How much does SEO cost monthly?

SEO can be a tricky beast full of explanations like “it depends” and “well actually”. Even worse? It can be difficult to prove impact. Which makes budgeting for it even harder. What we’re going to do is break down what SEO costs and what you can expect to get depending on what you want to pay.

SEO Pricing at a glance

Hourly Pricing

The average SEO conslutant or agency will charge anywhere between
$100 - $300/hr.

Project Based

Typically based on one-off needs like an SEO audit. Rate vary on time spent.
$1000 per project or more

Monthly Retainer

This is the most common type of pricing. You can look at paying between $500-$6000/mo. or more

Before we begin, I just want to say that SEO is not out of reach financially for anyone. So if you felt a little sticker shock looking at the summary above, fear not. There’s an affordable solution for you

But SEO can be a tricky beast full of explanations like “it depends” and “well actually”. Even worse? It can be difficult to prove impact. Which makes budgeting for it even harder. 

What we’re going to do is break down what SEO costs and what you can expect to get depending on what you want to pay. 

Hourly Pricing for SEO Services

Commonly used by: SEO Consultants and Freelancers

Average Price: $75 – $100/hr

Hourly pricing is something a lot of SEO specialists tend to use to price out projects. It’s a common go-to for anyone who doesn’t have any overhead and is dedicating only their time and expertise to help you out.

Why is hourly pricing so common? Mostly because SEO is a time consuming beast. Hours are spent collecting data, merging excel spreadsheets, and analyzing data. And because SEO is so dependent on factors outside of the control of an SEO contractor (search engine algorithms, developers not doing what they say, or customers not responding) freelancers and SEO specialists tend to take the safe route by charging you for their precious time, since it’s really the only thing they can control. 

What you can expect

Most of these freelancers are SEO specialists who work for larger companies and moonlight as consultants. This means that most will be great resources, and even help direct your developer on what to do to optimize your website. Be prepared to have someone else on hand to implement their strategies, as SEO consultants rarely venture beyond creating requirement documents for developers, link building, and content marketing (mostly writing for SEO, though some dabble in social media). 

And that’s not a bad thing. Having someone who understands both your business goals and how to talk to a developer is hugely advantageous. Just keep in mind your mileage will also vary depending on how many hours you purchase from them.  

Who’s this best for: Small businesses who have dedicated developers and want to invest in long term growth. Usually best for startups or e-commerce based businesses. 

Project Based Pricing for SEO Services

Commonly used by: SEO Consultants and Agencies

Average Price: $1000 – $10000/per project or even higher

This pricing model is typically used for one-off projects like technical SEO audits, or a set number of copy briefs. It’s not something a lot of SEO agencies or consultants like to do, and that’s for one main reason: 

SEO is not a set-and-forget strategy. If an SEO agency hands over the requirements doc to fix your technical SEO issues, you’ve only just begun. 

What you can expect

First off – any project should have a defined scope and delivery at the end. If you know what you need from an SEO perspective, and you have the expertise and capacity to execute on any takeaways from the project, this may suit you perfectly.

If you’re considering going this route in an attempt to dip your toe into SEO support, but without the commitment of a monthly retainer for full SEO services, it’s important to remember that any project like an audit may require someone on your team to implement those changes outlined in the audit. You’ll need  someone on your dev team at your disposal who understands what the changes are, why they are being recommended, and how to make them.

After addressing your technical SEO issues from an audit, you’ll still need to produce a steady flow of targeted content (based on consistent research and analysis) to continue to see any impactful or sustainable improvements.

Who’s this best for: Businesses who have specific SEO needs and just need someone to support them from time to time on one-off projects.

Monthly Retainer for SEO Services

Commonly used by: SEO Agencies and consultants

Average Price: $800 – $6000/per month or more

This is the most common way to price SEO services. It’s easy to predict, it can be easily worked into budgets, and SEO specialists worry less about finances and record keeping, and more about your business. 

Why the huge range in monthly expenses? It depends on a few factors:  

  1. Experience 
  2. Popularity of their brand
  3. How complicated your website is 
  4. What your needs are
  5. How many locations your business has

What you can expect

Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll get depending on your monthly retainer: 

$100-$400/mo: Set up on Yelp, Google My Business, and local link building. 

Who’s this best for: Small businesses in less urban areas that don’t have much competition. This would be your bare bones entry0level start into SEO for your business.

$400 – $800/mo: Set up on Yelp, Google My Business, local link building, website hosting, basic templated website development, basic technical SEO such as: keyword research, page speed improvements, meta description and title tag improvements. Use of SEO plug-ins for most technical adjustments.

Who’s this best for: Small businesses in more competitive markets who want to stand head and shoulders above their competition and not worry about marketing or website stuff like DNS records, propagation, or server calls. 

$1000-$3000/mo: Everything mentioned above with more advanced SEO like internal link optimization, javscript rendering, schema deployment, regular calls and support, basic performance dashboards, work with developers, content creation, advanced link building, disaster prevention, weekly audits, etc. 

Who’s this best for: Small businesses who have a more complex site than your local mom and pop shop. Typically startups who are just starting to turn a profit and invest in long term growth. 

$3000-$6000/mo: Everything mentioned above with a larger amount of content creation, deeper research using automated tools and customized multi-channel dashboards, and more extensive page-level optimization tactics. Copy briefs and wireframes will align to the overall keyword strategy and provide a framework to allow for a steady flow of content to be produced.

Who’s this best for: Medium businesses who are profitable and sit in a more competitive marketplace than your typical under the radar startup. These businesses are typically more mature and looking to optimize and scale what’s already working to a degree throughout all of their digital channels for the long-term. Stealing market share also becomes an important part of the strategy in these more crowded markets.

Over $6000/moAt this point you’re either a large brand that needs an entire team dedicated to you (I’ve seen some agencies dedicate as many as 5 SEO’s to one account), or you’re just paying for an SEO agency’s brand name. Also, some businesses simply prefer to have all things digital done under one large big brand agency’s roof, and don’t mind paying a premium for it. Or it could be a combination of all three?

Who’s this best for: Larger businesses, usually retailers or consumer-facing brands with several to dozens of franchises and a robust e-commerce website that drives (or should drive) significant revenue. These would be considered your enterprise-level SEO accounts who likely already have a large digital footprint to manage, troubleshoot, and improve upon.

SEO services for enterprise level companies and brands require a very different set of strategies and tactics, with a large focus on compliancy, incremental optimization, and a scalable implementation workflow. Just in the sheer volume of work required with accounts this large, it’s absolutely critical to make sure your SEO agency can actually handle all of it!