How much should SEO cost? Do you really have the time and patience to sift through all the information on the web and shop the various programs and prices out there? Does SEO terminology seem so confusing you might a need a degree from MIT to understand it? I cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction! The changes in Google’s search results are affecting my site traffic and driving me to insanity! Is SEO dead? I will not get any traffic or drive any business unless I am ranked on page one! Can you guarantee page one rankings? How long will it take to get my site on page one?
One thing is certain anyone who is promising you fast results on a small budget or guaranteed page one rankings … they’re selling you magic beans.
Have some time to learn how Google search works?… meet Matt Cutts Leader of the Webspam team at Google
How much should SEO cost?
Let’s start with the old SEO chicken and the egg bit I often have with potential clients, “well if I’m not on page one “organic results” then it doesn’t really matter how great my site is I won’t get any traffic!”. Nothing could be farther from the truth!. There are many different methods paid and unpaid to engage people and drive traffic such as social sites , article submissions, social bookmarking, videos, PPC ads to name a few. “Well then if I don’t need all that page one traffic for rankings then I need lots and lots of back links right?” sorry wrong again, ever heard of the saying “Quality over quantity? Aggressive link building, link sharing or buying links is the fast track to getting a Google penalty, getting spamdexed or permanent blacklisting. Sites with aggressive or unnatural link campaigns are disappearing from the index exponentially. Just recently, Expedia a well-known travel site was given a penalty and the cost of removing those links if possible is extremely expensive, more than any
SEO takes your content and leverages it towards search engines
I’m going to share an industry secret, great SEO is all about organically producing quality content and optimizing your website to help spiders crawl and search engines index a website accordingly to quality and relevancy for a given search term. With great content comes relevancy, then traffic…and ultimately rankings. Well I need that done in two weeks. Does that sound natural to you? The quicker you climb the quicker you will fall. Google is up to date with all the SEO tricks, search results got smarter allot smarter.
Hiring an SEO professional is just like hiring a mechanic
Much like a car engine SEO has many mechanical parts that all need to be tuned and in perfect sync to work right. Just recently, I had a breakdown with my car. When my mechanic told me what it would cost to repair or replace the “master cylinder,” I had no clue what a master cylinder is or does, nor did I have any idea of what it should really cost to fix. Although the sign on the wall said “By law rates must be displayed, starting rate $100 per hour” my thoughts we jeez that’s expensive and I was getting ripped off, but I knew he was a professional, well experienced and trained, but more importantly I trusted him to do a professional job done right. Trust is the hardest thing to find and the easiest to lose. Nevertheless, finding a good mechanic like an SEO professional can be extremely challenging. One mechanic will look at your car and quote you one price, and another double that. It is far easier to go with the cheaper price especially when all mechanics seem the same and your budget is limited. Then you start wondering whether the cheaper guy really knows what he’s doing. Is he cutting corners, using inferior cheaper parts that might break and get you back at the mechanic the next week why are his prices so different from the others? Hiring the right SEO firm is a lot like hiring the right auto mechanic. A lot of it comes down to trying to understand what hiring an SEO firm should cost. What should hiring a company or SEO professional cost? I wish I could tell you that it should cost next to nothing. I can tell you that Good SEO cannot be done for $250 dollars a month. Follow the logic, would you hire a mechanic who gets paid $15 dollars an hour to overhaul your entire engine and complete that total engine overhaul in sixteen and half hours? Would you have peace of mind driving that car? Here is a list of what you get for the low low low price of 250 dollars a month taken word for word off a website with my commentary (I won’t reveal whose you can Google that yourself).
- Campaign overview ( We will look at your website and think of something)
- Complete site evaluation (Isn’t that the same things as above?)
- Search engine diagnostics and adjustments ( Again isn’t that part of or the same as above or are you going to diagnose and adjust Google, Yahoo and Bing in my favor?)
- Site enhanced for optimal search engine performance (Ok here is some ambiguity what do you do exactly? will you create for me a sitemap? revise my content? fix my W3c erros, optimize site speed? )
- Weekly traffic reports (Thank you I can get daily’s from my dashboard or this new tech called Google Analytics)
- Weekly conversion analysis reports for eCommerce websites ( Ok finally something of value)
- Custom Link building campaigns (Uh oh what are you going to do? guest post, drop links, spam? Link farm? buy links?)
- Increased search ranks (And how are you going to achieve this? I dont see marketing in your features or by the previous feature of link building?)
- Google Shopping setup and management included in price (ecommerce sites) (Wow sorry has Google Products really caught on?)
- Google Places management included in price (Ahhh local listings, we have a winner!)
- Basic PPC management included in price (if desired) (What keywords? will you make my campaign cost effecient, Im in a highly competitive market and don’t have a big budget)
- No setup fee (Is this really a benefit? and is it not part of benefit 1,2, and 3?)
- Regular phone communication (What is regular phone communication? are you available to take my calls if a problem arises?)
- We have a 100% record for achieving page 1 results ( Yes and this technique works 100 percent 50 percent of the time and how did you receive the 100 percent record? Ill be nice you should rephrase this to “We have a proven track record of achieving page 1 results)
Can you spot anything here that actually requires physical work? In all seriousness, SEO should be thought of as an investment rather than a project. It should yield a positive return (ROI) and therefore absorb the costs or subsidize alternative methods of marketing such as print media or television ads.
