the privilege of being their client.
To come up with a cost we need to examine what exactly is involved. The industry standard for hourly pricing for a professional marketing agency ranges between $100 to $200 per hour. For a stand alone freelancer or consultant you can expect to pay less, around $50 to $125 an hour.
You can expect to pay more for an agency as they usually have experts from many disciplines on staff available to work on your project. Freelancers and consultants usually do not and sub-contract the parts of the project that they cannot handle. That’s quite a wide range of prices already and we haven’t even considered what the SEO project involves. With this baseline established lets explore what is involved and dive into some real numbers.
The size of your geographical market and how much effort your competition is putting into their SEO strategy will have a correlation to your cost. Understanding what your competitors are doing is essential. More SEO competition usually means more effort and investment will be required to reach the first page.
The first month of an SEO campaign generally includes an on-boarding or setup fee. The cost of this fee varies depending on the size of your website, your geographical reach and size of your target market.
A conversation must take place to establish the goals of the website; what keywords or phrases are your target audience using? How do they search when they are trying to find your product? What steps, if any, have been taken in the past to accomplish those goals?
The next step is to do complete analysis of what pages are actually ranking (if any) and which ones are not. Then comes the technical analysis; a technical SEO analysis will take a look at the overall website structure, how content is organized on the site, how fast a website loads, check pages for coding errors, proper page titles, meta descriptions, image compression, internal linking structure, size of files being used and more.
For a small (10 page) local site, the time to hook up the necessary analysis tools, research and prepare the report, present to the client would in the region of 8 hours. Assuming an average hourly rate of $150/hr the on-boarding or setup fee would be $1200. This is before ANY work begins on the actual SEO itself.
The above is just a partial list – there are many more elements to a complete SEO project. However, if we assume 10 hours per month on a small site with just a local reach you can easily see that we are at $1500 a month for a low-competition project. As your website grows, your geographical reach increases and your competition increases. The amount of hours that are needed to make that level of business growth will also increase.
It should be noted that this does not take into account other aspects of digital marketing that may be important to your business. Local SEO, social media management, reputation management, PPC advertising, email marketing or website and hosting server maintenance.
In order to properly run an SEO campaign, professional agencies must be equipped with the professional tools to enable effective and efficient management of the SEO process. Most of these tools run in the range of $100 to $200 a month. Even the most basic of agencies have an outlay of $400-$500 a month for the required tools to properly do their job. The price of these tools generally increases as an agencies number of clients goes up, so this cost is passed along to the client in one form or another.
Given all of this information, if someone is charging $200 month for SEO on your website it may explain why you are not seeing any results.
It depends on a lot of factors; website size, geographic reach, online competition. The bottom line is that if you are paying less than $500 a month, you are probably better off saving your money and investing in an alternative digital marketing strategy.