Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is perhaps one of the most critical aspects of maintaining an online presence. SEO allows your website to be found in Google when someone is searching for the products or services that your business offers.
If you rank higher than your competition, your audience will be more likely to click on your website link than your competitors.
So how much should you invest in SEO for your business?
In this article, I’m going to discuss the factors that come into play when pricing SEO services and finding the best optimization service for your needs. And we’re going to run the gamut from hyper-low-end “SEO” to big company SEO, so let’s get going!
Why is SEO Important?
Let’s talk about numbers.
According to SmartInsights, the first three search results on the first page receive nearly a 69% click-through rate (CTR). Past that, people often stop looking.
Obviously, this is bad news if your website is on the third, fourth, or even fifth page since it means you’re barely getting any visitors to your website!
The good news is that you can improve your website’s ranking with SEO. Optimizing as many aspects as possible allows your page to get higher rankings, eventually making it to the first page where it should be.
Search engine optimization is a catch-all phrase used for specific tasks and processes that make your website much easier for search engines to find.
Search engines crawl through the web looking for websites that are considered the most relevant and trustworthy. The search engine uses a complex, fine-tuned algorithm that accounts for a wide variety of factors to judge your website’s relevance to the keyword and the trustworthiness of the content.
Optimizing your website, to put it simply, just means making your website fit the algorithm’s standards. It sounds simple, and in some ways it is. However, SEO is a deep topic and can be time-consuming to plan and execute effectively.
If you run a business that needs to see the fastest results possible, one of the best ways to optimize your website is to hire an SEO service.
What are SEO Services?
Some aspects of search engine optimization are simple enough. At the barest minimum, you need to insert the right keywords into your content. Often to rank well, you also have to insert keywords into your meta description and your images’ alt text.
But what if all your competitors are doing the same basic things?
This is why serious search engine optimization is a time-consuming and ongoing task, with a great deal of work required.
Depending on the depth you’re willing to delve into, some aspects of SEO can become incredibly technical. Some require different skill sets than what you might be expecting and need much effort and time.
Luckily, there are services designed to address this issue. These services are performed by professionals with the experience and technical expertise to make your website achieve the visibility it deserves.
If you’re looking to hire SEO services for your website, then you need to be aware of the different types to choose from.
Types of SEO Services
Not all optimization services are created equal. Some are going to work for you more than others, while some services will flat-out take your money and give you nothing.
All legitimate SEO service providers will have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s all just a matter of doing your due diligence and finding out which one best suits you and your business.
We’ll take a closer look at the most common types of SEO services that you will find on the market right now, categorized by SEO cost and capability.
Low-end SEO services are a dime a dozen and are typically the first type of SEO service you will encounter once you start looking. These are often seen in Facebook ads or display ads on various websites.
These services are usually marketed as budget or starter solutions. On average, they often have a monthly cost of around $500. What you can actually accomplish for that amount is minimal, and if you have competitors who are also doing low-end (or medium-end!) SEO, $500 may simply help keep you on Page 4 or wherever you currently rank.
And BTW, don’t expect stellar customer service for these rates.
In my 20+ years of doing SEO, I’ve never seen a low-end SEO campaign move the needle. In these cases, companies are probably just paying $500/month to check a box that says, “Do SEO”. The number is low enough that it doesn’t cause the business any real pain, and they can feel some level of confidence knowing they’re “doing SEO”. Or so they think.
Usually, freelancers or agencies offering these types of rates are either new to the business and inexperienced or simply cutting corners or using shady practices. This usually means resorting to poor optimization attempts or even “black hat” methods, which technically constitute “cheating” the algorithm.
Do your best to avoid low end services offering to game the algorithm, since Google heavily penalizes black hat strategies.
A huge part of running an SEO firm is building a reputation, so many new companies might start out giving unsustainably low rates to spread their brand and gain a solid customer base.
Keep in mind, though, that since they’re new to the business, they might not be as effective as some of the more established agencies.
In summary, a $500/month SEO campaign is more than likely pure wasted spend.
In 2024, $2500/month are the bare minimum “table stakes” for SEO in a local competitive niche such as auto repair, home services, office space rental agencies, dentists, HVAC, etc. In some cases, you may be able to squeeze it down to $2K/month with a heavily productized (i.e., not personalized) SEO service.
For this rate, you will get competitive research, content strategy, gap analysis, a modicum of link building and rank tracking/reporting with a degree of confidence that things are being handled correctly.
If you have less than $2500 to spend, you will have better results doing just about any other marketing activity, like gathering more reviews, posting on niche websites or working with micro-micro-influencers.
Unless you lucked out in searching or have a talented relative doing your SEO from the get-go, you’re unlikely to find high-quality, low-cost SEO.
