Want to increase your traffic, improve brand visibility, and ensure you’re ranking high up in search results? Who doesn’t, amiright? Since you’re here, we probably don’t have to tell you that the way to achieve those goals is through SEO. But what you might be wondering what it’s going to cost you.
Let’s start with the good news: SEO can do all that we mentioned above and a lot more. SEO drives organic traffic to your website, making your brand a destination for your buyer persona. SEO also helps fulfill search intent, so you don’t just get more traffic; you get the right traffic. SEO can also boost conversions and help your brand achieve long-term, sustainable growth.
Now for the bad news (you knew that was coming, right?): SEO — or at least, high-quality good SEO — doesn’t come cheap. And the bigger your brand, the more you’re going to need to shell out.
We’re not trying to trigger a panic attack here, so here’s your silver lining: SEO, while it’s never going to be a steal (or at least, it shouldn’t be), delivers exceptionally high ROI. So the more you put in, the more you’re bound to get out.
Still wondering what you’ll really need to budget for SEO packages? We’ve got you. Here, we’ll pull back the veil of mystery surrounding SEO pricing, the factors that affect it, and the different models you’ll likely be looking at when you’re ready to make a decision.
Is SEO Really Free?
Oh, sweet summer child. We hate to bring harsh, cold reality crashing down around you (and we’re sorry if we got your hopes up there for a second). But no, SEO isn’t free.
SEO tactics can be free. And the work done by search engines (crawling, rendering, and indexing) can’t be bought.
But SEO strategy either costs time or money…and sometimes both. So it helps to know what you’re rich in and where you need to save before you get started. We’re guessing, since you’re looking here, you’re probably not rolling in unscheduled hours. So you need help and support from someone who’s already put in the time.
So, no, SEO isn’t free. SEO experts spend years gaining the education and training needed to do the work they do. SEO tools can assist, but most come with a hefty cost and a learning curve. And even if you wanted to put in the incredible amount of time it takes to get up to speed on SEO strategy and implementation, you’d likely gain a generalist’s knowledge of the basics of SEO — not the in-depth insights of experts that specialize in technical, on-page, or off-page SEO.
Yep. Reality bites. But the upside is that working with a qualified SEO agency can save you extraordinary amounts of time and nearly always costs less than adding full-time roles to your in-house team. Let’s look closer at how it works.
Pricing Models SEO Agencies Use
When you’re looking at SEO package pricing, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Should you go with a consultant you pay by the hour? A monthly retainer? Or work on one SEO project at a time? It’s a lot to consider. Before you get in too deep, let’s break down SEO package pricing by type.
Hourly SEO Pricing
Most independent SEO consultants will bill you by the hour, and some agencies use this method as well. While you can find a budget-friendly hourly consultant, the most common price point is around $100-$150/hour.
Keep in mind this data is for individual SEOs and not a fully staffed agency where the price would likely go up considerably.
Project-Based SEO Pricing
Let’s say you aren’t ready to commit to a contract with an SEO agency. Maybe you want to test out their skills or maybe you have a high-priority project you need to tackle right away. You may want to begin with a one-off project.
As you can see, the costs vary widely. This depends on the scope of the project, the estimated timeline, and the resources you’ll need to carry it to completion. Most of the time, you’ll be looking at a minimum of $1,000, all the way up to $50,000. If this is the pricing method you choose, you’ll want to make sure your SEO agency is completely transparent when it comes to costs so you aren’t hit with any surprises before the project is finished.
A retainer is a monthly fee you pay to create an ongoing relationship with your SEO agency. This is where you’re most likely to find package pricing, often with different tiers based on your specific needs and goals.
Again, the data here shows average costs for an SEO consultant, so you can usually multiply that by the number of experts an agency will be dedicating to your brand. And remember that big, scary pie chart above? Enterprise brands will always pay more — most often $20K+ a month.
So let’s say, hypothetically, you have a large, successful brand — but one that still has plenty of room to grow. What’s the best option for you? Maybe you’re a SaaS or fintech brand or a tech startup, and you need ongoing support but aren’t ready to hire in-house. An outsourced SEO agency gives you all the benefits of an in-house team (and more!) but without the exorbitant cost of hiring FTEs. So what’s your best bet in an SEO package?
Is a Monthly SEO Package the Best Option?
We can’t definitively say that it’s always the best, but monthly retainers are certainly the most popular and widely used pricing method.
Remember that if you’re thinking about hiring a consultant or individual SEO, the price will go up based on their level of experience, geographic location, and whether your SEO needs align with their specialization.
A fixed retainer with an SEO agency allows you to pick the package or pricing tier that’s right for you while taking advantage of their team of technical, on-page, and off-page SEO experts. Many SEO companies will also allow you to customize packages with the services you need most.
What are the Factors Affecting SEO Pricing?
