If you’ve ever considering hiring an online marketing specialist, a company to run an SEO campaign, or someone to optimize your online business presence, you’ve probably done a little research, requested a quote, and then asked, “SEO Costs How Much?!”
In its most basic form, SEO is a technique that allows users to find your website and receive your message—just like ad space in a magazine or newspaper, or air time to show your commercial. The means of delivering your message with SEO, however, can be more expensive than what it took to create it.
Let’s say it costs between $2500 to $50,000 to shoot and produce a local commercial, but it may cost anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 per month to buy local airtime on TV for it to reach your target market. The commercial is the message, and the TV airtime is the means to deliver it. Similarly, it may have only cost $500 to print graphics, but getting the ad space in a magazine or newspaper can cost upwards of $3000 to $10,000 for a full page in a local magazine, and national magazines can range from $150,000 to $800,000 for a full page.
As for your online presence, it may cost anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 to produce a great website, but then what? Just like with other forms of media, you need a way to get your message to your demographic and prospective clients. This is where search optimization comes in. It comes in the form of organic SEO, social media campaigns, or search engine marketing (SEM).
So why is SEO so expensive?
SEO can be complex with many moving parts that need to be continuously monitored, updated, tracked, and adapted to evolving web trends.
For those of you who are familiar with economics or even game theory, you may have heard the term “zero sum game.” It’s a mathematical representation of a situation in which a one person’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the loss or gain of another. If the total gains and losses are added together, it will equal zero. This is the nature of SEO. It’s incredibly competitive. If you increase your rank in any way, your competitor’s rank will decrease.
An SEO specialist has to have a very diverse skill set to be good at what they do, or will require a team of people in each discipline to be successful.
An in-depth knowledge of reputable online marketing techniques
A solid understanding of the constantly evolving search engine algorithms
The ability to decipher cryptic analytics data and apply it to your business
An extensive knowledge of how user experience factors into SEO
(Good)Content writing capabilities
Web design or website development skills
Most of this list probably doesn’t come as a surprise, except for web design and development. Each search engines’ scanners will “crawl” your website and put it through the ringer. They of course look at your content and images, but will also examine your code-to-text ratios, image-to-text ratios, the tracking data that’s embedded in your images, server speed, number of design updates, etc. All of these things require the skill set of a web designer who is trained to optimize a website’s HTML by removing unnecessary code, creating or correcting images, balancing ratios, or compressing HTML files to increase page load speeds.
When you take these things into consideration, it’s understandable why it can be costly, but well-executed SEO campaigns will provide great rewards for your business. If you’re not sure whether you need help with your SEO efforts, there are free services that allow you to check pages on your website for errors, areas that need improving, and areas where you’re doing well. Google Analytics, SEO Site Checkup and Marketing Grader are all great free tools that allow you to check an overview of everything from back-links to social media traffic to proper image tags.
Knowing how your website is doing, can help you make a decision on whether or not you should hire a company to assist in your SEO efforts. Most agencies offer month to month membership services, one time site optimizations, or per-project campaign options.
SEO Costs to Expect
Month to Month Price Ranges
$250-$750 per month—Great option for smaller service businesses, single location companies, or niche services that might be limited geographically, such as hair salons, landscapers, daycare’s, shoe repair, attorney’s, and general contractors. This is also a choice for businesses that are new to SEO and just “getting their feet wet”.
$750-$2,000 per month—This price range is also for business that may be limited geographically, but have a product that needs to reach a wider range of people, or perhaps have a lot of competition. Dry cleaners, car dealers, law firms, small chain of retail stores, etc.
$2,000-$6,000 per month—This option covers your particular region, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Midwest, East coast, etc.
More than $6,000 per month—This is the large company, national coverage, or international campaign option. National automotive dealers, insurance agencies, large scale software publishers, grocery chains, etc.
Per Project Campaigns
One time site audit and optimization: $600-$2,000—This is a great option for smaller websites, or for a company that has an employee or team that can take the reins if given a snap shot of where you are in your marketing and a plan. The audit involves going through all your content, links, URL’s, images, html, navigation structure, and composition. Firms will review present and past data to see what you need to work on going forward.
In-depth audit: $3,000 – $20,000—This is for large websites or businesses with multiple locations, larger target markets, and given the size of the project, can take much longer. Many firms also include training sessions, tutorials, whitepapers to teach you how to optimize going forward, and even in-person training if you prefer.
Self explanatory, and includes all of the above but you pay an hourly rate. Most marketing or advertising firms charge between $75 and $200 per hour for SEO, depending on the complexity of the campaign or amount of people need to run it.
*Prices are based on national survey of 500 SEO and marketing firms in the US