SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) is a vital part of digital marketing for practically every business. It’s no secret that searches from Google and other search engines drive 53.3% of all online traffic. This is the largest digital channel.
Still, most business owners don’t have a yearly budget for it when planning for their yearly expenses. Why?
Partially because of the lack of standardization for SEO pricing. Along with this comes the uncertainty of what they will actually receive from their investment.
Here at the HOTH, we know firsthand that this is one of the biggest pain points before a business owner decides to invest in an SEO strategy.
If you’re looking to talk to an expert about ideal SEO pricing for your business, I encourage you to book a free consultation with one of our account managers.
So how much should you be paying for SEO services?
This isn’t an easy question to answer. SEO pricing can vary depending on many different factors.
How much does SEO Cost?
The price of SEO services varies depending on the size and scope of your business, as well as the competition in your industry.
The most common pricing model is Monthly SEO pricing.
According to a survey from our friends at Ahrefs, the most common price from SEOs is $500-$1000/month.
Instead of asking how much does SEO Cost, you should be thinking about how much does it cost based on your goals? The needs of your website to show up in search results for your market can vary.
So this isn’t an easy question to answer without doing some basic research. That’s why we encourage you to book a call with one of our experts.
However, there are some general trends that can give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay for SEO services in 2022.
Here are some general rules of thumb based on the size of a company.
Small Business SEO
For small businesses, the average cost of SEO services is around $750 to $2000 per month. This price includes basic keyword research and optimization, as well as link building and other essential tasks.
A common rule of thumb for a good managed SEO solution is at least $500/month for small businesses but even that budget can be very limited for some businesses. The more competitive the digital marketplace becomes, the higher SEO costs.
Most local SEO campaigns we run see better results at $1000/month due to the increased competition for ranking on search engines.
But the pricing of SEO is not uniform, it depends on your website, industry and business as a whole.
For example, if you are trying to rank for “cbd oil” you aren’t going to get there at $500/month based on what your competitors are doing, it could take you years to establish your authority.
Same thing with “personal injury lawyer New York”. Even though that’s a local SEO keyword, it’s an extremely competitive market.
A $500/month budget is too small to compete for the organic traffic from those searches.
You don’t have to be an SEO expert to understand the image above. This is showing us that this keyword is EXTREMELY competitive to rank for organically.
Most Local SEO strategies fall into this price range, but again, it depends on your market.
Think of it like this: a billboard on a busy highway with lots of traffic near a city is going to be a lot more expensive than a billboard on a one lane road in a small town.
Luckily for you, we offer free consultations in order to audit your website and search competitors and suggest a budget that will be realistic for you to reach your goals.
Medium Sized Businesses
For medium-sized businesses, the average cost is around $2,000 per month. This price includes more comprehensive keyword research, on-page optimization, content marketing, and more aggressive link-building.
A competitive national SEO or international SEO campaign could require at least $2500 to $10,000 a month.
Ultimately, it depends on where you’re starting and the competition of your industry.
For large businesses, the average cost of SEO services is around $5,000 per month. This price covers all aspects of SEO, including advanced keyword research, competitive analysis, website architecture optimization, very aggressive link-building strategies and overall brand awareness/visibility.
SEO pricing for large businesses can be drastically different due to the competitiveness of the market
Enterprise SEO Services
The cost of enterprise SEO services varies depending on the size and scope of the project. However, enterprise level projects typically start at $10,000 per month.
Please keep in mind that these prices are just averages and will vary depending on your specific needs.
Before talking to an SEO agency or consultant, be sure to be familiar with these pricing estimates so you can find the best fit for your goals.
However, not all SEO costs come in the form of monthly retainers. It’s also possible to pay per task or pay an hourly rate instead of a monthly retainer.
Common SEO Pricing Models
There are a variety of ways that agencies and SEO Professionals will structure the price for their services.
Your overall SEO cost can vary based on which of these different SEO pricing models work best for your specific needs.