As mentioned above, there are many factors that impact how an agency builds out its pricing structure. It may be influenced by the experience and expertise of individual SEOs, the geographic area in which the agency is located, or the scope of your brand’s SEO needs.
Here are some of the deliverables you can expect to see most agencies include in their SEO packages:
Analytics Set Up
There’s tremendous value in having an SEO agency set up and manage your analytics, tracking, and reporting. SEO tools can be expensive and most are designed for use by those who already have knowledge and experience in SEO. Your agency experts will set up these tools to monitor your brand’s SEO performance and will give you access and, if needed, training on how to use them.
A complete website audit is often the first step a new SEO agency will take. This gives them perspective on how your brand is currently performing, any technical or on-page issues that need to be corrected, and what steps you’ll need to take in your SEO strategy to achieve your goals.
Regular reporting usually comes standard with an SEO package deal. Your experts will keep an eye on the metrics that matter most and will plan out scheduled reports based on your preferences and availability. Be sure you communicate your expectations as early as possible so they know how you prefer to receive reports and the frequency with which they’ll need to compile them.
Keyword Research and Strategy
The way SEO agencies approach keyword research is different these days. We know now that it’s not only about the biggest, highest-volume keywords (ranking for which would be, often, unattainable) — it’s about aligning a brand’s keywords with their buyer persona’s search intent, mapping long-tail keywords, and answering Google’s “people also ask” questions. Keyword research is far more strategic now and — bonus! — far more effective.
On-Page and Off-Page SEO
Your SEO strategy should be a joint effort between technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. On-page SEO is what ensures visitors have a good experience when they reach your website and that the content and information there all work to improve your search ranking. Off-page SEO is more concerned with link building and outreach, which builds your authority and lends credibility to your brand.
You can get all the traffic in the world visiting your website…but if you don’t have great content waiting for them, they aren’t going to stick around for long. Your content should be optimized for SEO, mapped to your funnel, easy to navigate, and primed for conversion. It’s a pretty big ask, especially if you’ve been trying to do it on your own. That’s where the value of an SEO agency that includes content creation really shines.
More landing pages mean better search rankings and more opportunities for conversion. Each landing page should have a singular action requested of the visitor with a definitive CTA and a clear goal. Too much clutter, too many buttons, too slow to load, and you’ve lost those leads you worked so hard for. Luckily, your SEO agency won’t let that happen.
It’s hard to believe, but most websites don’t have a single backlink. Backlinks build authority and signal your brand as a trusted and reliable name in your industry. But they take a lot of work, so you’ll need someone on your team who’s skilled in outreach and off-page SEO. This can sometimes incur additional costs to your SEO package pricing, but it usually delivers powerful results.
No one can rave about your amazing content if they don’t know where to find it. Your SEO agency will work on selecting the best channels for content distribution and ensure everything is optimized for search so the right audience always gets the right message at the right time.
Technical SEO Optimization
Technical SEO sets your strategy up for success. The fixes made by tech SEO experts ensure that search engines can crawl, render, and index your web pages so you can be found by your target audience.
When you’re ready to roll, your SEO agency will be, too! Sure, you could hire a consultant at an hourly or per-project rate, but more than likely, you won’t get the implementation you’re looking for. They would consult, provide insight, suggestions, and advice…and then the SEO ball is back in your court. A monthly retainer package with a great SEO agency ensures that your strategy is conceived, outlined, tested, implemented, and analyzed, start to finish.
How Much Does SEO Really Cost?
Based on all the data we’ve laid out here, we can say with certainty that SEO services will cost you $0 to $50,000 a month. But that’s not what you’re looking for, is it? As we said, SEO isn’t actually free. You can choose to forego paying for SEO services, but you’ll be losing a lot of time trying to DIY it. You can also go all-in and blow your marketing budget on an enterprise-level package.
The reality is that you’ll probably find a comfortable spot somewhere in between. We can tell you that looking for the cheapest SEO agency isn’t a good bet, nor is it wise to pick an agency that plays their pricing close to their vest.
More often than not, the actual cost of SEO services will depend on your needs, your goals, and the type and size of your business.
How much should small businesses expect to pay for SEO?
$1,000+ a month
The average actually hovers around $500 for very small businesses, but it won’t get you a whole lot. A reputable SEO agency for small business is very aware of who their clients are, and they should be open about their pricing, their experience, and their capabilities.
This is not the same as an SEO agency offering a large business discount SEO services for under a grand. If you come across one of those, quickly run the opposite direction.
How much should mid-sized organizations pay for SEO?
$5,000+ a month
Take that number with a grain of salt. If you’re a mid-sized business in a serious growth phase, you’ll probably benefit from sinking a little more cash into an SEO package. You may also want to consider more consulting services or project-based pricing options for new product launches or standalone campaigns.
