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Updated: December 29, 2022

How Much Does High-Performance SEO Cost in 2023?

SEO is the process of improving a website’s ranking. It is not a one-time process but an ongoing one that is technically part of your marketing budget. Which prompts an important and often-asked question: How much does SEO cost?

It’s difficult to answer because many factors affect pricing, including business niche, agency level, growth projections, and range of services required. To avoid being overcharged for SEO, you should know what to expect when you get a quote from marketing agencies. 

This guide explains how to budget appropriately for top-quality SEO services and how to choose the right SEO services for your business.

Is SEO Worth Investment in 2023?

Over 50% of website traffic comes from organic searches

SEO is comparable to investing money in a 401K for your business – it gains value over time. Optimizing the technical aspects of your website and digital content is crucial so people can find your product and service solutions online.

That’s because 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. Thus, a proper SEO strategy drives more traffic, leads, and revenue for your business. SEO provides an excellent return on investment because it works 24/7.

The rise of voice search, artificial intelligence, and smartphones’ ease of internet access mean people can find your business anytime. Since over 50% of website traffic comes from organic searches, hiring SEO specialists to maximize your business’s online presence is necessary.

Google is an expert at distinguishing high-quality websites and rewarding them with better rankings. No wonder businesses want to reach number one on search engine results pages. And get this: the ROI for SEO spending can be as much as 748%!

How Are SEO Prices Determined?

SEO agencies consider various factors before pricing, including brand awareness, visibility in organic searches, business objectives, and target audience. Pricing is also influenced by the SEO provider’s expertise and several other variables, including:

Why Is SEO so Expensive?

What factors influence SEO price

The reason SEO is so expensive is threefold: It’s time-consuming, requires a substantial amount of resources, and relies on an SEO specialist’s expertise to succeed. Let’s examine these factors in a little more detail:

SEO Agency Experience

SEO specialists bill according to their experience. Therefore, those with more experience are pricier because they charge for their expertise and time invested in your project.

For example, an SEO analyst with 2+ years of experience typically charges 40% more per hour than one with less experience. And one-off projects cost 275% more.

Lower expertise means a lower hourly rate but a longer turnaround time. Experts, however, will finish the same task in less time.

While many prefer to avoid an hourly pricing structure because it feels like getting billed every minute, time plays a significant role in deciding project-based or monthly pricing.

As a result, irrespective of which digital marketing model you choose, it is not about the cost you pay but the value you receive.

The choice between a freelancer and an SEO company also affects pricing. Generally, freelancers offer much lower SEO prices (for the same services) than SEO companies. However, they do not provide the same level of support, extent of services, or scalability.

When it comes to SEO, one should choose accountability over cost-savings. Saving a few dollars now might cost you a lot in the future.

Client’s Location

Your business’s location and its local competitors influence SEO costs. A company with multiple locations has to cite more pages (one for each area) and needs more keywords, which can add several hundred dollars to a monthly SEO package.

On the whole, local SEO is generally cheaper than national or global SEO because it’s less competitive – it works faster and is considered a smart business move.

SEO experts serving the global market cost 130.4% higher than those serving the local market. Why? Well, it takes considerable creativity and marketing strategy development to rank high in a competitive global market.

To achieve a high global rank, your content will have to outshine your competitors, and the marketers you hire will have to work hard to receive more backlinks and make your business more relevant than your competition.

SEO is vital in today’s web-based world, but it isn’t a given. How much SEO costs depends on the amount of work involved and your business’ marketing goals and objectives. It takes research and expertise to implement correctly.

Pricing Model

There are two SEO pricing models: one-off and ongoing services. One-off SEO tasks include a website audit, optimizing site architecture, performance optimization, and internal linking.

A word of caution: Some on-page mistakes might reveal themselves later in an SEO campaign. Therefore, continuing SEO support is recommended, and thus a significant part of your SEO strategy lies in ongoing SEO tasks, such as:

  • Link-building campaigns
  • Guest posting
  • Content production

These tasks require creating regular content for your website’s social media accounts and frequent data analysis because they help your site grow and maintain its SEO position. Thus, the frequency or extent of your campaign will impact your overall SEO budget.

Finding the right balance between your budget and the scope of your SEO campaign is essential for your SEO strategy. Cost over value may seem appealing, but it can delay your SEO success.

SEO Strategy and Services

The extent of value derived from your SEO campaigns reflects your budget. Every SEO strategy revolves around the same sub-services; however, they differ according to the level of service and expected value.

