It can be difficult for any business owner or marketer to plan an SEO strategy properly without knowing the numbers. Your budget determines what you can and can’t do in your campaign, so it’s important to know how much you should spend on your SEO efforts. This will also let you know what to prioritize and how much it’s going to take away from your overall marketing budget.
Digital advertising spend is estimated to reach $389 billion in 2021, and you’re more likely to contribute to that with your SEO spending.
Google has nearly 4 billion users, with an average of 5.5 billion Google searches made everyday. This is why on average, businesses spend 41 percent of their marketing budget on SEO. Marketers view SEO as an integral part of their marketing strategy. SEO lets websites be more competitive, it impacts brand awareness and it targets the right customers.
However, how much does SEO cost and how much should you spend?
How Much Should You Spend for SEO in 2021?
SEO is cost-friendly when you compare it to other marketing methods, especially traditional advertising. And it can offer the highest return on your investment. Here’s the “but”: you get what you pay for.
You may encounter cheap SEO costs; tantalizing as that seems for small businesses, the result is often a waste of resources. SEO isn’t expensive, but a fair amount of investment is ideal to get the lucrative results your business needs. So before you take on a marketing agency offering “cheap” services, think about what you’re going to get for that low-cost.
A better way to gauge how much you should spend on SEO services is to put more stock in value over price and to look at benchmarks.
SEO services are structured differently depending on your industry, business, goals, duration of the campaign and other preferences.
We’ll break down the different pricing models so you can see the several ways SEO can be priced.
- Per Hour Price Range: $100-$250
Hourly rates are popular with freelancers, SEO consultants and solo agencies. This pricing structure is applicable for minor projects or services that require specific work like outsourcing keyword research, SEO audits and content creation.
Hourly rates can range from $100 to $250 per hour, depending on what you require from the professional and the difficulty level. Note that highly skilled and more experienced consultants could charge more for their services.
- Project-based Price Range: $500 and up
Project-based are campaigns where various tasks are involved, but the work isn’t recurring. For example, your brand is holding a special campaign that will only run for a month. Then, project based may be for you.
The SEO consultant can create a bundle of activities for your campaign with a set timeline and deliverable. This will mostly include technical audits, on-page and technical SEO and content marketing initiatives.
Prices for project-based SEO range between $500 to thousands of dollars or more, depending on the complexity of the campaign and resources needed.
SEO agencies with more experience and popularity, those who cater to enterprise and big brands are known to cost tens of thousands. It’s important to know that they don’t always do things any differently from lesser known and lesser priced agencies.
If you’re a startup and in need of SEO services for small businesses, it’s best to go for experienced agencies that are reasonably priced. Do your research. An experienced SEO consultant will be able to analyze your brand and tailor a strategy that’s right for your needs.
- Monthly Retainer Price Range: $500 to $5000 (or more)
A monthly fee is a common setup for SEO companies. If you visit a professional SEO website, then you’ll see that this is mostly referred to as an SEO package.
This will start with the onboarding conversation. This is where you tell the SEO consultant what you need and what your brand is all about. It will be followed by an SEO website audit, keyword research, and then the recommendations. After you’ve approved, SEO experts can now implement the tasks on your website.
This pricing model enables you to stick to your marketing budget. You’re able to pay for measurable SEO work based on what you agreed upon, this involves your SEO goals and keywords you want to rank for.
Prices range from $500 to $5000. Agencies that have been in the industry for a long time could price their service higher. SEO professionals can also offer different tiers for their monthly retainer fees with differences in the inclusions.
- Local SEO Price Range: $500 to $5000 (or more)
Local SEO pertains to SEO activities that rank your website in more specific locations or regions. If you run a local business or shop targeting a local market, then this is the strategy for you. Similarly, if you’re a business operating in certain areas or if you run hotels or other accommodations, local SEO can help bring in people who are already interested in looking for your kind of business.
Price can start from $500 and can take anywhere from $10,000 to a hundred depending on the work. Local SEO involves creating localized content, citation building, claiming local listings, and aiming for geo-targeted keywords. Compared to regular SEO, this should cost less since it’s targeting an audience within a specific geographical area. However, prices will be higher if your campaign involves promoting and ranking in different areas.
- Individual Service
If you require a specific service for a specific project, then this could be an option for you. This is usually applicable to clients who already have an SEO strategy and who know what they’re doing.
Businesses can choose to pay for just content creation, SEO backlink or just get an audit done for them.
The advantage here is that you can save money. It would be a disadvantage if you’re not well-versed with SEO, and doing certain tactics on your own could hurt your search rankings.
Some of the common SEO services are:
- SEO Audit ($250-$500 base price)
- Backlink or Link Building (Prices per link vary)
- Content Creation (Based on content type)
- Citations (Based on the website)
- Site Speed Optimization (Based on webmaster’s fee)
- Keyword research ($100-$500 base price)
- Link Clean Up ($500 and up)
Elements That Affect SEO Cost
Many elements are considered when it comes to pricing SEO services. This explains why prices differ for different brands and industries.
Here are some factors that influence the cost of SEO.
- The size of the website. A website for a pediatric clinic will be very different from an e-commerce website containing hundreds or thousands of pages. Also, the theme, design and manpower needed to fix the website will vary depending on the size and industry.
- SEO goals. The kind of SEO services implemented will depend on the website goals. Some will require basic maintenance whereas others may require more structural tasks or in-depth optimization that needs added resources.
- Your industry, location and keywords will matter when it comes to SEO. The actions needed to rank your page will also depend on these variables and the level of competition in your niche.
- Service model. The service model, whether it’s hourly, monthly, retainer, or ala carte will influence the pricing. In addition, the package you’ll take (fixed package or a customized one) is going to impact the final rate you’ll get. It’s best to do your research and communicate with your SEO consultant. Let the consultant answer all of your questions.
Ask away. Don’t hold back and if anything is unclear, always raise it. The way the consultant or SEO expert responds to your inquiries will let you know how knowledgeable they are about their craft. A professional SEO agency will be able to explain the process clearly as well as give you a campaign that fits your internet marketing goal.
Calculate Your Budget
To know how much you should spend on SEO, first determine the goals of your SEO campaign and then list the tasks or services that are needed to accomplish those goals.
For example, if you want your website to secure a higher ranking on the search results then you will need to:
- Optimize your website and make it crawlable to search engines (On-page optimization)
- Create high quality content and optimize website copy (Content creation and SEO copywriting)
- Build external links to your website (Link building)
Google mentioned that SEOs need at least four months to a year to fully help a business implement all the necessary SEO improvements and see the potential benefits.
SEO is not a Cost But an Investment
SEO doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not a silver bullet to any marketing need. But it can be very rewarding when done right.
Research and to interview the company that you’re planning to work with before making any huge decision.
When it comes to pricing, be very perceptive. Don’t focus on the cost or the amount; instead, think about the value a certain price will deliver.
For best results, consult with an SEO expert and interview your potential SEO agency before making your final decision.
Itamar Gero is the founder and CEO of SEOReseller.com, a global white label SEO and digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies and their local clients all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).