If your SEO company charges $4,000 to $6,000 on monthly packages, it’s likely because you have medium-level competition and the expertise of the agency is in demand.
That said, you still need to do your research to figure out which ones are the best options for you.
Mid-range SEO will give you everything the lower end packages provide, and likely help you optimize your site architecture and produce strategically-targeted content. Towards the higher-end, they’ll provide a comprehensive strategy and might even take the leads with activities like producing, updating, public relations (PR), digital marketing, and influencer outreach.
This service package may well help you catch up to your competition, but to keep ahead in the long term, you must stay on it. Your competition will always try to outdo you.
A high-end SEO package coming in between $8K-$12K/month will help your website become more competitive in highly-competitive spaces. Not only are you likely to consistently rank high, but high-end optimization services are also geared to be sustainable for the long term.
Agencies that offer these services can typically handle any SEO need, including such tasks as:
- Page optimization
- Enhancing user experience
- Fixing technical issues
- Building detailed marketing funnels
- Improving customer conversion rates
This business model tends to come from highly competitive, established companies with multiple specialized teams. They’re usually very competent, but that also means that you need to prepare a healthy budget before hiring them.
That said, if your business website is starting to gain plenty of traction and you want to have an SEO plan for the long term, high-end SEO packages are perfect for you.
For high-level market leaders with the resources to invest, enterprise-level SEO is what will take you to the top. These packages can run from $25K/month, to $50K and higher. Typically, pricing is dependent on what the competition is doing. You simply can’t outdo another competitor who’s correctly spending $100K/month on SEO with a $25K/month service level.
Agencies that provide enterprise-level optimization services are usually top contenders in the SEO industry. Their brand is well-known, time-tested, and highly recommended.
Sure, you’ll have to shell out thousands or even millions of dollars monthly. However, SEO of this scale will not just launch your website to the top results but also carve your space in social and digital media.
Enterprise-level SEO encompasses all of your customer funnels and is designed to give you improved conversion rates over long periods. It includes high-quality, unique content, premium link building, and in-depth site optimization, among others.
How Can SEO Services Help My Business?
Search engine optimization is critical for making your website visible online, but how will it help small businesses? Here are a few of the essential benefits that optimization can bring.
- More leads and conversions. The primary benefit of optimizing your website is to get more leads from higher placement in search engine rankings. The higher ranked you are, the more likely you are to gain clicks.
- Better content. A significant part of SEO is optimizing your website and content for a better reading experience, so your audience will appreciate your message better.
- Improved brand authority. When you’re consistently ranking on the first page, your brand will be more visible to your audience and likely seen as more authoritative.
- Long-term growth. Good SEO is an ongoing process geared toward improved traffic in the long term. You can expect high-quality traffic to come in as long as you properly maintain best practices.
- Increased revenue. When done right, SEO is a good driver for revenue and better profit margins. It will increase the number of leads that you get and allow more potential customers to find your site.
As you can see, it’s an important fact that search engine optimization is one of the most impactful things you can do for your establishment’s online presence.
How Much Do SEO Services Cost on Average?
Now that you know how beneficial SEO can be for your business, you might be itching to hire an SEO professional to take care of your website.
Before you do so, though, you need to know the different payment models and the various price points of SEO services.
SEO Agency Pricing Models
The average hourly cost for optimization work is $100 to $250 per hour, according to a 2021 survey. With rampant inflation, these rates have increased in 2022.
Hourly pricing models typically use time trackers to monitor productivity and proceed with billing. Thus, an hourly rate pricing model is typically used by independent contractors or SEO freelancers.
This pricing model is more common when hiring mid-range SEO services. One survey suggested that small American businesses spend an average of around $500 per month on SEO.
Agencies are typically held on a monthly retainer and are given an agreed-upon price for their services. For instance, mid-range SEO services can cost around $10,000 on a monthly basis. The payment includes tasks such as keyword research, content writing, technical audits, link building, PR, etc.
Some SEO agencies offer specific services with fixed-price contracts. This can be for producing a particular type and amount of content, fixing a site problem, or other specific needs.
The price for fixed fees varies wildly depending on the agency and the kind of service that you’re requesting.
Larger SEO agencies and SEO professionals may steer you to a flexible, fixed project fee. This involves going over your needs and goals and then assessing the scope of the project before deciding on the final price.
There are a lot of factors that are up to negotiation when dealing with project-based pricing. One thing’s for sure, though: project-based contracts are highly customizable depending on your needs.
For example, you can agree to a fixed price paid one time or a fixed price paid in installments over several months.
It’s difficult to discuss an average price range since projects will differ widely in scope. Projects like these can go from $1,000 to $1M in price, depending on what the job entails. Typically these jobs are good for very specific KPIs and easily measurable goals.
