What Does SEO Cost?
8 Minutes, 1 Seconds
Written By John Marx
Hiring someone to handle your companies search engine optimization (SEO) is like that of hiring a quality mechanic. Having a mechanic you can trust is to live with your mind at piece. Finding a good mechanic though can be a nightmare. One mechanic will look at your car and give you one price, and another will give you a price that is twice as much for the same amount of work. It would be easy to choose the cheaper one, but then you start wondering whether that guy knows what he's doing, if he is using cheaper parts that will break down the road and land you back in the repair shop in a few weeks.
One might think that SEO shouldn't cost anything as an SEO as a whole is an investment and that investment should return dividends of information. This would mean SEO should, in all accounts, cost you nothing. The true cost for SEO is it truly depends on what you are looking to do in regard to SEO. We are going to outline many of the options you need to consider which in-turn will determine what your SEO is going to cost you based on the factors you need for your SEO plan. Yes, there is, and should be, a lot of planning when developing an SEO objective and not doing so will make you feel as if your SEO results are not paying you the dividends that you want.
Are you going to be doing your SEO once and hoping it pays off forever or are you going to work on improving your SEO on an ongoing basis? If your needs are temporary where you need an SEO company to handle 301 redirects for the launch of your new eCommerce or a site redesign the cost will be less and typically you are billed for that project. If you however have a need to indefinitely market your company to get your brand and products out to the public then you will most likely be billed a monthly retainer or an agreed upon amount per month which will cover the services that you've agreed on. These services can be a fixed price or based on an hourly price. Most SEO firms will offer a project-based approach so that you can keep your costs in-line with your company’s budget.
Choosing a bigger firm is not necessarily the best fit for your company either. When it comes time to choose an SEO firm you need to choose the company that will work with you and your business plan. This means they will not make you conform to their rules. Rather they will conform to strategically align with your objectives. Many large SEO firms will try and get you to agree to the one-size-fits-all plan as it allows them to put your company in a factory line to make as much money as possible from you. Services for small and local businesses may have similar needs on the surface but may not have the same needs when it comes to an SEO plan. Smaller, and family owned firms (5-30 employees) are typically more apt to offer high-end, customized services that will exceed your expectations as they will be competitive with the larger SEO firms but also work directly with you and customize your SEO marketing to meet your goals. 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.
The next factor to consider is who do you plan on marketing to? Is it a world-wide, country specific, regional or local market you want to reach? The audience that you are trying to expose your services to can heavily influence what you'll pay for your SEO. The larger, and more competitive, the market the more you should expect to spend for your online marketing campaigns.
If you are a large multi-national organization you will need to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to get your word out. If you're one of a few Chinese restaurants in Michigan City, Indiana, then you need nothing more than a simple overhaul of your website, and some light work making sure your Google Maps and Yelp profiles are set up correctly. The pricing examples below are approximations to give you a feel of what it might cost. This doesn't mean these are written in stone prices as every SEO project is unique and different.
SEO audits are where you pay an SEO firm to look at your entire page content on how it factors into the current rules for being indexed on the search engines. This covers your titles, description, keywords, other Meta information, page layouts, content, spelling, URL structure, HTML code, and other factors. For a 10 page site this can be around 5-10 hours of work to produce. You will receive a comprehensive report listing out each page and what improvements can be made using the latest SEO guidelines on how to improve them.
The deliverable document that you receive will be a valuable starting place for your technical employee on staff to start implementing the changes for you. For companies without a technical employee on board, the deliverable would do little more than provide you a starting point to go out and get quotes from other SEO firms or as a baseline to validate the work the SEO firm does for you. A deliverable document is also a way to determine how quickly the SEO firm can turn around work for you, the quality of the work, and if it aligns with your organizations business.
A basic SEO audit will start around $600 and go up based on the size of your site. A more detailed SEO audit that covers more pages can range from $3,000 to $20,000. A detailed SEO audit can take quite a bit more time than a basic audit. More than just general guidelines and examples, a detailed audit is a step-by-step manual on what needs to be done on every page of a client's website to optimize it. It removes all guesswork, and the final deliverable is effectively a how-to book on SEO, custom tailored for the client site. When we provide a detailed audit the document can be several hundred pages long. The only reason we would perform a detailed SEO audit for a client in this manner would be if we were unable to have access to their website. Doing a detailed audit can easily take twice as long to explain all of the necessary changes needed.
The more niche your market the less you will typically have to pay as there will be less competition for the keyword phrases that you want to address.
$65-$600 per month. If you've got a small business that is limited geographically (e.g., landscaping company, auto repair garage, dental office, self-storage facility, restaurant, medical facility, local news and information) then you may be able to get by with a budget in this range.
Mid-Size Business Packages
$600-$1,500 per month. If your market is limited geographically by the nature of your business, but it's a larger population you're targeting, then this budget should work fine for local marketing. $600 per month might work for a self-storage company in a town with a population of 5,000, but will not get the same job done in a town of 50,000. You may be able to pay $1,500 per month and get a decent national campaign if your business is extremely focused without too much competition.
$1,500-$10,000 per month. If your target market is regional (e.g. intermountain west, west coast, east coast, Midwest), national, or international you're looking at a minimum of $2,000/month, and that's if you're selling a niche product or service without much competition. The more mainstream the product, the more you'll have to pay to rise above your competitors.
National and International Packages
$10,000+ per month. For a national or international campaign that isn't focused on a niche audience, expect to pay more than $10,000 per month. There is virtually no end to what you can do, despite some hype over the past year about over-optimization penalties. You can never create too much high quality content, and for some companies a constant stream of new content is the SEO strategy for success, even if the cost of producing that content is quite high.
Once again, what you pay depends on what you're buying. Your needs need to be determined. We have listed a few common projects that we've done in the past and the prices that we have quoted for SEO work for those projects. The key item to remember is that each project is unique and different. A project you do today and another a year from now, even if similar, could produce different costs based on ever changing technology.
Once you've determined whether your needs are temporary or ongoing, what size of SEO firm matches your business, and whether your target market is niche or broad, local or global or somewhere in between, you'll be in a position to better understand what you can expect to pay for SEO and why.
If you fall into the SEO audit, Startup or mid-size business packages then JM2 Webdesigners would be a great fit for you as these are the markets that we are focused on. We will be flag to assist in the other packages but they are not are primary area of focus.
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