For most businesses today, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the marketing investment that yields the highest return on investment (ROI). The benefits SEO provides far exceed the value of other marketing approaches – print or broadcast advertising, online ads, direct mailing, etc.
Businesses no longer decide whether they need SEO services; rather, it’s how much they’re going to spend. How much is appropriate?
Since Alchemy On Demand is a provider of SEO services, we figured you should get an independent third-party’s opinion. Here’s what Jason DeMers at Search Engine Watch had to say about it:
Typical SEO Costs
So, what should you expect to pay? Here’s a survey of the range of the costs according to the various payment models standard in the industry.
- Monthly retainer: $750-5,000 per month. Within this range, the amount that a client pays depends on the size of their business and the extent of services provided by the agency. On the lower end of this spectrum are small SEO agencies that offer a limited range of services. On the upper range are businesses with greater needs working with full-service SEO agencies. Most businesses pay between $2,500 and $5,000 for a monthly retainer.
- Contract services at fixed prices: price variable. Businesses that are just testing the waters in SEO usually choose a contract service as an entry point. Typical contract services include things like SEO copywriting ($0.15-$0.50/word), site content audit ($500-$7,500), link profile audit ($500-$7,500), and social media site setup ($500-$3,000).
- 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. SEO consultants, whether individuals or agencies, usually charge between $100 and $300 per hour.
(Some of these figures are taken from a 2011 SEOmoz survey of 500 consultants and agencies.)
Things You Should Be Suspicious of
Any discussion of SEO agencies and pricing isn’t complete without a few warnings. To help you guard against indiscriminate SEO agencies with unethical business practices, read and heed. Be suspicious of the following promises:
- Guarantees. SEO firms generally can’t provide guarantees due to the constantly changing nature of the industry.
- Instant results. True, some SEO tactics can get “instant results” by gaming the system. Be warned that these can hurt you in the long run. Instant results often involve SEO practices that are against webmaster guidelines put out by search engines. Invariably, Google seeks out these techniques and penalizes them, resulting in lost rankings that can take months to recover.
- #1 spot on Google. If an agency promises you the number one spot on Google, it sounds great. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get it. However, it’s not something that a firm can promise to hand over to you.
- Costs lower than $750/month. When it comes to SEO, you aren’t shopping for the lowest price; you’re seeking the best level of service. Be wary of rock bottom prices or “unbelievable deals.”
- Shady link building services. Link building is a crucial part of SEO. You can’t have a highly-ranked site without inbound links. But there’s a dark side of link building. Link trust is gaining importance to appear high in the rankings. Before you enter into an arrangement with an SEO agency for link building services, ensure that their link building services are ethical, white label services. You may even wish to ask them where they may be able to gain links for a business in your industry.
Things to Keep in Mind
As you begin shopping for SEO agencies and making your decision, be mindful of the following points:
- SEO takes time. A monthly retainer is best. Think of SEO as a long-term investment. Aggressive campaigns and major pushes may have their place, but the most enduring SEO results come from a long-term relationship. In SEW’s Mark Jackson wrote, “The real value of SEO efforts are, generally, not realized in the first month(s) of the effort.” It’s true. SEOs don’t wave a magic wand and get instant results. Instead, they perform extensive operations that will produce results months down the road.
- SEO changes, and your rankings will change, too. The field is full of competitors, and rankings rise and fall with the changing of algorithms and the entrance of new competitors. One-and-done SEO tricks simply don’t work. It takes constant monitoring to keep your website ranking well and performing at top-notch levels.
- Not all SEO services are created equal. Again, SEO isn’t about shopping around for the lowest prices. It’s about finding the finest agency you can. Look for an SEO agency that defines its scope of services, and takes the time to educate you.
- SEO is important. Do it. The point of your website is to increase and/or improve your business. Unless people are finding your website, it’s not even worth having one. The smart thing is to pay what it takes to keep your site findable by the people who are looking.
- Hiring an SEO agency is best. You may be thinking, “Can’t I just do this SEO thing on my own?” A tiny percentage of business owners or professionals have the skill and savvy to do their own SEO. Even so, comprehensive SEO takes way more time than most business owners can afford. Even an employee who “knows a lot about SEO,” will be hard-pressed to deliver the level of services and excellence found in a SEO agency. You’ll rarely come out on top if you try to go it alone, and you’ll never get the same level of ROI that you would with a competent SEO agency.