SEO Pricing | Cost of Search Engine Optimization

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SEO Pricing: The Complete Guide

Since the dawn of the internet, businesses have searched for ways to leverage search engines so they could derive additional value from their websites. Optimizing a website for search engines was once a hit or miss prospect, but soon, a series of best practices began to take form

Search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved from a niche agency service offering to an entire industry. Any business that operates a website needs SEO — and where there’s a need, there’s money to be made.

As a result, there are plenty of SEO agencies that either don’t know what they’re doing or are actively trying to scam businesses. Their SEO pricing varies, but they usually sell vague “packages” that are task-based instead of performance-based.

To get a full understanding of how much SEO should cost in 2019 — as well as how it really works — let’s start with a little history lesson.

Begin with the 1st Step: Discovery

See how your website looks in eyes of Google
 and how you stack up against your competition

In the ’90s, keywords became the key driver of search engine results. Site owners stuffed their web pages with the keywords they wanted to rank for, and the practice seemed to work:

At least, it worked for a little while, but not for long.

At the time, search engines only matched results based on the words in search queries, so website owners had an incentive to try to game the system by stuffing their pages and keyword tags with the terms they wanted to rank for.

There also emerged the shady business of black hat SEO. Backlinks were spammed from bogus websites to boost rankings. People started offering SEO services to companies knowing full well that their clients had no idea how SEO worked or what constituted value.

The SEO industry was born, but it had a lot of growing up to do.

It wasn’t until Google came onto the scene in the early 2000s that clear lines between black hat SEO, white hat SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO were delineated.

Google created new search algorithms that prioritized the needs of the user rather than the needs of the website owner. Results were served based on factors like trust, authority, relevance, and context, such as the user’s physical location and their previous search history.

SEO companies had to change their game. Some have stepped up to the challenge, but sadly, most have not.

There’s more information than ever out there about SEO. And yet, the veil of mystery surrounding SEO remains for many companies.

Today, the value of the SEO industry in the United States is approaching $80 billion. There are hundreds of SEO agencies in the U.S., and perhaps thousands around the world.

Unfortunately, many SEO agencies today still don’t take a holistic approach to their services. Some still practice (and swear by) black hat techniques like keyword stuffing, which can damage your website’s rankings. Those SEO agencies that don’t use black hat tactics typically only provide partial SEO services, such as on-page SEO and content production.

They can get away with it because the businesses they serve are none the wiser. According to one 2018 survey, 38% of small businesses still believe keyword stuffing is a good SEO tactic. In another study, 45% of the online entrepreneurs surveyed didn’t even know what SEO meant.

With so much ambiguity in the SEO market, it can be a real challenge to know how much you should pay for SEO services and which types of services you need. As we’ll see, SEO pricing is all over the map. But as with most investments, the more you invest, the better you’re results — as long as you’re working with a reputable agency.

You can get SEO services on a small budget, but you should have different expectations than if you have more to spend. Furthermore, you’ll need to find an agency that’s transparent about their pricing and about what they’re actually doing each day to give you results.

SEO pricing ranges from just a hundred dollars a month to tens of thousands.

According to Search Engine Land, most businesses spend less than $5,000 per month on SEO in the United States. Search Engine Land also reported that the average amount SEO companies bring in from a single client each month breaks down as follows:

  • 10% — less than $500
  • 27% — $500-1,000
  • 29% — $1,000-2,500
  • 20% — $2,500-5,000
  • 15% — $5,000-10,000

The most inexpensive SEO services are usually offered by freelancers or solo consultants. But most companies work with agencies because they’re more reliable.

Companies often look for smaller SEO packages, such as those under $1000, to save money. They may consider SEO a vague and secondary digital marketing strategy, so it doesn’t warrant a hefty piece of their marketing budget.

But a typical agency will bill their work for anywhere from $75 to $150 per hour. Even if you’re on a monthly retainer, the agency will always consider the work in an hourly format because of their overhead.

So, for example, if you were to pay an agency $1000 each month at $100 per hour to work on SEO, they’d only do 5 hours of work each week.

According to one survey, less than half of all small businesses have an SEO budget at all. Of those that do have an SEO budget, the majority spend less than $100 per month.

A monthly SEO budget of $100 at $100 per hour? That will only give you 1 hour of work per month on SEO. Some SEO agencies will try to tell you that a few hundred dollars will give you a long shot chance at ranking, but it your competitors are spending thousands on SEO, you’ll always be outgunned.