So, your budget boils down to affordability and the aggressiveness of your search engine optimization strategy. Ask yourself:

  • Do you want a full-scale aggressive SEO campaign that provides results as soon as possible?
  • Or do you want to establish a strong SEO foundation in time to temper budget spending?

Answering these questions defines priorities and expectations. Being transparent with your SEO provider about such things ensures a balance between your budget and expectations.

For example, you can choose a budget-friendly monthly SEO package; however, it would be slow to yield results, or you can opt for an aggressive monthly plan that produces fast results, such as a combination of both website optimization and content creation.

With the latter, you’re prioritizing high value over cost. It would be remiss to claim a less aggressive SEO plan won’t work. After all, SEO takes around six months to produce noticeable results. Therefore, it’s more about your budget and expected timeline.

Client’s Industry

SEO pricing is determined by how many monthly searches a specific industry generates. In some sectors, marketing online is more prevalent than in others, which brings increased competition.

Lawyers, medical offices, finance businesses, and HVAC companies all have among the most expensive keywords on Google. Other industries with expensive keywords include real estate, marketing services, and software companies (among others).

The CPC (cost per click) for some highly competitive keywords can exceed $1,000!

Niche businesses have a competitive advantage since they can use longer keyword phrases or additional keywords with lower competition (and prices).

A company with thousands of monthly searches for its services would need to invest more in SEO—additionally, companies servicing an area where many similar businesses will need to spend more on local SEO to outrank competitors.

Client’s Current Website State

Your company’s current organic ranking directly influences SEO costs. Maintaining a high ranking is more accessible than gaining one. Prices are also affected by the extent of website fine-tuning required.

It is easier to optimize a small website since it has a simplified architecture, and it needs to rank for fewer keywords. However, optimization time also depends on a website’s technical state.

The fine-tuning process is typically longer and more complex for bigger sites because they have more pages and a complex site structure, where there an SEO specialist would need to:

  • Optimize the entire user journey
  • Optimize the navigation
  • Add new landing pages, and
  • Create the proper internal linking structure for the website.

Redeveloping a site may even be necessary when damage is beyond repair. Large eCommerce websites have a wide product range, so they must optimize each product page for speed and conversions.

Thus, SEO pricing is heavily influenced by the expertise and time needed to rank your site well. Experienced SEO specialists conduct a thorough site audit and analysis before giving a quote. This information helps them estimate the SEO cost more accurately.

What Goes Into SEO Services?

SEO providers have an impressive arsenal of knowledge about web development, content marketing, technical SEO, and general marketing to help businesses thrive online. Even the most essential SEO services comprise a long list of digital marketing strategies:

  • Analytics implementation and setup: Using appropriate technologies to aggregate and make sense of your marketing data.
  • Keyword research mapping: Assigning keywords to specific web pages according to SEO recommendations to make them more relevant.
  • Technical SEO audit: Checking various technical aspects of your website, following the best practices for search engine optimization.
  • Technical SEO corrections: Implementing website optimizations that help search engine spiders crawl and index your site more effectively.
  • Site speed optimization: Employ strategies to make your website as fast as possible.
  • Website hierarchy (architecture) review: Review website content to determine how quickly users can find what they’re looking for.
  • Content research and creation: Crafting a unique content strategy to create customer-centric content that drives conversions.
  • On-page content optimization: Optimizing web pages with specific keywords to rank higher in search engines.
  • Link building and link outreach: Getting other websites to link to pages on your site to improve SEO.
  • Campaign tracking and reporting: Managing your marketing efforts efficiently by tracking traffic and customer data flow.

While some people optimize their entire website, others focus on individual subpages. Investing in comprehensive services, such as web design and copywriting, is also an option, while others consult with specialists and implement these optimizations individually.

All of these factors greatly influence the cost of SEO.

Types of SEO Pricing Models

SEO pricing models

You can choose between several payment models if you’re interested in implementing SEO services. SEO pricing models each have advantages and disadvantages, as well as different price ranges.

Hourly

Agencies and online marketing companies are generally less likely to use this option, favored by freelancers and independent contractors. Consequently, all work is invoiced at a fixed rate, regardless of the value the SEO provides. Therefore, we’d only recommend investing in hourly rates if you’re hiring an expert consultant.

They may be costly, but an expert consultant’s knowledge can be a game-changer for some companies. This service works best for firms with in-house marketing teams with some SEO knowledge who would benefit from expert guidance.

