Whether you’re shopping around for an SEO agency, or doubting the value of your current SEO services, the concern is the same — how much should quality SEO cost?
SEO pricing is such a hot topic, in fact, that Search Engine Watch‘s article on this very subject ranked number 5 on its top 10 list of most popular pieces in 2013. And the question of SEO pricing even garnered the attention of Forbes this year.
Together, these two articles present a pretty comprehensive overview of the true cost of quality SEO, thus informing answers to some common questions about SEO pricing.
What does SEO cost?
Ask this question of 10 different SEO agencies and you’ll likely get 10 different responses. The fact is, the cost of SEO depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is the size of your business and the scope of your SEO campaign relative to your internet marketing goals. Below is a list of typical pricing models. Beware of any SEO agencies charging drastically more (or less) outside of these price ranges.
Monthly Retainer, in which you pay an SEO agency to provide SEO services on a monthly, ongoing basis:
Search Engine Watch: $750-$5,000/month
Contract Services, in which you select from the agency’s price-fixed services, (like a website audit):
Search Engine Watch: $500-$7,500
Project-Based Services, in which the agency provides a service customized to your unique needs, for a negotiated price:
Search Engine Watch: $1,000-$30,000
Hourly Consulting, the least common of these pricing models
Forbes: $76-$200/hr (with some high-end firms charging as high as $500)
Search Engine Watch: $100-$300/hr
Which is the best pricing model?
When you’re developing a relationship with an SEO company, you may want to start with a simple contract or project-based service, to give you some idea of how they work, and how well they do. But your ultimate goal should be finding an agency with which you are comfortable retaining on a monthly basis.
Search Engine Watch: “Think of SEO as a long-term investment. Aggressive campaigns and major pushes may have their place, but the most enduring SEO results come from a long-term relationship.”
Will the nature of my business affect the cost of SEO?
If yours is a small brick-and-mortar business, with one location, that caters to a niche population in a small town, you should do quite well with an SEO budget of just a few hundred dollars a month. On the other hand, if yours is an online business and/or one with locations nationwide, catering to a large demographic within a particularly competitive industry, you could be looking at spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on SEO. Your business likely falls somewhere between these two extremes.
Forbes: “The audience you're trying to expose to your product heavily influences what you'll pay for SEO. The larger and more competitive your target market, the more expensive SEO will be, with some exceptions.”
Should I shop around for the lowest quote I can find?
It depends. If the lowest quote you find falls within the price ranges outlined above, certainly you should consider it. However, if the lowest price quoted to you is one dramatically less than these price ranges, move on. Otherwise, you’d likely be doing business with an agency that can’t deliver results, or does so in an unethical manner.
Search Engine Watch: “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.’ ”
Do bigger SEO companies offer the best SEO services?
Big SEO companies tend to excel at providing services that can easily be applied to any and all types of businesses. Smaller SEO companies tend to excel at providing more customized services tailored to the unique needs of your business and specific internet marketing goals.
Forbes: “If SEO is a critical ongoing piece of your marketing strategy and you value hands-on, personalized service, more than likely you'll end up working with a smaller firm.”
Can’t I just do my own SEO?
You certainly can do your own SEO, and there are plenty of resources out there aimed at helping you do just that. However, SEO is so competitive that your chances of ranking well for your targeted keyword terms is dramatically increased by paying the experts to do what they do best so that you can do the same (i.e., providing your customers or clients with quality products or services).
Search Engine Watch: “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.”