Factors That Affect SEO Services Cost
SEO pricing isn’t cheap, but perhaps it will help you better estimate your budget if you know what goes into SEO services.
Many SEO agencies accept remote work nowadays, but some still maintain physical headquarters. This is especially true for larger and more established agencies, as well as local agencies focused primarily on helping local businesses.
Agency location comes into play because overhead expenses can vary depending on where they’re based. For example, an agency operating from Brooklyn will cost more than an agency from Abernathy.
If your budget is tight and the agency’s location isn’t important to you, consider hiring SEO companies from an area with a lower cost of living.
Expertise and Skill Set
The capability of your chosen agency to deliver results affects their price greatly. As you might expect, the better the results, the costlier the services tend to be.
You can gauge the agency’s expertise and skill set based on their years of experience and online reviews, so it would be useful to look into the company’s publications and online reviews about their service.
It would also be helpful to hire an agency or a freelancer with experience in your specific industry.
Not all content is created equal. Some are close to general knowledge and are easier to write and optimize. However, some require more technical knowledge of the topic.
This is why your industry or niche is an important factor in service pricing. Agencies charge different prices for different industries. The more technical, specialized, or new your industry is, the pricier high-quality contractors tend to get.
Here are three factors that your specific industry affects:
- Competition. SEO takes into account competition research. A more competitive industry will be harder to get into.
- Topic difficulty. Technical industries like tech and the sciences require writers with a more specific background. More in-demand writers will incur additional costs.
- Type of content. Different industries publish different types of content, such as short or long-form articles, walkthroughs, buyer guides, etc.
Your payment model can affect the budgetary requirements of your SEO services.
For example, hourly rates can mount up over time and easily go beyond your budget levels, especially if the tasks were more difficult than expected. On the other hand, since fixed prices can be agreed upon ahead of time, you can more easily plan around them.
Fixed prices are usually the answer if you want to be safer, while hourly rates are a good way to stay flexible.
Range and Scope
Optimization has different aspects and depths. The more extensive the scope of optimization is needed, the more expensive it will be.
For example, SEO operations that require publishing SEO content will be far cheaper than, say, fixing your website’s coding and optimizing site architecture. Agencies that can deliver a wide scope of services can command higher prices.
Before you agree on a price, a good SEO or marketing agency should conduct an SEO audit that will determine where you currently are in your goals.
The more behind you are, the more SEO work will be required, and consequently, the more your agency will charge you for it.
Inclusions of SEO Services
What tasks do SEO experts do? Here are a few of the most common inclusions in SEO services.
Keyword and Competitor Research
Research in SEO means two things: examining which keywords will likely raise your rankings and examining what your competitors are doing so you can beat them.
Both of these processes are time-consuming and technical. There are also many expert subscription-based tools that can be used to create more accurate results, further increasing costs.
Creating content is key, but what content to create is the difference between putting out a message, and putting out a message that people are actually interested in.
The right message can actually attract “natural” backlinks, and depending on the niche, a “power page” strategy can result in very natural, organic website growth.
Content Creation and Optimization
Also called on-page SEO, content creation and optimization is perhaps the most common SEO task. Your content needs to satisfy Google’s standards of readability and trustworthiness. Keep in mind that too much SEO leads to over-optimization, which isn’t good either.
SEO content creators know how to strike the right balance.
An in-house SEO team can do the most basic SEO efforts, but if you want your website to be better than the industry standard, it’s best to hire an agency to do this work for you. Optimizing content can easily become a full-time job on top of everything else you do for your site.
Thus, most SEO consultants, agencies, and freelancers will most likely have this service in their packages.
Link Building and Outreach
Link building is the act of reaching out to networks, influencers, and peers to give your work some exposure and hopefully increase backlink counts. Most SEO services include link building in their SEO service arsenal.
Backlinks are a significant factor in Google’s ranking algorithms. The more websites link back to your page, the more Google thinks that your content is noteworthy and original.
If you want your SEO projects to be effective, you need to know your audience intimately. Background research involves creating a profile of your followers so that you can market your content to them more effectively.
Essentially, this phase involves determining what your target audience wants so that you can deliver it to them better.
One of the most technical and complicated aspects of SEO is optimizing your site’s coding. This process is called technical SEO, and it involves improving parts of your website’s code so that audiences will have a better experience.
Examples of specific tasksthey will perform include inserting internal links, optimizing images, and streamlining home access.
Another technical aspect of SEO is making sense of your site’s numbers and recommending future actions according to results. Site analytics involves looking at website statistics such as page views and bounce rates and then creating a data-centric strategy based on this.
5 Mistakes When Choosing SEO Services
Hiring SEO services is a time-consuming and costly endeavor. Simply put, you can’t afford pitfalls when choosing services, or it’s going to be a big drain on your resources.
