How Much Does SEO Cost?

There are 4 standard types of SEO pricing.
Each has pros and cons, so let’s learn more about your options.

Project-Based

The cost of an SEO project depends upon project scope. Expect $1,000 – $5,000.

Performance-Based

Pay-for-performance SEO features dynamic and affordable pricing.
If you don’t rank, you don’t pay!

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Monthly Retainers

Monthly SEO retainers are often tailored to client needs. Expect to budget between $1,000 – $3,000.

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Hourly Rates

The average SEO agency will charge rates of roughly
$75 – $150 per hour.

Why is it hard to estimate SEO costs?

When you ask the question “how much does search engine optimization cost”, the last answer you want to hear is “it depends.” We know it’s a frustrating response.

But the truth is, SEO prices can vary quite a bit, depending upon a number of factors.

You’ve probably already realized there are way too many choices. Too many pricing models, too many agencies, too many price points…

In fact, according to some thorough research done by the wonderful folks at Moz.com, you could end up paying less than $25 an hour… or over $20,000 a month!

But a price range that wide doesn’t help anyone. So let’s take a closer look at some numbers, and then the pros and cons of each SEO pricing model.

Let’s See Some Numbers!

Moz polled over 600 SEO companies and aggregated all of the data. A quick glance shows us the following… an average SEO expert charges between $80 and $130 per hour. Further, the average monthly retainer lies somewhere between $750 and $1500 per month. Performance-based SEO is free to start, and has dynamic pricing.

Even equipped with that baseline knowledge, you may still be left wondering which type of SEO will be best for your particular business?

I think the best and only answer is to break down the different types of search engine optimization services various firms offer, and to establish a standard price point for each.

How Much Does Performance-Based SEO Cost?

The Moz study neglected to mention pay for performance SEO, but to be fair this pricing model is stil relatively new. Furthermore, there simply aren’t many performance-based SEO options avilable to smal business owners.

We pioneered this model of SEO in 2007, and it’s best summarized by our “if you don’t rank, you don’t pay” guarantee.

While it removes the majority of the risk for clients, it places a heavy burden on the agency to produce measurable results.

Pros

If You Don’t Rank, You Don’t Pay

With performance-based SEO pricing, clients only pay if their rankings improve. This minimizes risk exposure for clients.

Up-Front Pricing

Reputable pay for performance SEO companies will provide upfront pricing, outlining rates if/when results are proven.

Cons

Not All Keywords Accepted

Some keywords will simply be too competitive for a performance SEO company to accept and invest in.

Variable Monthly Spend

Since rankings fluctuate daily, it’s impossible to predict exactly what your rankings will look like each month. That translates to a variable monthly rate.

Best For

Small/Local Busines Owners

This model is ideal for smaller and/or local businesses that lack the resources or potential upside to invest in a retainer.

Ecommerce Websites

Performance SEO offers eCommerce store owners much-needed flexibility to target specific products and product categories for better organic visibility.

How Much Do Monthly SEO Retainers Cost?

Monthly SEO services favor long-term partnerships over one-off projects. Most companies choose this option when they need to outsource SEO completely. For many businesses, this is one of the most promising ways to build meaningful results through search engine optimization.

We offer custom solutions that leverage the benefits of this pricing model, while reducing our client’s exposure to the drawbacks. Learn more about our custom digital marketing programs.

Pros

Set It & Forget It

A monthly SEO retainer means you’ll have an agency or company managing your campaign from end-to-end.

Stronger Relationship

Working together in an ongoing capacity will usually lead to better communication, a stronger partnership, and improved trust.

Cons

Possible Feature Bloat

Some agencies will include features/services that aren’t necessary for yoru business. But if they’re included, you’ll be stuck paying for them every month.

Long-Term Commitment

Monthly retainers will usually expect at least a 6-month commitment. While this is standard, it does mean you could be stuck if you’re not happy with results.

Best For

Complete Outsourcing

This SEO pricing model is ideal if you are commited to investing in SEO long-term, and want to completely outsource all aspects of your search campaigns.

Integrated Teams

If your team is looking for a close collaboration with an SEO company that can integrate with their other departments, this is really the only appropriate choice.

How Much Do SEO Projects Cost?

According to the Moz study we referenced above, project-based SEO services are the most popular pricing model you’ll find amongst SEO companies.

Despite it’s relative popularity, there’s a huge range of potential prices, primarily because the cost will be dependent upon the scope of your needs.

Still, for the sake of clarity, nearly half of respondents fell into one of the following price ranges:

  • $1,001 – $1,500
  • $1,501 – $2,500
  • $2,501 – $5,000
  • $5,001 – $7,500

Pros

One Lump Sum

No need to worry about hourly costs racking up, or ending up on the hook for more than you’d planned to spend.

Clear Project Scope

With project-based pricing you’ll likely agree upon a contract that clearly describes exactly what you’ll get, and when it will be delivered.

Cons

Easy to Be Overcharged

If you don’t have any prior experience working with SEO companies you could easily end up being overcharged.

Poor Flexibility

Project-based pricing normally comes with a contract that outlines all deliverables and due dates. If your needs change or you need to pivot your campaign, you will likely incur additional fees.

Best For

Websites with Specific Needs

If you have a strong grasp of your SEO requirements and only need specific & temporary help, consider project-based pricing.

For instance, if a business already has in-house specialists that just need help supplementing link-building efforts for an upcoming PR opportunity, SEO project pricing could provide the best value.

How Much Does Hourly SEO Cost?

At face value hourly SEO services may seem like a worthwhile investment.

After all, you know exactly what you’re going to pay for.

Whatever hourly rate you negotiated or accepted before work commenced, is what you’ll pay. Depending on how many hours were worked, you can accurately estimate what your bill will look like.

The peace of mind associated with this system isn’t without merit. But like all things that sound too good to be true, there’s a bit of a catch.

The catch is that often SEO projects can take longer than expected. Further, if you’re buying the services of a respectable SEO expert, the rates can get pretty high.

Expect to pay somewhere between $75 and $150 per hour if you’re planning to get quality work done. Pro tip: Avoid anyone super cheap on the assumption that they might employ black-hat techniques (this can land you a Google penalty).

Pros

Accountability & Transparency

The time worked will always be logged, so you’ll be able to easily track where your SEO expert or firm is devoting the bulk of their time and effort.

Predictable Costs

Having a set hourly rate allows you to budget accordingly and very directly control how much you are spending.

Cons

Slower Progress

It often takes up to 6 months to see noticeable improvements in rankings. Paying one expert instead of a team may save money but increase time to see results.

Not Results Oriented

Paying an SEO expert by the hour means they could end up punching the clock rather than staying focused on results.

Best For

Do-It-Yourselfers

If you’re planning to manage your SEO campaign yourself but need a little outside help, an hourly SEO consultant can be a strong asset.

Very Small Websites

If you own a very small and content-thin website, hiring an SEO company for a few hours will usually be best. Anything more than that will often be ROI-negative.

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