The main SEO pricing models are:
- Monthly Retainer Based on Deliverables
- Monthly Retainer without Deliverables (no good)
- Hourly rates
- Project based
Monthly Retainer Based on Deliverables
Here at the HOTH we focus on itemized deliverables for your SEO campaign and many agencies who resell our services send those deliverables to their clients each month.
Most agencies follow this monthly retainer SEO pricing model.
What are we delivering?
Mainly Content and Backlinks.
You’ll often find full service agencies that lump SEO pricing into other services. Or a web design agency might charge for ongoing SEO work and “maintenance”.
This makes it easier for them to not report on actual SEO deliverables/reporting or get away with not actually doing SEO work.
That’s why we focus on itemized deliverables, so you can see exactly where your SEO budget is going for your customized SEO package.
Cost of Keyword Research and SEO audits
Specific SEO services like keyword research and an initial SEO audit of the website is normally how most SEO campaigns should start.
Standalone services for these can ranch from $500-$2000.
If you pay for a standalone keyword research project, it often doesn’t include any content creation or backlinks.
Content and links are what you need if your goal is to actually get organic traffic and want to do SEO correctly.
Cost of content Creation for SEO
Getting your site to rank for certain keywords is the first goal for many SEO campaigns.
To do this, you need helpful content that matches the user’s search intent of the keywords that you are trying to rank for.
How much does it cost to write content for SEO?
The infamous answer from SEOs:
Google might prefer a certain word count for your content. Depending on the optimal length of your web page, you might need to pay more for longer content.
Once you have content for your main service/sales pages, you also need to focus on creating consistent blog content to rank for other related keywords with certain search intent.
Content creation has evolved tremendously over this past decade. It’s becoming harder and harder to rank content that isn’t written by someone who is knowledgable and has done research on the topic.
Here is a great graphic from PeakFreelance.com.
The average freelance copywriter charges $350 -$399 for a 1500 word blog post according to this survey.
You could pay thousands of dollars for peer-reviewed content from a seasoned expert in their field or you could write content yourself.
Both strategies work when done correctly.
At the end of the day, optimized content costs are a big part of SEO pricing.
Cost of Link building services
The average price of a link by doing blogger outreach can range from as little as $100 – to over $4000 depending on the website you are getting a link from and the industry you are in.
Here is a great graph from the lovely folks at Ahrefs.
SEO prices depend on your company’s needs, goals and dreams. The majority of your monthly SEO costs generally goes towards link-building once your site is set up well from a content perspective.
If you’re looking to be a bit more knowledgable about the value of link-building, check out this other article I wrote for the HOTH blog: How to Identify Quality Backlinks
All SEO strategies require monthly attention, including linking and content creation. When done right, search engine optimization can’t be a single project.
It will require continuous improvements to the contents of the website. That’s why a monthly retainer is the most common SEO pricing model for SEO agencies.
It’s also why all of our customers at the HOTH have a personal SEO account manager to make sure we understand your goals.
Cost of on page SEO and technical SEO
Onpage SEO is making sure that the content on your pages can be understood by Search engines and users alike. This includes:
- Heading optimization (H1, H2, H3) and Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Image alt tags
- Internal links and more!
Technical optimization or Technical SEO involves optimizing your website and pages so that Google and crawl, index and understand the purpose of your pages.
Common technical SEO tasks include:
- XML sitemap audits in Google Search Console,
- Making sure Robots.txt isn’t blocking important pages,
- Checking error status codes
- Making sure the site uses HTTPS
- Other tasks to improve the site speed
Our SEO experts always check for technical and onpage SEO red flags before starting a managed SEO plan for our clients.
Monthly Retainer Without Deliverables
When an SEO agency provides ‘monthly SEO services” but doesn’t report on the work that they are doing each month, that’s a problem.
We’ve seen many business owners who were paying for SEO for years but weren’t aware of the actual work being done to improve their rankings. This creates distrust and doubt in the SEO service provider and often results in cancellation.
That’s not to say that they weren’t actually doing any work, they very well could have been and just not communicating it to their client.
But, who knows?
This is a huge red flag when looking at SEO pricing packages.
