Many business owners question the cost of quality SEO but forget that organic search marketing is an investment, not just a price tag. Just like other life lessons when it comes to search marketing – you get what you pay for.
“So how much is this going to cost me?”
You’re greeted with a long uncomfortable silence, then a “well…that depends.”
And it’s absolutely correct. No single campaign strategy is right for every business, nor is it something that can be templated and applied to all at once. Each campaign is fluid, requiring a mix of skillsets to achieve the best results and pivot when something unexpected occurs.
At Shero Marketing we manage campaigns at affordable prices, but there is a threshold we cannot go below if we are to stay in business. When a business owner comes to us with a set number in mind that they are willing to pay for search engine optimization services monthly, and we know it’s not enough to cover the minimum requirements to run an ethical, quality campaign we have to tell them.
Cheap SEO is Spam, Not Marketing
Unfortunately, that means they try to find a cheaper company, and cheap SEO is NOT actual marketing. It’s spam.
This isn’t the answer you want…or need to hear when you ask about SEO cost.
You have a budget. You need some predictability to plan for the short-term and grow your business. Before you invest in SEO, you need to know what upfront and monthly expenses you can expect.
Real numbers, please.
There is a reason that many hesitate to quote the costs of SEO. Those costs do depend on many factors. But you understand SEO’s value.
70% of today’s consumers ignore paid advertising.
What’s more, if you’re not on page one your site is invisible in Google search because less than 1% of clicks occur on page two.
The #1 website in a Google search gets 28.5% of traffic to that query and if there are sitelinks in search results the #1 spot gets 46.9% of clicks (aka click through rate).1
When you understand where the costs come from and how your goals impact costs, those numbers become clearer.
So we don’t bury the lead, we’ll start with numbers. What will you pay for good SEO? Then we will break down what you’re paying for.
The Real Costs of SEO
An SEO audit starts at around $2,000 – $3,000. However, this cost is usually waived if you buy an SEO package since an audit must be done before any work on your site can begin.
A website’s position in search results rises and falls due to competitors, audience trends, and your own marketing and SEO efforts. Without continual SEO, any one-time effort to “SEO” will be for nothing.
The good news is ongoing SEO for a small local service business starts around $1000/mo. E-Commerce starts around $2500/mo. and multi-location businesses cost more per location.
Project-based SEO is a project to meet a specific short-term goal. This may be initial SEO to build the framework for ongoing SEO. Or it may be a campaign-style push to meet an objective.
This part of SEO does require a case-by-case quote. Every SEO project is customized to meet business needs. For a small business, it could cost between $1000 and $7000, depending on the aggressiveness of your goal.
Fixed Price Services
SEO involves many services that work together to meet your website visibility and business goals. These services are integral to SEO but are often priced separately, so you don’t end up paying for services you don’t need, industry, strategy, etc. These may include things like:
- Copywriting (.15-.50/word) – The lower end is things like blog posts. The higher end is short, impactful copywriting; long form content with heavy research, legal copywriting, and technical writing.
- Social media set up ($500-$3,000)
- Ongoing social media posting ($500 and up)
- Just SEO consultation for the DIYer (varies)
The Real Cost of Bad SEO
Before we break down what goes into good SEO cost, we want to take a quick look at the cost of bad SEO.
Bad SEO is less expensive than good SEO. Bad SEO may “help” your site achieve search engine visibility for a short time. But it does long-term damage to a website.
Google, the #1 search engine, uses advanced artificial intelligence to both rank websites and to learn over time when someone is trying to manipulate the rankings.
If Google finds that your SEO is trying to manipulate the rankings, they don’t punish the SEO professional. They punish your website. You may then have to hire someone to undo what the bad SEO practices did at a significant cost to your business.
You can spot bad SEO because it makes big promises well-below the cost of good SEO.
The most cost-effective SEO is good SEO. Let’s look at what goes into SEO cost. Why does good SEO cost more? Here’s what goes into that investment.
