How Much Does Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Cost? There’s unfortunately no straight forward way to answer that question. It can vary widely based on the niche, level of competition, and experience of the SEO firm. Think about buying a house — a basic, small house might cost $200,000, while a mid sized house in a nicer area might cost $500,000, and a really nice luxurious mansion might cost $1,000,000+.
SEO is fairly similar — you get what you pay for, and the cost can really vary based on numerous factors. This article will act as a 100% unbiased guide to understanding the various SEO providers available, the costs associated with SEO, and what some rough figures are for SEO campaigns.
Let me start by saying that this article is not meant to be an outline of our SEO prices at The Marketing Masters. The only way for us to accurately assess your project is to request a consultation. These are simply industry averages and pricing models so you can better understand the process of finding a web designer to work with.
The 4 Pricing Models
There’s really 4 main pricing models that arise in the SEO industry, each one having pros and cons, and some making more sense for some businesses than others:
- Per Link Packages
- Per Project Packages
- Per Keyword Packages
- Per Month Packages
Per Link Packages
These are fairly common with SEO companies that are not full service companies. These SEO providers often engage in off site SEO but don’t offer any keyword research or on site SEO. As a general rule of thumb, I advise staying away from these types of packages as they generally don’t deliver any ROI for your business.
Per Project Packages
Some SEO providers charge you per project, that is they will offer you page 1 rankings for a set price. These SEO providers are also called “pay when you rank” and while it might sound attractive, I advise staying away from these types of packages as these SEO providers will generally do whatever it takes to get you ranked quickly (so they get paid) but in the long run your rankings will hardly ever stick. There’s nearly zero ROI when your site doesn’t stay ranked in search results, and that’s typically what you get on this type of package.
Per Keyword Packages
Per keyword SEO providers calculate their costs on a per keyword basis. Each keyword means additional on site optimization and off site link building work, so this is a viable model to follow. These providers generally are looking to work with you for a long time frame and sustain long term results, and generally will charge a monthly fee for each keyword on your campaign.
Per Month Packages
Probably the most common and what we offer at The Marketing Masters, per month packages generally are custom tailored or predesigned packages that have a set number of keywords, links, and amount of work in mind. The client pays a monthly fee for that level of service and the firm optimizes the site according to the package or custom proposal put together. This generally is a beneficial, long term relationship as the SEO firm wants to keep the client around so they deliver quality results to assist the client in seeing a good ROI and staying on board.
Comparing Bids To Decide On A Vendor
Pricing in SEO varies so widely from one firm to another, and in general the pricing reflects the type of work being done by the SEO firm. When you have a SEO firm offering services for $100 per month, they are likely just plugging your site into a software to spam other sites and build links. When you have services ranging from $200 to $400 per month, you are generally dealing with a firm who is building average quality links to your website and engaging in basic on site optimization work for your keywords. When you have services ranging from $500 up to $1,000, you are generally dealing with a firm who is building above average quality links for a moderate amount of keywords and properly optimizing all aspects of your website. And when you have services ranging from $1,000 up to $100,000 you are generally dealing with a firm offering high quality link building and full on site optimization.
Now these prices can vary based on the number of clients the firm has, how specialized the firm is, how many links they build per month, their level of experience, and other factors. I’ve seen great SEO work done at $300 per month, while I’ve seen terrible work done at $5,000 per month, so it’s important to carefully review the potential SEO provider to see if they list any testimonials, case studies, or other information about their services before you get started.
Common SEO Campaign Prices
There’s no such thing as a one size fits all approach to SEO prices. They really do vary based on hundreds of factors, however below we’ve broken it down into basic categories to try and give some pricing for standard monthly SEO packages:
A Small, Local SEO Campaign
- Outsourced overseas or by a freelance SEO provider: $100 to $500 per month
- US Based SEO Firm: $300 to $1,250 per month
An Average SEO Campaign
- Outsourced Overseas or by a freelance SEO provider: $250 to $750 per month
- US Based SEO Firm: $500 to $2,000 per month
These prices will vary from one SEO company to another depending on their level of experience, link building methods, and other operational processes.
An Agressive SEO Campaign
- Outsourced Overseas or by a freelance SEO provider: $600 to $1,500 per month
- US Based SEO Firm: $1,250 to $4,000 per month
A Highly Competitive SEO Campaign
- Outsourced Overseas or by a freelance SEO provider: $900 to $2,000 per month
- US Based SEO Firm: $1,750 to $10,000+ per month
A Basic Guide For About 10 Hours Of Work (A Standard Monthly Campaign)
- Freelancer: $200-$1,000 ($20 to $100 per hour)
- SEO Firm: $500-$2,000 ($50 to $200 per hour)
- High End SEO Expert/Firm: $1,000 to $2,500 ($100 to $250 per hour)
Bear in mind that SEO costs can vary from one local market to another, and from one competitive market to another. The level of competition, number of keywords, size of the campaign, and length of time until you want to see results all factor into the final pricing of the SEO campaign. The number one variation in pricing deals with off site SEO, or link building. A higher end SEO provider will be using link building methods that are less likely to get your site penalized by search engines and more likely to deliver long term results, while a lower end SEO provider will be using link building methods that are more likely to get your site penalized by search engines and less likely to deliver long term results. Some businesses fell comfortable with the added risks, others don’t, and some look for a middle ground. These are all things that should be discussed with your SEO provider before you sign up and begin the campaign.
It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to a SEO and SEM campaign, you often get what you pay for. Shop around, look for case studies and testimonials, and talk to people until you find the person that you think can handle your business’ SEO campaign. A SEO provider isn’t just about their skill in optimizing your website; you should also look into their level of customer service, availability, accountability, tools available to aid the campaign, communication, and how well you think you can work with them.