Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a core part of digital marketing.
Without solid SEO, it can be very difficult to get your business to appear for the right online users at the right time, and that factor is the driving force behind your online sales.
While you can technically build an SEO strategy from scratch by yourself, it is neither cost-effective nor time-efficient to try and handle your entire SEO plan on your own.
The more consistent option is hiring an SEO agency or getting SEO-based services from an independent specialist – but that naturally costs money.
Understanding the cost of SEO is not just about a single set price.
Different SEO agencies have their own SEO pricing models, cheap SEO options, and added features that can influence how much you pay. For a typical business, how much does SEO cost, and what kind of prices should you expect?
Table of Contents
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is exactly what it sounds like, optimizing your website for search engines so as to appear higher in search engine result pages.
The higher your site appears in search engines, the more organic traffic (users naturally finding your site through searching similar topics) you will get.
Techniques like link building, keyword research, and on-page SEO can allow you to maximize your influence over your ranking positions, ensuring more organic traffic and better website performance in search results as a whole.
Understanding SEO Costs
The most important thing to know about SEO pricing is that there is no set cost. Different SEO agencies will approach their pricing in different ways.
There is not a typical SEO cost that most businesses use as a baseline, nor is there a set of average SEO costs that you can usually point towards as a starting point.
Beyond that, the SEO services that you get can also cost wildly different amounts. The amount you pay for SEO depends on what services you are getting, how those services are being implemented, and a wide range of other factors that can influence the cost of SEO on a greater scope.
This means that you often need to look at the SEO services themselves to understand their value.
Higher-priced SEO services could be more in-depth or offer extra services, or they could simply be set to a higher cost: It is important to understand which services you are being offered to begin with.
How Much Does SEO Cost On Average?
In general, around half of the business owners seeking SEO support will pay somewhere between $2500 and $7500 per month.
However, this still leaves another fifty percent of businesses at a value either lower or higher than this, which shows the huge range of SEO costs that can be involved.
This boils down to around $50 to $100 per hour as an average baseline or roughly $1000 to $5000 for an individual project.
This all depends on the kind of work required, the scale of the SEO services, and the overall pricing model of the SEO agency that you choose.
How Much Does SEO Cost Per Month?
Per month, larger companies and businesses expect to pay around $5000 on average, give or take another few thousand dollars.
For a smaller business, the costs can be far lower. Many small business SEO agencies keep their prices relatively low, making it easier to get an SEO strategy as a brand-new business owner.
How Much Does SEO Cost Per Project?
A typical SEO project can range from a simple $ 1,000 price point to multiple thousands of collars, with some larger businesses paying upwards of $10,000 or more for a single project.
This makes sense when you consider that one “project” could cover any number of tasks and goals. For example, it might roll keyword research and page keyword optimization into a single project.
Again, a smaller business will usually pay less. Of course, this depends entirely on the SEO project itself and how much SEO work you even need.
How Much Does SEO Cost Per Hour?
Per hour, costs can be very varied, but most services fall between $50 and $100 as standard.
This can be much higher or much lower depending on the scale of the work that you need to have done – once again, a smaller business needing smaller SEO services will see lower SEO pricing overall.
Why is the Average SEO Cost So Varied?
SEO is not a single service but a collection of different SEO services that are all geared toward supporting a single SEO strategy.
This means that SEO providers – who are usually experienced SEO professionals – can approach even the simplest SEO services in a number of different ways.
SEO specialists need to provide the right services for the right businesses in the right ways.
Each project combines a different range of techniques and services alongside added costs and extra SEO requirements, and that can dramatically influence the SEO pricing of that particular project or long-term arrangement.
In simple terms, the cost of SEO is based on what the agency wants to charge and the combination of services involved in the process.
SEO is an entirely bespoke service based on the client’s exact requirements and situation, so each project can be completely different.
What Are The Different SEO Pricing Models?
SEO providers tend to fall into a specific set of pricing models, with each pricing model changing how the SEO costs themselves apply to the client.
The pricing model can be a large part of choosing the right SEO companies since some models are better suited to particular situations.
For example, a project price might work well for one-shot keyword research using automated tools, but a monthly fee is better for long-term keyword research that is handled daily.