Bear in mind that SEO projects require implementation and management. These requirements can pose a problem for businesses that do not have technical SEO skills or the tools to conduct an adequate analysis.

An SEO consultant can charge anywhere from $100 to $1000 per hour, depending on their reputation and track record.

Monthly

Most SEO and digital marketing firms use a monthly retainer pricing model, often referred to as “SEO packages.” SEO packages include onboarding, technical audits, keyword research, and recommendations, followed by monthly content production and backlink building.

There are, however, some agencies that provide custom SEO services based on the specific goals of your website. This option is always best.

As a result, you can stick to your marketing budget and pay for specified, measurable SEO work based on your agreed-upon goals. In other words, you won’t just be charged arbitrarily for general SEO but rather for website-specific SEO.

Monthly SEO retainer fees may range from $500 to $5000—agencies with more experience might price their service higher. In some cases, SEO professionals offer different tiers for their monthly retainer fees to suit various business needs and sizes.

A la Carte Pricing

For specific needs and if you know what you’re doing, you can go for standalone a la carte SEO services. Search engine optimization a la carte refers to a menu of marketing services or products sold at a fixed price. Like a restaurant’s menu, these marketing services can be selected based on size, budget, and digital needs.

With a la carte SEO services, you’ll save money, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll damage your SEO and won’t get results. Common a la carte services include audits, content creation, citations, site speed optimization, keyword research, and backlink cleanups.

For instance, you may need additional blogs for content marketing despite already creating content, or you may lack time to implement local SEO citations. In cases like these, you can request blogs as an add-on to your current SEO package, and get someone else to deal with implementing local citations.

Per Project

Some SEO agencies offer a one-off fee for a particular SEO project. In this case, the business and SEO service provider will discuss the project’s needs and goals before agreeing on the scope and total cost. This approach allows and supports greater customization.

The average cost for project-based SEO services ranges from $1,000 to $1 million. Smaller companies using local SEO might spend $1,000 per project monthly, whereas larger, enterprise-level companies can expect to pay $300,000 and more.

Which SEO Pricing Model Is the Best?

A monthly retainer with an SEO agency is your best option to increase monthly traffic. It also guarantees the agency will dedicate sufficient time, resources, and expertise to your project.

And that’s not the only reason: To provide the best user experience, Google updates its algorithms 500 to 600 times yearly based on 200+ ranking factors.

Some changes are trivial, but others significantly impact ranking and performance. Consequently, it’s imperative to maintain ongoing SEO to implement new strategies as soon as changes occur to maintain your website’s rankings.

You also need to monitor the SEO metrics constantly to identify pages that don’t perform well and adjust them accordingly. Monthly SEO services help you compare strategies and determine pages that are performing well, especially since content marketing, data analysis, and link building need constant updates and adjustments to achieve desired results.

The critical thing to remember is that, as you’re doing SEO for your business growth, your competitors are doing the same to outrank you. Therefore, to keep your site ahead of your competition and reach more traffic constantly, you need to focus on monthly SEO.

The ROI on SEO

When it comes to SEO, you’ll want an idea of the return on investment, which can be tricky because you’re not purchasing pay-per-click marketing. The cost of investment is the first metric you need to consider. Afterward, you should track and measure conversions.

In Google Analytics, you can see how your website traffic converts and how much revenue each channel generates. Businesses need to look at search engine rankings, organic traffic to their websites, and goal completions and then use this ROI SEO formula below to calculate SEO’s return on investment:

Revenue – Cost of Investment / Cost of Investment

You can also calculate lifetime value (the average spend a customer makes over time) and work out the estimated monthly profit by subtracting the average monthly cost of SEO from the estimated monthly revenue figure.

SEO doesn’t immediately increase traffic or revenue – it takes time (three to six months) for your site to rise through SERPs, so be prepared for a short investment period without any return on your investment.

What Is a Good SEO ROI?

A good SEO ROI

SEO’s ROI differs from the standard “you get what you pay for.” It is also important to realize that subjective gains such as brand awareness and engagement will enhance future financial, more objective returns.

A good ROI for SEO is a combination of the following:

  • Increased visibility (more traffic, more sessions, more shares).
  • Increased on-page conversions.
  • Higher reach in SERPs over direct competitors.
  • Reduced investment in paid channels (social ads, boosts, etc.).
  • A general decline in costs as Google validates your content.

ROI of SEO examples per industry

These results are all measurable – some more directly than others.

