Pricing for SEO can vary wildly between SEO agencies which can make choosing an SEO agency a real challenge for business owners. Whilst SEO pricing is a huge factor for most business owners, comparison of services is probably the most difficult factor to consider. In this article, we'll explore various considerations to make before settling on your next SEO partner.
How much does SEO cost?
When obtaining a quote for SEO it's absolutely vital to understand the strategy that you're buying into. 69% of marketers invested in SEO in 2021 (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics) and out of these, it's likely that a high proportion didn't really know what they were paying for, the main reason being that SEO companies tend to keep their strategies under their hat, hopefully not their black hat!
Our belief is that a fair SEO pricing model should heavily involve the amount of hours that are required. SEO can be a time consuming business and to this end, many businesses often misunderstand the time it takes to generate real results.
In a nutshell, it's very difficult to put a fixed price on SEO because every project is different based on hundreds of factors and will tend to require a different SEO strategy depending on the objectives of the campaign.
If you're looking for average seo costs then expect to pay anywhere from £40 to £100 per hour. This variation depends on skill, experience and whether you employ a freelancer or an agency that is more likely to be able to put together a team of specialists.
Cheap SEO - Avoid!
Cheap SEO should be avoided at all costs - quite simply, if the monthly price is too good to be true, then it probably is. Unfortunately in the world of search engine optimisation there are many providers who offer cheap seo pricing models but vary rarely will have any success in delivering on their promises. Cheap SEO pricing is usually a false economy, it's not uncommon to hear about promises that go undelivered.
As part of the early stages of working with any new client, an SEO agency will use a set of tools, commonly SEMRush, Moz, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog to name a few, to determine the current state and existing rankings. It's at this early stage that previous cheap SEO can be uncovered - in terms of toxic links, low quality links, over optimisation, poor content, the list goes on.
Expensive SEO - Is it worth it?
The world of search engines optimisation doesn't have to be a minefield and there are many legitimate online marketing agencies - however, one tactic that we have seen used on multiple occasions is companies offering excessively expensive SEO pricing.
If you're getting what you're paying for then expensive SEO isn't necessarily a bad thing, the problem being when the costs are huge and the customer service and more importantly the results do not align with the price tag.
Expensive SEO cost can only be justified if the keyword volume is high and the intent of the keyword is worthwhile, for example a commercial keyword that has a direct bearing on the volume of sales or leads could be worth it. As with anything, ask lots of questions about the SEO pricing and what you're getting in return, this way when you do commit to a project, you'll at very least know+ what to expect to pay.
SEO Agency Costs
As with any service provider you might be looking to partner with, obtaining at least 3 quotes is advisable. However, as touched upon already, making a direct comparison is very difficult and as such SEO costs can fluctuate between SEO companies.
Most agencies will work on a monthly retainer, having agreed upfront how many hours you will receive. Others will provide a monthly cost without providing a breakdown of what you will receive, it goes without saying that not knowing what you're getting for your money should raise a red flag.
SEO services included within monthly costs should contain things like on-site technical SEO, authoritative backlink building, content marketing, highly important but often overlooked, SEO reporting! If your agency is not reporting what they're doing, at very least the ranking shifts on a monthly basis then you should request these.
How do you know you're getting good value for money from SEO?
Measuring the success of your SEO investment is absolutely vital. However, it's likely that you're outsourcing your SEO project because you need specialist expertise. If you're not measuring the success of your campaign then it makes it very difficult to justify spending marketing budget on SEO services.
In the below chart it shows that keyword ranking which ties closely to the volume of organic traffic is considered the most important factor when measuring the success of a campaign.
Time spent on page is also key to the success with the foundation of keyword research being critical to ensure visitors are being delivered to relevant information and offerings.
To fully understand the value you're getting from your SEO company, you'll need to have regular updates and reports from your SEO professional. If these reports are not forthcoming then requesting reports would be advisable.
SEO pricing can often be closely linked to the quality of results - however, this is not always the case, so to ensure you're getting good value for money from SEO, from time to time it's worth having a complete audit to see if there are any gaps and opportunities to improve.
What is included in an SEO project?
The only thing that anyone really values are results. Largely results should translate onto search engine results pages and how high you rank. Everything behind the scenes of search engine marketing on the surface may seem irrelevant - however for an SEO professional tasked to deliver the project, having a healthy budget to work with is important as the cost of seo is closely linked to SEO pricing.
Things you should expect from your SEO company would be building out a strong foundation, whereby all necessary research is completed to understand which keywords are worth optimising. With good planning comes a foundation to create an SEO strategy that will give you the best chance of ranking. Examples of what to expect from a well thought out plan would be to start building authority links within the same niche as the client's web site. If the web site being optimised is in business services/technology then links coming from other web sites within this category will be much more powerful than obtaining links outside of the niche.
Content marketing is a vital part of any search engine optimization strategy and as well as having excellent, relevant content onsite, high end seo content needs to be generated for any blogs that might be linking back.