Monthly SEO Services
Monthly SEO services involve a monthly retainer to keep the SEO agency working with you. This can be a good way to secure an SEO company as a source of help without having to pay individual SEO costs for each service you need.
Monthly retainer costs are more efficient for businesses that know they need an SEO provider on hand for a longer period of time. While there may be other SEO costs for services outside their initial SEO plans, this is the best option if you need to work with SEO agencies
Hourly SEO Services
An hourly SEO cost is mostly used for situations where you need a single burst of assistance from an SEO agency, such as a fix to your on-page SEO or a quick boost to your SEO performance. These projects usually last only a day or two at the most and are meant as short-term options.
While these might eat into your SEO budget more than a monthly retainer would per hour, the overall cost is still lower.
The longer the services go on for, the higher SEO costs you will have to pay, so hourly is mostly reserved for when an SEO agency only has to spend a single day working on something.
Project-Based SEO Services
Project-based SEO services are exactly what they sound like – an SEO pricing model focused on individual projects. This means that you pay a fixed fee for each project, such as an SEO audit, rather than paying a higher SEO cost for longer services.
This is often used by SEO companies to handle things like an SEO audit, where the project itself is a single process.
This keeps the cost of SEO relatively low and allows the client to know exactly how much they are paying for the services rather than having to worry about prices suddenly increasing.
Which of these SEO Pricing Models is Best?
Each SEO pricing model offers something different. Hour-based SEO pricing allows for shorter-notice services, while monthly SEO pricing is good for longer-term projects. Project-based SEO pricing models ensure a flat rate for a single process, such as an SEO audit.
None of these options are universally better. The right choice depends on your SEO plans, marketing budget, and the complexity and time requirement of whatever project you are arranging.
Other Types of SEO Pricing
It is hard to sort SEO into categories since many different kinds of Search Engine Optimization overlap. However, depending on your business goals, you might have a specific kind of SEO campaign that you need to set up.
Custom SEO Pricing
Not all SEO is done as packages or pre-prepared services. In many cases, you are able to approach the company with bespoke SEO needs, which usually means that you will work together to agree on a fair price and range of offered services.
This can be a good option if you need a very specific set of benefits rather than an entire SEO package. However, this can involve a lot of planning since different companies will have entirely different SEO campaigns and business goals.
It is often worth it if you are looking for something highly specific or need some adjustments made to certain parts of your existing SEO strategy.
Local SEO Pricing
A local SEO campaign is focused on your local area, which usually makes it significantly cheaper than other options.
This is because local SEO campaigns are limited to a smaller area, meaning a more focused audience that is usually a lot easier to target.
The pricing of local SEO campaign services will obviously change based on exactly what you want, but you can usually expect lower prices for local options.
This is especially true if you are choosing a local SEO agency that already knows a lot about the area.
eCommerce and Online Business SEO Pricing
Ecommerce SEO services are a lot harder to predict.
A decent SEO campaign needs to boost the site’s SEO performance and allow it to perform well against competitors in the same niche, which might mean more work and, therefore, higher costs.
eCommerce sites are also usually more complex than a simple blog or company site since they have far more pages.
Depending on the services you need, an SEO professional might need to manually tweak the metadata on every single product page or help you build links from a wide range of relevant sources.
What Influences SEO Agency Costs?
The cost of an SEO consultant can vary massively for a huge number of reasons.
While some have been mentioned above, it is important to break down some of the exact reasons that your SEO campaign might cost more or less than another company’s, even if you are using the same agency.
The more complex an SEO campaign or project is, the more it will cost. Complexity means that agencies have to do more work, and they naturally want to be paid for their efforts.
Volume of Work
The more work an agency needs to do, the more they will usually charge. A small business’s link building needs are going to be much cheaper than a huge company’s link building requirements, even if both are link building for the same industry, target market, and goals.
Your goals matter when judging costs. For example, the higher you want to get on search engine results pages, the more time and effort is required, which means higher prices.
Higher-quality work also means higher costs. High-quality content is going to be worth more than decently-written blog content, for example.