Thus, here are five mistakes to avoid when you’re shopping around for an agency to do your SEO services.
Don’t fall for agencies that guarantee you a specific spot in SERP rankings. Even if SEO services will increase your rankings, the truth is nobody knows where you’ll end up.
There are just too many factors at play and your SEO does not control Google or your competitors. For example, your competitors might be gearing up their SEO around the same time as you, and actually achieve better results.
An agency that guarantees you a spot in the first SERP is likely to ultimately fail in their promise, use deceptive marketing practices, or use black hat strategies to improve your site performance in the short term. Black hat strategies are impractical and dangerous, and you risk being penalized when you get caught.
If you’re conducting clean strategies then you simply can’t tell where you will end up in SERP placements. If anyone offers to put you in a certain spot in the rankings, they are likely inexperienced, lying, or willing to use illegal means.
SEO is a long game, and doesn’t guarantee instant results. Your website itself doesn’t bring your results – your audience does. In other words, there’s no direct impact when it comes to SEO since its effects manifest gradually.
When changes in your website are implemented, it still takes some time for your audience to search for and find your websites. These positive results organically accumulate over time and snowball into greater audiences and increased leads, but it won’t happen instantly.
Your SEO agency or freelancer should be forthcoming about this.
Contractors that promise you immediate results are far more likely to use illegal strategies to boost your ratings in the short term, so it’s a good idea to avoid them as much as possible.
Extremely Cheap Rates
We’ve talked about the average costs of SEO services in the previous sections, but what services do you need for your specific projects?
To get a better understanding of the price of the SEO services that you want, you should conduct your own in-depth research.
When you do, make sure that you don’t fall for agencies with rates far below the average. This is usually a sign that they’re inexperienced or cutting corners. Do your due diligence.
No Prior Experience
It’s unrealistic to expect high-quality output from an agency or freelancer that lacks prior professional experience, so you have to be very careful when hiring them.
That said, you can still find diamonds in the rough. Talented, dedicated, and collaborative agencies or freelancers have a lot going for them, even though they may not yet have the experience to back it up.
Still, you should be extremely careful when looking to hire those who are new to SEO. Think about assigning them a small project first and see how they do and how you work together. When you’ve gained confidence in their abilities, you can assign them a more significant SEO campaign.
How to Choose the Best SEO Service
Choosing the right SEO services for your needs is crucial if you want to get the most value out of your budget. Now that you know what to avoid when choosing a third-party service, you should know what you can do to find the best service for your needs.
The good news is that there are definitely things you can do to choose an SEO service that will get you the best results.
Check Their Website or Profile
The first step is to look at a potential contractor’s website or check their LinkedIn qualifications. This will give you an idea of their professionalism.
Don’t just look at how well their website is designed, either. Conduct thorough research on what they put out.
Also, check for spelling or grammar errors. SEO deals heavily with content production, and it says a lot if they can’t even use the right grammar or spelling in their profiles or websites.
Look for Evidence
Looking for case studies is one of the best ways that you can ascertain how well they perform in the real world.
These are narratives of how their services have helped SEO clients and tackled specific problems. Usually, these posts should also have ties to the clients they helped, like links to their official website, and videos of actual interviews.
If proof of their positive impact is easily accessible on their website or upon asking, it means that they’re proud of their work and can back it up with testimonials.
On the other hand, if you can’t find case studies on their website, or if they refuse to give you some, then you should be suspicious.
Look at testimonials on their website, or search their agency name on review platforms like TrustPilot. Customer reviews will reveal not just their performance but also how well they communicated, things that stood out while working with them, etc.
Customer reviews are also a good gauge of their experience.
A long list of authentic customer reviews means that they’ve been in operation for a long time, while few or no reviews at all should raise red flags.
Inquire about Their Methods
The best SEO services should only use white hat strategies.
Schedule a formal meeting with their representatives and ask for official confirmation that they don’t use black hat strategies to optimize your sites.
If they’re being cagey, or are unwilling to divulge specific information about their SEO methods, you should be cautious in proceeding further.
Request Case Studies
A great way to ascertain an agency’s expertise is by asking for samples of their work. Ask for sample deliverables along with their pricing to gauge their expertise in content creation, PR, etc. This will give you a better idea of what their services will do for you.
SEO Services Pricing: Conclusion
In the age of the internet, establishing an online presence is one of the most impactful things that small business owners can do. But if you want your website to have the best chances of succeeding online, you need to have a great SEO strategy, and you can’t do it alone.
High-quality SEO services will help you launch your business to online prominence, but you have to be willing to pay for the quality that you receive.
Don’t be tempted with extremely low rates and other unrealistic promises — you will likely suffer for it later. Instead, choose a highly competent, white-hat SEO agency like Boomcycle.