As an SEO professional I could give you analogies and throw out confusing tech jargon to explain why I can’t simply throw out a price, and eventually you would want to pull your hair out and scream “Oh fudge, just tell me how much!” However, the truth is its completely dependent on your exact and current online presence and the elements that are contributing to poor performance. Asking what SEO costs is a bit like shopping for a new car, you could get an economy car a sports car or maybe a super car “So, how much is a new car?” The intelligent response is “It depends. What are you looking for?” A dealer may ask you what you’re going to use it for, how often will you’ll drive it, what you do for a living, and a number of other questions to find the right car for you. Moreover, if you need a Mercedes you are going to pay a substantially different price than if you need a KIA. The good news is that I am going to give you actual prices below and statistics of what most SEO companies charge, but first, let us look at factors that affect the price of SEO services.
Methods of SEO Payments The majority of SEO companies or professionals use the following reimbursement models for SEO projects: Pre Paid Monthly retainer: Is a set monthly fee paid each month in exchange for Enterprise SEO services. A monthly retainer being the most common and popular payment model, because it provides the greatest return on investment and provides security for the SEO provider regarding reimbursement for said services. A monthly retainer agreement should include regular analytics reports, on-page/off-page content improvements and optimization, press releases, blogging, social media marketing, natural link building, keyword research, and conversion optimization. Ala Carte Contract services at fixed prices: Most SEO agencies break up their services that would be normally provided with a monthly retainer. This is often a popular choice for clients before they are ready to commit to a monthly retainer paid on a month-to-month basis for services that are needed. This is often called ala carte SEO services with a set price per service. A typical example of this can be SEO website audits, keyword analysis, keyword density analysis, competition analysis or A to B testing. All of these services can be used to determine existing strengths and weaknesses in the client’s online presence. Per Project-based pricing: Project fees are very similar to contract services except that they are custom designed projects created specifically for the client’s needs. Pricing will vary according to the depth of the project. A good example of “Project-based pricing would be a local business that may want an SEO agency to supplement them with their own local online marketing efforts. Both the client and the SEO professional determine the depth and scope of the project. Hourly consulting: This is an hourly fee in exchange for SEO services, information or consultation. Most SEO agencies practice all of these payment models or combination thereof. Likewise, clients may want to work with an agency using more than one method. Infographic by SEOmoz & AYTM Market Research
Average SEO Costs
Here’s a the result of the survey of the range of the costs according to the payment methods from above by MOZ $250-$500 per month: If you are a small local, business that is limited geographically, (Contracting Company, dental office, Law Office, restaurant, dry cleaning) you might get by with a budget in this range. However be fair warned it’s at this price level most SEO use black hat techniques and not much on-page/off-page optimization it’s all about quick and dirty ranking for keywords. Monthly retainer: $750-5,000 per month. Within this price range, the amount is proportional to the size of the business and the depth and scope of services provided. The lower end of this price range usually is small SEO agencies that offer limited services or may outsource work. On the upper range are businesses that need more demanding work such as total enterprise SEO. The majority of businesses pay between $2,500 and $5,000 for a monthly retainer of enterprise SEO. This should include managing your entire web presence through on and off-page optimization, SEO copy creation and revision, site content analysis and auditing, natural link building, social media media marketing, local SEO, press releases and reporting. Project-based pricing: price variable. Since there are a variety of projects, there is a wide range of prices. Most projects cost from $1,000 to $30,000. Hourly consulting rate: $100-300/hr. Professional SEO consultants, whether individuals or company, usually charge between $100 and $300 per hour*these figures are from a 2011 SEOmoz survey of 500 consultants and agencies.
Warning signs and red flags, you should be concerned about!
In order to completely understand what you are paying for you need to understand a few warnings to help protect you against nefarious SEO agencies and black hat SEO professionals with unethical business practices that could lead to permanent black listings or penalties with Google. You have been fairly warned, recognizing the red flags could save you hundreds if not thousands dollars. Be very suspicious of promises that look and sound like this: Guarantees. A professional SEO company will and cannot provide guarantees due to the secrecy and ever changing nature of the industry. SEO is all about leveraging your content against these algorithyms and every business is different and has challenges and different levels of competition. There is no such thing as Instant results. Although, some SEO techniques can get “instant results” by tricking the system. Be warned that these can and will only harm your site in the long run, search engines will find and catch up to you no matter how influential you are. Instant results often involve black hat or grey hat SEO techniques that are strictly forbidden according to webmaster guidelines outlined by search engines. This is and was the entire sole purpose of the last three biggest changes in Google’s algorithm, Panda 2.0, Penguin and Hummingbird. Google actively seeks out those websites who cheat and trick the system for traffic and rankings and will penalizes them, resulting in lost rankings, traffic, income and permanent blacklisting from search results that may never be recoverable. Simply anyone who guarantees nothing but 100% dedication is risking your business for their gain. #1 spot on Google. If an agency promises you the number one spot on Google it may be too good to be true. It is possible for niche key terms to achieve those results but for medium to highly competitive key terms it is a complete gamble how your provider will do this. However, it’s not something that a firm can promise to hand over to you nor should they because your focus should be on relevancy and quality thus driving traffic not rankings. For example if you rank page one for “Green Cow Milk” what good is it if the search volume is 3 searches per day? Costs lower than $750/month. When it comes to SEO, you shouldn’t be shopping for the lowest price; you’re seeking the highest level of service within your budget with continued support and expedient communication. If your SEO professional has enough they will adjust their quote to help you maintain a quality program, longevity is key. Be aware of advertised set prices or “Incredible deals.” and nefarious link building services. Before you enter a contract or an arrangement with an SEO professional or company at lower price points make sure that their link building services are ethical, white hat or organic. Please Keep in Mind. If you are shopping for an SEO company or professional before you make any decisions understand the following points:
- SEO is a process not a project and it takes time to rank naturally with stability.
- SEO changes, and your rankings will change, too.
- Not all SEO services are created equal, ask questions, get data and reports, research your provider in search engines, linkedin, trustcloud check their history and reviews.