If you are trying to compete with a lot of competitors in search results, even simple things like link-building may become more expensive due to how much more effort is required.
A more experienced team will usually charge more for their services since they know that they are worth more money.
Many companies will charge more for any SEO work that goes beyond their pre-prepared options or packages, especially if it means having to use new tools or systems that they do not already support.
Why Is SEO Expensive?
It is easy to look at SEO pricing and see it as expensive, especially if you run a smaller business with a very limited budget.
However, a typical SEO process is not actually as expensive as it looks, especially when you consider how incredibly effective good SEO can be.
For people who only have limited SEO experience (or none at all), it is easy to misunderstand or underestimate the value of SEO.
This is especially true if you have hired cheap SEO services in the past that ended up not providing the benefits that you hoped, something that many smaller businesses can fall into when they feel like cheap SEO options are the only smart business decision.
When applied correctly, good SEO services can push a business to a new level of success, help them find entirely new markets, and even give them an advantage over their competitors.
Cheap SEO is cheap SEO for a reason – the higher-priced services come from an experienced SEO agency or specialist who knows what they are doing.
How to set an SEO budget
Setting an effective SEO budget means understanding your needs. Whether you are looking for one-time SEO projects or need an SEO expert on retainer, the SEO costs you pay can vary heavily based on a wide range of factors.
- Know Your Budget Limits – Always have an understanding of the absolute maximum that you can afford to safely budget for SEO support.
- Understand Your Requirements – Make sure you know what kind of SEO you might need, even if you do not need any right away and are budgeting for the future. An SEO audit can be a good way to identify the flaws in your digital marketing.
- Know Your SEO Goals – While you can hire an SEO agency to fix your existing SEO flaws, you also want to know your long-term goals for your overall marketing strategy. Even something as simple as overtaking X competitor or breaking into X market can help.
- Narrow Down Your Budget – Once you know more about the SEO companies you might need and the services you may be looking for, try to nudge your budget to a level that is more comfortable for you. You do not usually want to spend your entire budget on SEO services if you can help it.
How to Choose Fair SEO Pricing
One of the biggest issues with the variety of SEO companies on the market is the pricing differences. While most agencies offer different services, you still want to ensure that you are not overpaying for something you need or are not paying more than a process is actually worth.
It is important to know that you are paying a fair SEO cost for your chosen services, especially if you have a very limited digital marketing budget to work with.
Every dollar you spend on SEO might take another dollar away from other important goals, which can hit a smaller business hard if they are still trying to get established.
- Know The Goals – Make sure you know what the goals of the SEO service are actually meant to be and what the company is promising will happen. Never assume anything that is not directly offered or explained to you, especially with a cheap SEO service.
- Ask Some Questions – Talk with the agency or freelancer you are planning to work with and discuss the intricacies of their pricing. Even if you know how much SEO costs from them, ask about overtime, or extra services, or any “upgrades” to the base service they offer. Know what you are being charged for.
- Read The Legal Information – Whether it is the terms and conditions on their site or the legal contract you are entering, make sure that you have at least a general idea of what you are agreeing to. While it might not be that important in most cases, it can still be important to reassure yourself that everything is fine.
- Look Into Their History – Use unbiased third-party reviews and search social media to find out more about whoever you are working with. It is a good idea to look into each SEO company before you pay them, just so you understand the general opinions on them. Of course, not all of them will have reviews to read through, etc.
- Use Common Sense – Common sense is a huge part of running a business. If an SEO company does not seem quite right, or they will not explain a certain part of their pricing to you, bring it up with them or consider looking elsewhere.
- Never Feel Pressured – Do not ever feel pressured into taking SEO packages that you do not want or working with an SEO company that you do not fully trust. It is a company’s responsibility to attract customers, but not your responsibility to work with them just because they approached you.
How to Spot Good SEO Services
Most SEO companies will offer good SEO pricing or at least price themselves fairly for their audience and services.
Even if SEO pricing varies, you can usually tell that a company is offering genuine services at a good price point.
- Great Reviews – Good reviews and customer opinions are usually a sign of great quality as long as they are authentic reviews from real people.
