SEO Pricing at a glance
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.
Performance Based Pricing for SEO Services
Commonly used by: SEO Agencies
Average Price: $75 – $100/per lead
This is an extremely rare way to price SEO services. It’s not something a lot of SEO agencies or consultants like to do, and that’s for one main reason:
They don’t control your whole sales cycle.
If they can’t control your website, they can’t guarantee you’ll have the necessary technical optimization done to rank well on Google or Bing. If they can’t control your content, there’s no way to tweak your messaging to maximize calls, orders, or conversions. And if they can’t control tracking, there’s no way for them to accurately know how many leads they brought you.
What you can expect
If by some miracle you found an agency willing to work based on performance, make sure to really vet them. There are tricks (called black hat seo) you can do in the short term that eventually can get you punished by search engines instead of help in the long term. These techniques are more common among those who offer these types of services.
If they are in fact legitimate, be prepared to hand over most of your marketing and sales funnel to them to manage.
Who’s this best for: Small businesses who aren’t concerned about who manages their sales funnel, and may not be able to pay a monthly retainer without more business coming in.
Monthly Retainer for SEO Services
Commonly used by: SEO Agencies and consultants
Average Price: $800 – $3000/per month
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:
- Popularity of their brand
- How complicated your website is
- What your needs are
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.
$400 – $800/mo: Set up on Yelp, Google My Business, local link building, website hosting, basic website development, basic technical SEO such as: keyword research, page speed improvements, meta description and title tag improvements
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, weekly calls and support, 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/mo + : At this point you’re either a large brand that needs an entire team dedicated to them (I’ve seen some agencies employee 5 SEO’s to one account), or just paying for brand name. Or a combination of both.
Who’s this best for: Larger businesses, usually retailers with several to dozens of franchises and a robust e-commerce website that drives (or should drive) significant revenue.