How much should enterprise companies expect to pay for SEO?
$25K+ a month
Consider that “plus” sign very carefully. The sky’s the limit when it comes to paying for SEO packages. But, while a majority of enterprise brands spend well over $5K a month, only a quarter spend more than $20K.
It’s good to know where you stand on your budget before you start reaching out to SEO agencies. Some may not want to chat until they’re certain you meet their criteria for new clients and you understand the investment you’re making in your brand. Generally, these are the agencies that take SEO (and will take your brand) very seriously. They’re going to do a lot of legwork to get ready to propose an SEO package to you, so make sure you also do a little legwork upfront as well.
Why You Should Avoid Cheap SEO Packages
So, we’ve gone from free to $50K+. SEO is indeed a wild ride. If you’ve ever worked in any kind of client services role, you’ll know the old adage: you can pick two, but never all three.
You can get cheap, fast SEO, but it certainly won’t be good. You can get good SEO fast, but it won’t be cheap. And you can get it good and (maybe) cheap, but you’d better not be on a deadline.
Cheap SEO will likely end up costing you in the long run, whether it’s missed deadlines or missed opportunities. The pricing spectrum is broad, so you’re likely to find an agency that suits your budget, your needs, and your goals. You just need to put the effort into narrowing the field.
What Should You Look for When Researching SEO Prices?
We’ve already determined that SEO packages come at just about all pricing levels, so how do you pick the right one for your brand?
Current Brand Awareness
Is your brand up-and-coming or already an established fixture in your industry? Wherever you fall, it’s bound to affect the price you’ll pay for SEO services. New brands will require more research and more upfront work to build awareness and visibility. Established brands won’t need quite as much work on the front end, but their SEO team will be looking for ways to optimize and maintain their SEO success.
Your industry may impact the price you pay for SEO more than you’d think. Highly competitive industries, like legal, medical, real estate, and sometimes SaaS, will command a higher price from most SEO agencies. This is because the extreme competition means ranking for priority keywords is difficult and costly.
What's Their Process Like?
The only thing constant is change. In that way, algorithms are also constant…because they’re always changing. Before signing any contracts, understand how your prospective agency handles their processes; how they adapt to shifts in technology, industry best practices, and trends; and how they’ll inform you of any major evolution in process.
Customizable SEO Packages
When you reach the enterprise level of SEO, most agencies have different tiers of packages so you can choose the one that best suits your brand. Many will also offer customization options, adding extra services you need or dropping those you don’t.
At FPS, we’re totally transparent with where our packages start and what they include, but we’re also always open to making bespoke options for our clients who need more personalization.
While it’s tempting to go a la carte when looking for SEO package pricing, the most effective and efficient will always be a full-service SEO agency that meets all your needs at every stage in the journey. At FPS, we make sure our clients know we’re with them each step of the way, from strategy and visibility to conversion, and eventually, expansion.
Find an SEO agency that’s more than just “along for the ride.” Find one that gets in the driver’s seat. A full-service agency might be more expensive, but it’s guaranteed to deliver better results over time.
The ROI of Investing in SEO
If you could double or triple the money you put into your SEO package, you’d be pretty sold, right? Of course, no SEO agency can guarantee those results (nor should they). But there’s one additional thing to consider…
…the cost of not investing anything at all.
You may not think you need to pay much attention (or money) to SEO. But we can bet most of your competitors are. Your biggest competitor certainly is. Think of the traffic, the visitors, and the conversions you’re losing out on by not being present.
Which SEO Package is Best for You?
Ultimately, the decision is up to you and should be based on all the factors we’ve mentioned here — your industry, your brand, your needs, and your goals. When considering an SEO agency, avoid the lowest cost option…at all costs. And when determining the pricing model that works best for you, think about the results you want to achieve.
No SEO agency is one-size-fits-all. You may want to test out working with a company or consultant on a per-project basis, then look into monthly retainer options. Most of the time, you’ll want to research an agency’s SEO packages pricing and look at how many customization options are available. Also consider taking these actions:
- Schedule a chat to discuss your needs and how they might be able to meet them.
- Ask about pricing tiers and look for signs of transparency and honesty.
- Be wary of any “too good to be true” promises or guarantees. (They’re nearly always actually too good to be true.)
- Inquire about the practices they use in implementing an SEO strategy. Make sure they practice only white hat SEO.
- Trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
First Page Strategy Creates Customized SEO Packages to Accelerate Growth for Your Organization
We hope this has given you some good insight into SEO pricing and what to look out for in a prospective SEO agency. If you have questions, we’ve got answers. FPS is committed to being honest and authentic with clients and prospective clients, and we’re ready to customize a plan to get your brand in front of the right audience, encourage them to convert, and deliver long-term, sustainable growth. Contact us today to learn more.