- Fair Prices – Many scam sites will offer excessively low or excessively high prices, either to trick users into giving up payment information or to simply overcharge them. This means that a middling price range is usually a sign of an authentic company.
- In-Depth Breakdowns – The more a company can tell you about their SEO packages and options, the more likely they are to have properly thought it all out.
- Overall Quality – Looking at an SEO company website can usually give you an idea of the quality that they aim for and whether or not they actually live up to their own supposed standards.
How to Spot Bad SEO Services
It is very important to spot a bad SEO company before you start working with them, especially if they are asking for quite a lot of money.
Search Engine Optimization is a field full of experts, but there are also plenty of inexperienced newcomers and even a long list of scam sites to navigate through.
If you want high-quality SEO, then you want to make sure you are paying a company that you can trust.
- Too Good To Be True – While there are some fantastic SEO companies out there, there are also a lot of sites that over-promise or are even trying to actively mislead customers. Good quality SEO always comes with a price, so make sure to double-check anything that looks too generous.
- Bad SEO Content – If a company clearly is not taking care of its own website or SEO efforts, then how can you guarantee that it will be able to support your own? Always be wary of sites with clearly outdated or badly made websites.
- Scam Sites – There are dozens of scam sites out there, some of which impersonate legitimate SEO sites or create fake SEO companies. Read up on how to identify scam or spam websites if you are not sure which companies to trust.
- Black Hat SEO – If a company is using black hat SEO methods (techniques that go against Google’s guidelines), then any SEO project they complete has a chance of being penalized and invalidated. Spammy links might boost your rankings, but only until search engines notice and take action against you.
Is Good SEO Worth It?
If you are not that familiar with SEO overall, then you might not be able to tell if a decent SEO option is actually worth it. However, unless you are looking for something very specific and do not really know if your custom SEO plan will succeed, then there is an easy answer to that question.
As long as it makes an impact on your marketing and rankings, SEO is absolutely worth it.
Search Engine Optimization is one of the most effective ways to market to your online target audience and can dramatically increase sales and conversions if used correctly. Regular advertising can capture users through paid search and site ads, but full-service SEO allows you to draw in traffic from organic search results.
The SEO industry exists because SEO traffic is incredibly valuable, and even the most basic organic search boosts can lead to major SEO performance increases.
Improved organic traffic means more users coming to your website from organic search results, which costs your business nothing and can be effective as a long-term source of customers.
How Much Does SEO Cost in 2023?
The cost of SEO in 2023 is the same as always – considering each company’s SEO pricing, how much SEO costs depends on what they offer and what you need. Your own business goals are an important part of working out exactly how much you would need to pay for the SEO results you want.
All of the price information listed earlier in this article still applies, but remember that every SEO campaign is different. Whether you are looking into project-based SEO prices or need a long-term SEO consultant working with you for several months, there are a lot of factors that can go into how much you are paying.
Getting SEO in 2023
Finding good SEO options is easier than you might think. If you need a third party involved in running your SEO account to supplement paid search advertising, then it is not hard to search for some SEO agencies and start comparing them.
However, with so many different options to choose from, it is important to slow down and consider what they offer – as well as your own needs. Link building is very different from metadata tweaking, but both might be necessary for improving your site.
SEO is a massive niche that covers countless different topics and techniques, so there is not a single one-size-fits-all solution to your SEO situation. Instead, you should rely on professionals who understand the niche and how to make it work for individual clients.
Remember that SEO is a very varied field that relies on bespoke work for each client. The exact services you need will depend on your business’s situation, and the kind of support you will get depends on the agency, company, or individual contractor that you choose.
Whatever you are looking for, there will be agencies out there that can offer it. Just remember that there is not a single perfect way to approach SEO and that your own requirements and choices can have a massive impact on the amount that you are paying for those services.
Scott Calland is a highly regarded content specialist with an English Degree. He has a passion for creating compelling content as a UK journalist that engages, informs, and entertains readers. With over 10 years of experience in creating news publications as a reporter, Scott has developed a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of how to craft content that resonates with audiences. Working closely with data analysts Scott’s research on topics is unrivalled for latest news updates.
Scott is also an investor in Searcharoo.