SEO Hourly rates/Consulting
Some SEO consultants will work on an hourly basis and charge you for the individual work that they do on your website.
Here at the HOTH, we don’t charge by hourly rates because we mainly focus on off-page SEO and creating content, we don’t make any onsite changes to your site.
Therefore, this structure doesn’t make much sense for us. But many small SEO agencies and SEO specialists use this pricing model.
Most consults who know what they’re doing charge $75-$150/hour.
Project Based SEO Services Pricing
Sometimes, an SEO company might charge only for a specific project related to a business’ SEO.
For example, they might just charge for redesigning your site structure for SEO, launching a blog section, Google Business Profile optimization for Local SEO or even a technical SEO overhaul.
Or perhaps just something simple keyword research and SEO copywriting for webpages to help get you ranking.
Project based SEO services usually don’t have much ongoing support. Once the project is done, the SEO company isn’t involved anymore after that.
Some SEO agencies provide SEO packages that contain a few basic tasks like a technical audit, keyword research and setting up tracking in Google Analytics.
An individual SEO Project could cost anywhere from $1,000 – $5,000 and is usually a one time payment.
Is there a standard for SEO prices in 2022?
In short, no. The cost of SEO in 2023 has no real standard.
This is partially due to the fact that the actual details of the services provided for “SEO” can be vague itself.
In the section above, I covered the most common SEO packages and those pricing model structures.
You could pay a SEO consultant hourly, or you could pay based on specific tasks like an audit or keyword research.
For example, you can pay $5 on Fiverr to get SEO keyword research. But it definitely won’t be all you need to do to see results.
And keep in mind, you get what you pay for.
SEO Agencies have no standardization in pricing, but that also means what there is no standardization when it comes to the quality of your SEO campaign.
If you’re not seeing the results you’re looking for, it’s EXTREMELY possible you are getting undercharged AND underdelivered on what’s needed to see results.
SEO costs can be as low as someone is willing to charge you in order for you to pay them.
How much does the average SEO services cost?
Because SEO offers a wide variety of services for digital marketers and business owners, there may be difficulty in estimating typical prices. Many SEO projects can cost up to $10,000 depending on the services provided and competition for that industry. SEO for a small local business costs a lot different than a multi-national corporation as discussed earlier in this post.
An SEO agency may also include consulting for an hourly fee or management fees.
Generally a 15-page website will have a lower price point while the E-Commerce site that sells more than 50,000 different products will typically need extra money to invest in SEO.
Most agencies will have a variety of SEO pricing packages based on the most common budgets.
The SEO pricing model of the agency you work with is one of the first clues to determine if they actually know what they’re doing.
If someone tells you that they can get you ranking #1 within 30 days with a budget less than $500/month, run.
Or you should already be working with them if they are telling the truth.
Why are you searching for other pricing options for SEO?
But odds are, a month from now, you’ll have wasted some money and won’t be any closer to the top of Google than your are now.
SEO Pricing Objections
Search engine optimization is an essential aspect in digital marketing for most websites.
It’s a long-term strategy that, when done right, becomes a permanent part of your yearly marketing budget.
So why are decision makers reluctant to have a dedicated SEO budget?
To be honest, a few reasons:
- They have been burned in the past and are hesitant to invest in SEO again.
- They were overcharged and the agency underdelivered (or didn’t do anything)
- The SEO agency didn’t report on progress
- They were given unrealistic expectations when it comes to budget or timeframe.
- They don’t think of SEO as a long-term marketing investment for your brand. They are expecting an “ROI” immediately. (more on this later)
- Both reasons 1 and 2
SEO costs are not uniform, so marketing agencies and SEO companies can charge what they wish. This causes a lot of confusion when trying to figure out how much to budget for your own SEO plan.
If a business owner doesn’t know better, they end up getting overcharged and the agency under-delivers.
Worst case scenario: Many people who are being charged for “SEO services” don’t receive any deliverables or reporting about the work that is being done because no work is actually being done.
Months later, when no progress is made, the business owner gets mad which leaves a bad taste in their mouth about SEO.
