When we first started Apex Digital Media in Sept. of 2014 SEO was pretty much our core competency. When prospective clients would ask us “What does SEO Cost?” – before even offering a quote I would usually prime them by sending a link to this article from Search Engine Watch. The reason being is that SEO is an extremely undervalued skill and a lot of people don’t realize it.
As a business your wisest move is to hire an agency or consultant to do SEO work for you. Some people will try to do it on their own and are capable – but think about the fact that time is money and if you’re running a business you probably don’t have time to sit down and spend several hours a day doing the intensive labor it takes to be successful. Some people will opt to hire a relative or current employee who “knows a lot about SEO,” and sometimes this can also work but rarely does it deliver the level of results you will get in finding and contracting a competent SEO agency.
What Does SEO Cost On Average?
If you look at this infographic from the Search Engine Watch article you can see that average hourly rates for SEO in the United States are over $100 per hour. You will also see that rates in less developed countries like India are about 50% of that on average with some hourly rates being as low as $20 / $25 per hour. These prices are a good indicator of quality and when you hire someone for SEO it’s probably good if English is their first language. Have you ever received a spam email from an Indian or Chinese spammer? I rest my case.
The above image shows average retainer rates across several countries, again you’ll notice that the lower rates are usually found in countries where English might not be their first language. I say this not to slag India but because we get countless requests from “outsourcing firms” to do cheap SEO work for us. Outsourcing SEO work to an international 3rd party almost never works out. If you’re interested you can view the full range of this data here. In the meantime, let’s discuss the different methods companies might want to charge you should you hire them to work for you doing SEO.
What Does SEO Cost? – Payment Models
Digital agencies charge in a variety of different ways. If you’re in the market for a company to do SEO for you it’s good to understand payment structure so that you can work to find a company that meets your budgetary needs.
- Monthly Retainer: This is the most popular method of payment for businesses because it provides the best value. Rather than being billed by the hour you will usually get a lot more for your money by paying a monthly retainer. Deliverables for an agreement of this nature would include regular analytics reports, keyword research, Social Media and off-site SEO, directory listings, etc.
AVERAGE COST: $750 – $5,000 per month – most business on average will pay around $2,000 – $2500 per month.
- Fixed Price Services: Some agencies may provide particular services for a fixed rate. An example of this might be an on-site audit or single landing page optimization rates.
AVERAGE COST: This is going to vary depending on the size and scope of the individual service some examples might be: SEO copywriting ($0.15-$0.50/word) – Site Content Audit ($500-$7,500) – Link Profile Audit ($500-$7,500) – Social Media Site Setup ($500-$3,000).
- Project-based pricing: In this case a business will do an audit (usually free) and then come to you with a proposal for an entire project. Usually this is going to start in the $5 – $10k range depending on the scope and last for 3 – 6 months.
AVERAGE COST: A wide range here anywhere from around $1000 to $50,000 is on the table. If you are a small business with a 10 – 15 page site, $1000 makes sense – if you are a massive e-commerce presence with hundreds of thousands of pages, it’s going to cost a lot more.
- Hourly consulting: Just like it sounds, typical hourly, invoiced consulting. It is a basic hourly fee in exchange for services and information.
AVERAGE COST: SEO agencies and individual consultants usually charge between $100 and $300 per hour.
What to Watch Out For
- People Who Guarantee the #1 Spot on Google: While this is not impossible it can take a lot of time and investment. No true professional SEO will ever say “I’ll get you to the number one slot on Google” anyone that makes that claim can’t be taken seriously.
- Prices that are “too good to be true”: We run into this a lot, companies can be so cautious and stingy with their money that they will pay a subpar SEO a low price. Eventually they realized they wasted their money and end up paying someone else AGAIN to do it right.
- Link Building Services: This is called “black hat SEO” and no longer works. These types of companies made a killing back in 2007 – unfortunately for them that was a long time ago.
Finally, to quote Search Engine Watch: “As you begin shopping for SEO agencies and making your decision, be mindful of the following points”:
SEO takes time and you aren’t likely going to see results for at least 90 days. For this reason a package that gives you the best price over a long period of time is going to be the most effective for your needs. SEO is a long-term investment and the most enduring SEO results come from a long-term relationship. If you’re looking for instant sales or traffic you will want to spend on Pay Per Click which is a whole other ball of wax!
SEO is constantly changing and your rankings will fluctuate: New sites spring up every day, Google is constantly altering it’s algorithm to prevent cheating and provide for a better user experience. With all these and many other factors at play realize that nothing will ever be set in stone. It takes constant monitoring and effort to maintain great organic rankings.
If you’re in the market remember that SEO shouldn’t about shopping around for the lowest prices. It’s about finding the finest agency you can. Look for an SEO agency with good case studies that clearly defines its deliverables, and takes the time to educate you on what it’s doing and why. Unless people are able to find you online what’s the point of being there?
To learn more about how Apex Digital Media can help you with your SEO needs click here.