SEO Cost Factors
By far, the five most crucial SEO cost factors are:
- Your Target Audience – If you have a small niche audience, they should be fairly easy to reach and optimize for. If you have a more complex audience, becoming visible in their searches is a much more involved process. For this reason, SEOs often suggest you target a smaller, highly-engaged audience first and grow from there to keep the costs low.
- Competitive Landscape – Some industries are very competitive. If your competition is investing heavily in SEO, this impacts your investment, not unlike paid advertising costs.With that said, applying a creative strategy can help you find your place in a competitive market without having to outspend the competition. The best SEO services also leverage creativity.
- Your Goals – SEO is a long-term investment in your search engine visibility and business. Some people take a “slow and steady wins the race” approach, which means less cost and higher ROI. But if you’re the rabbit in this fable, your costs are higher because you need results faster.
- Where You Are – It’s easier to rank well in local searches if you’re a local service business through local SEO. If you’re a national business, you have a much bigger competition, and it will cost more.
- A good SEO can recommend strategies for national businesses to target important local markets and grow from there.
- What You’ve Already Done – Some businesses are starting from scratch. They need a new website. Or they have one, but no visibility. Others already have an online presence to work with and expand. A huge part of good SEO is building meaningful online relationships with authoritative websites and businesses.
Google ranks websites according to how helpful their content is. That’s huge. But having a great website isn’t enough. Ultimately, Google has confirmed that one of the three most important ranking factors is how well-connected your website is online. No website is an island.
Part of an SEO audit is assessing these factors to understand the cost of SEO for your business. Ongoing SEO involves continually evaluating these factors through research and monitoring and applying strategies to continually improve and/or maintain the visibility of your website in important searches.
What You’re Paying for
- Website design, initial optimization, ongoing optimization
- Research into your audience and how they find sites like yours in search (keyword research)
- Content strategy, content creation, content publication
- Building website authority and reach by networking with authoritative websites, businesses, and influencers
- Competitor monitoring
- Monitoring of your website and its rankings
- Monitoring for opportunities and quickly taking advantage of these opportunities
What You Typically Get with Good SEO
- Increased website visibility over time in search and throughout the Internet in places where your potential and existing customers are
- Lower advertising costs over time because you have organic reach
- More engaged customer base
- More targeted website traffic (likely customers)
- Potential for increased revenues and more repeat business
- Ability to grow your business into new markets
What Are Small Businesses Paying for SEO?
A 2019 survey of 1200 small businesses around the US found that $500 was the typical small business SEO budget. That’s actually up from $99 in 2017. And half of small businesses have no SEO budget.
“Wow. Where can I get that $500 SEO?”
Sadly, 33% of small businesses think they’re paying enough for SEO to rank on page one. If they’re paying $500 or less, then that $500 is an expense, not an investment. They’re unlikely to achieve an ROI, even if they’re playing the long-game.
For perspective…$500. That’s about the cost of one very bad blog post a week, and nothing else. That’s definitely not enough to rank on page one. Since the expectation doesn’t align, many small businesses turn to bad SEO because the price works. But we’ve already looked at why that’s a bad idea.
The fact that so many small businesses have a low SEO budget actually presents a great opportunity for small businesses who understand the value of SEO and how it can help their site and business both in the short-term and over time. You can invest in good SEO and get results where so many small businesses are struggling to compete.
Request a Custom SEO Quote
Contact Shero Marketing to request a free custom quote for organic search marketing. All we need is your website address, email, and phone number to audit your current marketing campaign and get you a competitive quote to start investing in SEO.
- Why Almost Everything You Know About Google CTR is No Longer Valid, Sistrix. Published July 14, 2020 by Author Beus, Johannes. sistrix.com/blog/why-almost-everything-you-knew-about-google-ctr-is-no-longer-valid/
- SEO Cost Calculator, Search Engine Journal. searchenginejournal.com/seo-cost-calculator/264305/
- How Much Small Business SEO Should Cost in 2020, Inc Magazine. https://www.inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/how-much-small-business-seo-should-cost-in-2020.html#:~:text=A%202019%20survey%20of%201%2C200,on%20SEO%20services%20in%202019.
- Small Business SEO Budget, Search Engine Journal. searchenginejournal.com/small-business-seo-budget/190277/