There are many link building services companies which would rather give you a mass of new links at a very cheap rate than spending the time researching a handful of links which if obtained make the biggest difference. It's advisable not to fall into the trap of quantity over quality.
SEO specialists should also look to diversify anchor text links as well as using root domain links. Over optimization does exist and can contribute to less than desirable results - finding the balance is the key to improving ranking.
Should you buy backlinks?
Buying backlinks is something that has been happening for as long as people have been trying to manipulate search engine results pages. Over the years this much debated SEO method has had varying effectiveness in generating increases in organic traffic and has the digital marketing world in perpetual deep discussion as to whether this should be considered part of an ethical SEO campaign.
There can often be overlooked costs to an SEO project, an example of this is having successfully researched and outreached to a blog for content marketing, the SEO consultant is presented with an opportunity to obtain a link from an authoritative web site, but is presented with the blog owner offering sponsored posts only. This cost of seo is expected by the agency but the client may not have considered that this cost of seo exists.
Many agencies or freelancers who consider their SEO pricing model carefully will factor in SEO costs for link building. Some SEO project managers consider this technique black hat seo - however, many people in the industry widely accept that buying backlinks is absolutely vital to meet the demands of their customers.
Fixed SEO Pricing or Performance Based Costs?
SEO pricing can sometimes be subjective and closely linked to the strategy and processes of the seo company you work with. Fixed SEO pricing tends to be more common and often based on hourly rates. Larger SEO companies will usually have teams and occasionally outsource certain elements of search engine optimization projects that they do not have skills in. Commonly agencies will complete most aspects of a campaign in house, occasionally they'll use content marketing outsourcers or web developers to help complete onsite SEO tasks.
Performance based SEO pricing is much less common, although there are still some agencies offering pay for performance models. This model is fairly rare and attracts higher seo costs when results have been achieved. There is some risk to this model because the SEO agency is incentivised to deliver results fast to ensure they get paid. There is a heightened risk of black hat seo coming into play in order for results to be delivered quicker than ethically possible. This of course is the worst case scenario but something to consider when choosing your next SEO company.
SEO or PPC?
Given that you'll need to spend your marketing budget wisely, knowing whether to invest in SEO or PPC is a consideration that many businesses need to decide upon. It's also not uncommon for these two disciplines to be confused. SEO isn't something that's going to deliver results over night and as such allowing at least 6 months to see results is a general rule of thumb - this depends on many factors including keyword competitiveness, difficulty, whether you're trying to achieve national or local SEO results.
Whilst there are many paid advertising platforms, the most obvious ones advertisers flock to are Google Ads, Facebook Ads and Microsoft Ads. Choosing to allocate marketing budget to one of these paid ad platforms will ensure you get more chance of instant results but if you have a limited budget may prevent the advertiser from investing in an SEO package to run alongside.
One tactic that advertisers employ is to run paid ads, typically on Google as a form of keyword research. The platform can be used not only for generating leads but to get a clearer understanding of keywords that are worth targeting via search engine optimization. However, this isn't the only way to reveal keywords worth targeting, keyword research using SEO tools can uncover valuable information and suggest keywords that you might not have considered, along with search volumes, average CPC and competitiveness.
The ultimate digital marketing strategy is to take an omnichannel approach and target both organic search and paid search simultaneously. If you do not have the budget to take this approach then deciding between SEO and PPC can be a very difficult decision.
If you're looking for instant results then you might consider paid search. If you're looking for a more sustainable approach and you can afford to invest over a longer period of time, finding an SEO expert should be top of your list.
As with PPC, you are somewhat at the mercy of Google and their continuously updating algorithms. The Semrush Sensor works like a seismometer for position volatility and Search Engine Roundtable details algorithm updates, both confirmed and unconfirmed. Google Ads is an evolving platform but generally gives advertisers more direct control. Whichever route you take it's imperative that keyword research is taken seriously as both PPC and SEO heavily rely on user intent.
Whilst both SEO and PPC are closely related, it's important to know that SEO and PPC are very much different disciplines and as such, some SEO agencies only specialise in SEO services, not to be confused with PPC management. Likewise, this works both ways and PPC agencies who are absolute experts in their field may not have the skillset required to deliver on an SEO project. Some larger agencies have teams dedicated to both organic and paid search that benefits from a higher level of collaboration, thus resulting in better all round campaign delivery.
If you've made the decision to start an SEO project then matching with a suitably qualified SEO marketing agency is absolutely vital. SEO pricing can vary depending on many factors and being able to sustain the project both financially and with patience in the medium to long-term is paramount.
You should demand professional SEO, excellent communication, transparency and detailed reporting so you're kept up to date with project delivery. Different SEO agencies offer different packages and SEO costs so comparing monthly seo services can be difficult and sometimes incomparable.
Buy cheap, buy twice applies to SEO!
Spend time at the beginning talking to more than one company and take time to understand the SEO packages being offered. Many seo companies will vary greatly in SEO cost and service levels.