Every single day, I talk to business owners who have been in this same exact situation and think SEO is some “mumbo jumbo” made up by agencies to steal more money from businesses.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
A solid SEO strategy can end up saving you countless dollars on paid ads and other marketing efforts.
Let’s say I’m a roofer in Lakeland Florida.
When I search for my potential customers would search for, I’m not in the first 3 results.
In fact, my website is showing up on the fourth page of Google.
Who goes to the fourth page for ANYTHING?
That means I’m missing out on tons of valuable traffic, leads and ultimately, sales.
Local SEO services for small businesses can take those businesses to the next level.
If I get even 5 more roofing jobs per month because I’m on the first page of Google, that means I could hire new employees, buy a new truck or finally take some time off to spend with my family.
In other words, I would spend about $1000/month for at least 6 months to get 5 more roofing customers with a customer lifetime value of $8,000-$9,000 each.
I’d be crazy to not take advantage of that marketing investment.
The cost to get those leads via paid search require a much larger monthly investment, but it’s easier to track your return on investment.
If you’re worried about seeing a return before investing in an SEO campaign, you should check out this article about SEO ROI.
It can be hard to measure but you can’t argue the lasting value of showing up when your potential customers search for you.
The truth is, many business owners give up because they get impatient and opt for more short term digital marketing services like PPC (pay-per-click) ads before they can even see a return.
It is up to a business owner to do their due diligence to make sure that they find an SEO company that has proven success with clients so that they can focus their business. Sometimes that can be hard to find among SEO professionals.
SEO Pricing vs Paid Search Pricing
Getting traffic through organic search requires some investment and time. But it’s worth the patience.
Think about it – people pay upwards of $8-$30 dollars per click for an industry like Roofing when advertising on Google. This is known as Search Engine Marketing or SEM.
What if – instead, you were to rank in the organic results for that search and you didn’t have to pay per click for running ads?
That’s where SEO investment comes in.
Your SEO spend won’t bring in leads directly like your paid ads. But that’s ok! SEO is a long term investment strategy compared to running PPC ads.
You might not see much of an increase in traffic for 6-12 months with SEO depending on your competition and where you’re currently ranking.
But when you get to the top 3 positions for your main keywords, you’ll be receiving traffic and leads organically and your monthly SEO investment will start paying for itself.
You’re investing in your brand awareness and online presence for the long term.
Choosing an SEO Agency
As you can see, the cost of SEO services can vary widely depending on a number of factors. If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to consider doing some of the work yourself or hiring an inexpensive freelancer. However, if you have the money to invest and you want to make sure your website is ranking as high as possible in the search reuslts, it’s worth considering hiring a professional SEO agency.
Of course, the price is always subject to change as the industry evolves, but this should give you a general idea of what you can expect to spend in 2023.
Finding an SEO agency that charges a reasonable amount for an SEO audit, link building and general consulting can be difficult.
SEO Agency pricing models are all at least a little unique. As stated before, SEO pricing varies. And as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Quality SEO services can be pricey if you’re in a competitive market. That’s just the name of game to rank on search engine results pages (SERPs).
SEO companies often times are looked at in a bad light because the industry was plagued with providers who would over promise and under deliver.
In 2010, that all started to change with the birth of The HOTH.
Most SEO companies back then provided little to no customer support and often disappeared over night, leaving their customers in the dark.
HOTH stands for Hittem’ over the Head. In other words, to bludgeon with awesomeness.
Our job is to provide you with top-tier support and transparency when working on your SEO. That’s why over 1400+ businesses currently trust us with their managed SEO plan.
We have to price SEO services low because a big bulk of our clients are agencies that white-label and markup our services to their clients.
So rest assured that with us, you are getting the most bang for your buck
You can waste lots of resources on SEO efforts trying to learn it yourself. And frankly, most business owners don’t want to spend their time learning SEO anyways, they’d much rather be focusing on what they are good at – running their business.
That’s why you need to find a proven partner who knows what strategies will work for you.
If you need someone who will tell it to you straight and figure out how much SEO costs based on your business’ goals, book a call with me here.