The golden ratio for sales and marketing ROI is 5:1. For every dollar you spend on marketing, you should get back $5. In other words, you should have at least a 500% return on investment.

Anything below a 2:1 ratio is considered unprofitable, as the costs to produce and distribute goods/services often mean businesses will break even with their spending and returns.

Red Flags in SEO Pricing

It’s easy to dupe potential clients who don’t know much about SEO. If it’s new to you, we encourage you to read some literature (we’ve got plenty of blogs covering various topics), so you’re armed with basic knowledge and can spot these red flags:

Impossible Promises

No matter how good an SEO expert, agency, or specialist is, they should never promise overnight results. When you ask an SEO provider how they intend to achieve their goals, they usually explain the steps and stages involved. Run if their pitch includes a low price plus crazy results without meaningful, actionable steps.

Dubious Link Building

Most low-quality SEO agencies use black-hat link-building strategies that acquire links through illegitimate or unethical means that can ruin your website’s reputation. Regarding SEO costs, quality custom link outreach typically takes up a significant portion of your budget. Good SEO services focus on doing things the right way to get long-term results. Link building should be done with quality first in mind.

Below Average SEO Prices

It speaks volumes about the quality of the SEO agency if it charges $500 to $1000 per month when the average is $2500 to $5000. There are times, however, when you find a start-up SEO company that wants to build its clientele and reputation first by offering SEO services at a discounted rate.

It is possible to find some decent services at below-average prices this way, but be sure to find out directly or indirectly why their SEO pricing is lower. Remember, professional services cost more because they deliver value and quality.

As self-help author Napoleon Hill once said:” Buying cheap to save money is like stopping the clock to save time. Neither works.”

High Costs and Zero Experience

When you encounter a service with above-average pricing, ask them to explain what makes their offering unique and more valuable than the competition. Many agencies specialize in different areas, so ensure the ones you are interested in hiring align with your needs before paying a lot for the expertise you may not need.

Previous Clientele

It is common for SEO companies to verify their pricing by showcasing the results of previous clients. However, while this is commendable, it is not sufficient. Please don’t assume a specific SEO solution will work for your brand because it worked for others.

There’s nothing wrong with reviewing an agency’s case studies – they provide an overall benchmark for the quality of their work. Just keep in mind each business has unique SEO goals and needs. Therefore, their SEO strategy and pricing must precisely match your brand’s requirements.

How to Choose the Right SEO Services for Your Business

Choosing the right SEO partner for your business requires understanding your business goals and desired outcomes since there is no one-size-fits-all agency. You want to ensure your SEO provider offers what you’re looking for – local SEO, content marketing, etc.

While finding a balance between value and budget is tricky, the last thing you want to do is skimp on SEO services. Approaching mid-level or high-end agencies with a proven track record is always a good bet. And again, don’t just take their word for the quality of their work.

Read their case studies and former client reviews to get a feel for what they’re like. Ask questions when you’re unsure of something. A reputable agency will always be happy to break down what they’re doing and substantiate their pricing.

Make an appointment with an agency before you sign any contracts. Establishing a trusting relationship with an SEO firm is essential, so use this meeting to see how well you get along. Some agencies like ours even offer a free website audit to give a better idea of where and how your business can improve its SEO.

A word of advice: It’s in your best interests to speak to actual marketers (not sales reps) who would manage your SEO account to ensure they understand your objectives.

Climb the search engine ladder - rank higher on Google with SEO solutions guaranteed to work
Climb the search engine ladder – rank higher on Google with SEO solutions guaranteed to work

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Get Started With High-Quality SEO Agency Services Now!

SEO is the foundation of a successful digital marketing strategy and strong brand recognition for businesses. The only way you’ll get anything out of SEO is to put money into it over time. If you don’t invest in SEO, your competitors will chip away at your customer base.

Hiring an SEO agency on a monthly retainer is a better option than setting up and maintaining an in-house SEO team if you want to save money.

Why work harder than your competition when you can work smarter?

Comrade offers a range of SEO packages to help your business reach its full potential. As a full-service digital marketing agency, we provide a 35% conversion, on average.

Regardless of your SEO package, we maximize your ROI. Start your SEO optimization process today with our free, no-obligatory SEO audit.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you would like to discuss your project, reach out to our specialists.

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About the Author
Stan Bogdashin
Stan co-founded Comrade Digital Marketing and serves as its marketing strategist and IT expert recruiter.
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