How much should you be paying for SEO?


It doesn’t matter if you’re a new business or a long time running company, if you’re not using SEO your destined to fail with online marketing. Almost every business owner today must decide how much to spend on search engine optimization (SEO). This isn’t an if question. SEO is imperative if you are planning to take your business online.

The question you must ask is, “What Does SEO Cost or How much should I be spending on SEO?” Well to answer that question and hopfully a few more concerns about SEO, continue reading.

Types of Payment Models

To understand the costs we cover below, you must first understand the different payment models used by SEO agencies. SEO companies typically offer four different forms of services and payment:

  • Monthly payments: Is just that… Clients will pay a set fee each month in exchange for an agreed-upon array of services. The monthly payment is the most popular payment model, because it offers the greatest ROI.
  • Contract services: Practically all SEO organizations sell contract services. Most of the time before a client is ready to engage in monthly payments, they will select a contract service that they want to have completed.
  • Custom Projects: Custom project fees are created specifically for an individual client. Pricing varies according to the project. For example, a local auto body shop may ask for help with their local online marketing. The client then decides that they also want the agency to establish their social media accounts. The auto body shop and the SEO agency will decide on the scope and cost of the project.
  • Hourly consulting: This familiar consulting model is an hourly fee in exchange for services or information.

Most SEO firms will deal with these payment options. Likewise, clients may work with an agency and use more than one model. For example, a client may choose to enter into a monthly retainer, purchase a contract service, and engage in a special project with the agency, thus entering into three of the payment models.

What Are The SEO Costs

So, what should you anticipate to pay? Here’s a survey of the range of the costs according to the payment models described above. (these figures are taken from a 2011 SEOmoz survey of 500 consultants and agencies.)

  • Monthly Payments: $750-5,000 per month. Within this range, the amount that a client pays depends on the size of their business and the extent of services provided by the agency. On the lower end of this spectrum are small SEO agencies that offer a limited range of services. On the upper range are businesses with greater needs working with full-service SEO agencies. Most businesses pay between $2,500 and $5,000 a month and this is usually collected upfront and is usually billed out to 3months.
  • Contract services: NA-  New Businesses that are just testing the waters in SEO usually choose a contract service as an entry point. Typical contract services include things like SEO copywriting ($0.15-$0.50/word), site content audit ($500-$7,500), link profile audit ($500-$7,500), and social media site setup ($500-$3,000).
  • Custom Project pricing: price varies. Since there is a diversity of projects, there is a wide range of prices. Most projects cost from $1,000 to $30,000.
  • Hourly consulting rate: $100-300/hr. SEO consultants, whether individuals or agencies, usually charge between $100 and $300 per hour.

Things To Look Out For

Did you really think we would leave you hanging and not have things to look out for? To help you deal with unethical business practices, be suspicious of the following promises:

  • Guarantees. I cannot stress this enough! SEO firms generally can’t provide guarantees due to the constantly changing nature of the industry. Almost every company that guarantees your rankings does unethical black hat tactics.
  • Instant results. True, some SEO tactics can get “instant results” by cheating the system. But be warned that these results can hurt you in the long run. Instant results often involve unethical SEO practices that are against webmaster guidelines put out by search engines. Just a heads up if you do go with a company that gives instant results. Google seeks out these techniques and companies and penalizes them, resulting in lost rankings that can take months to recover.
  • #1 spot on Google. If an agency promises you the number one spot on Google, it sounds great. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get it. However, it’s not something that a firm can promise to hand over to you.
  • Costs lower than $750/month. When it comes to SEO, you aren’t shopping for the lowest price; you’re seeking the best level of service. Be wary of rock bottom prices or “unbelievable deals.” You have to ask yourself “when was the last time you bought something for cheap and it lasted”?
  • Shady link building services. Link building is a major factor in SEO, and you can’t have a highly-ranked site without inbound links. But there’s a dark side of link building. Link trust is gaining importance to appear high in the rankings. Before you enter into an arrangement for link building services, ensure that their link building services are ethical, white label services. You may even want to ask them where they may be able to gain links for a business in your industry.


SEO takes time. It is not an overnight success, which is why a monthly retainer is best. Think of SEO as a long-term investment. Aggressive campaigns and high budgets may have their place, but the most enduring SEO results come from a long-term relationship.

  • SEO changes on a daily basis and your rankings will change, too. Google did over 500 updates last year so expect some changes to happen. Also, the field is full of competitors, and rankings rise and fall with the changing of algorithms. One-and-done SEO tricks simply don’t work. It takes constant monitoring to keep your website ranking well and performing at top-notch levels.
  • Not all SEO companies are created equal. Again, SEOis not about who has the lowest prices. It’s about finding the BEST SEO agency you can. Look for an SEO agency that defines its scope of services, and takes the time to educate you.
  • SEO is important. Do it. The point of your website is to increase business and in order to do that you need traffic which increases customer and over all increases profits. The smart thing is to pay what it takes to keep your site findable by the people who are looking.
  • Hiring an SEO agency is best. You may be asking yourself, “Is SEO something I can do on my own?” There are a tiny percentage of business owners or professionals that have the skill and savvy to do their own SEO. Even so, comprehensive SEO takes way more time than most business owners can afford. Even an employee who “knows a lot about SEO,” will be hard-pressed to deliver the level of services and excellence found in a SEO agency. You’ll rarely come out on top if you try to go it alone, and you’ll never get the same level of ROI that you would with a competent SEO agency.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions,

For most businesses, SEO is the highest ROI marketing effort. The profits it provides exceed the value of other marketing approaches – direct mailing, broadcast advertising, online ads, etc.

The question is not Do I need SEO services; it is how much should I pay for SEO services. As long as you choose a quality SEO firm, your decision will lead to incredible amounts of revenue.

How much is that worth to you….


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