It’s better to educate yourself and understand how SEO works, then make a solid investment in a strategy that’s right for you.
That might be enough time to fill in a few SEO titles and meta descriptions on your pages, but that’s hardly a holistic strategy. With a tool like Yoast, all you need to do is fill in the blanks:

This type of on-page SEO work is important, but it isn’t enough for you to beat your competitors in search results.

Even for $500 a month, most agencies aren’t going to build you many backlinks, if any. And today, backlinks from reputable websites are essential. Without them, you can’t generate the page authority to rank anywhere near the top.

If you don’t have the funds to pay for serious SEO work, you can still invest to correct SEO issues on your website. But that’s almost of waste of your time. Furthermore, that’s not why most companies hire an SEO agency — they want to rank #1.

If you want real results, you need to find an SEO agency that knows what they’re doing and pay them to do some legwork.

SEO in 2019 isn’t just about putting the right words on the page. Successful SEO means gaining traffic organically, building relationships with other website owners, producing content based on a documented strategy, prioritizing conversions, and earning legitimate backlinks to increase the authority of your domain.

Today, the value of the SEO industry in the United States is approaching $80 billion. There are hundreds of SEO agencies in the U.S., and perhaps thousands around the world.

Unfortunately, many SEO agencies today still don’t take a holistic approach to their services. Some still practice (and swear by) black hat techniques like keyword stuffing, which can damage your website’s rankings. Those SEO agencies that don’t use black hat tactics typically only provide partial SEO services, such as on-page SEO and content production.

They can get away with it because the businesses they serve are none the wiser. According to one 2018 survey, 38% of small businesses still believe keyword stuffing is a good SEO tactic. In another study, 45% of the online entrepreneurs surveyed didn’t even know what SEO meant.

With so much ambiguity in the SEO market, it can be a real challenge to know how much you should pay for SEO services and which types of services you need. As we’ll see, SEO pricing is all over the map. But as with most investments, the more you invest, the better you’re results — as long as you’re working with a reputable agency.

You can get SEO services on a small budget, but you should have different expectations than if you have more to spend. Furthermore, you’ll need to find an agency that’s transparent about their pricing and about what they’re actually doing each day to give you results.

Most SEO companies sell their services in the form of packages. You’ve probably seen them on SEO agency websites. There may be 3-5 packages available on their pricing page, with a middle-of-the-road option labelled “Most Popular.”

The truth is, it’s now antiquated to sell SEO packages this way. Your agency won’t know the cost of their SEO services until they talk to you and determine your needs. There’s no one-size-fits all package; there are only similar strategies.

For example, if you’re a business consultancy that wants to rank #1 for the search term “business consulting,” you’ll need a considerable SEO investment that most “packages” won’t cover. There may be thousands of web pages competing for that term. It could take months of work before you reach your goal.

The agency offering you the package may take your money, but chances are, they won’t give you the results you want. Furthermore, your agency needs to keep things realistic. Just how much would it take to rank #1 for that keyword? Would it even be worth the investment?
Most agencies should know the answers to these questions. If they don’t, they aren’t using the right tools. For example, Ahrefs’ keyword tool helps you determine exactly how many backlinks you’d need to rank for a specific keyword:

You should always have a clear understanding of where your money is going. If your agency can’t provide you with clear numbers like this one, they may not know what they’re doing.

Literally, you should be able to say to yourself, “I’m spending X number of dollars — I expect to reach Y level of authority with Z number of backlinks built.

Most SEO agencies don’t want to talk about this because they don’t want to be held accountable. Too many agencies will take your money month after month, show you a few blog posts, and neglect the backend of your website and any off-page resources.

It’s for this reason we don’t offer packages at BlissDrive. We’ve worked with plenty of clients who’ve hired multiple SEO agencies before us and have gotten burned every time.

When we start talking about backlinking and real work it takes to do SEO, those clients have no idea they needed those types of services. They’ve never received them.

Our 7 Steps SEO Process

The Discovery

Company goals, market research, and opportunities

Strategy

Identify long term and short term (low hanging fruits) SEO targets

The Benchmarking

Analytics and Rank Tracking (what gets measured, gets improved)

Site Optimization

Allow Search Engine bots to understand your website

Content Development

The gap between search terms online and what content is available

Authority Building

White Hat Link Building so Google respect your site for higher ranking

Review and reporting

Bi-weekly reporting of Traffic, Ranking and Leads/Sales

Want to learn how to get quality backlinks, build great content, and master on-page SEO? We’ve got the tools and experience to help you succeed. Sign up for our SEO training course today!

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