Want to improve your website’s online visibility? Wondering how much SEO would cost for a small business? Prices for an agency or an SEO specialist can vary. As a small business with a limited budget, it’s important to know how much SEO costs before you sign a contract or hire a consultant. This article answers the following:
- What is SEO?
- How does SEO pricing work?
- Average cost of SEO for small businesses
- What SEO tasks are worked on?
- How long does it take to see results from SEO?
- Is SEO worth it for small businesses?
Table of Contents
What is SEO?
SEO (search engine optimization) is the process in which a website is created and optimized in an effort to appeal to search engines. The goal of SEO is to rank well for target keywords relating to your products or services. Common activities include keyword research, link building, local SEO, on- and off-page optimization, and even competitive analysis. It’s a process that can take months to show a return on investment. But when that day eventually comes, SEO is often proven to be the most cost-effective digital marketing channel for the entire company.
How does SEO Pricing Work?
As with any service that isn’t regulated, nor is an exact science, the pricing can vary depending on the industry and amount of competition. However, there are some common pricing models that most consultants and agencies typically offer:
- Hourly: Just as it sounds, you are billed for the time that your agency spends working with your brand in any capacity. Examples include having an agency create an optimized landing page targeting a specific keyword.
- Project Based: This model focuses on the completion of an agreed-upon piece of work that, when finished, is the end of the engagement. Examples could include hiring someone to build a certain number of backlinks to help with rankings, or performing keyword research.
- Monthly: This is by far the most common form of pricing for SEO services. This model is when you pay a company to perform regular SEO-related tasks to work towards that goal of ranking the website as a whole. This model is the most common because of how long SEO can take to kick in (and there’s always more to do); many SEO companies will offer different rates depending on your length of engagement.
Average Cost of SEO for Small Businesses
To get an average view of how much SEO costs overall, let’s break down each pricing model. In the last several years, there have been many surveys conducted that have helped increase the transparency of SEO pricing.
Hourly ($76 – $200 per hour)
Hiring by the hour can be an expensive proposition. In 2012, Moz released its survey that polled 600 individuals and agencies. In it, the average hourly rate was between $76 to $200 per hour. This figure might even be a little low if you’re trying to work with an agency that is well known or has extensive experience.
Project Based ($1,000 – 10,000+)
Many resources out there suggest that these prices start at $1,000, and can go up $10,000+. The starting point is accurate, as the agency needs the price to be healthy enough to still be worth it. The top end however, is going to vary significantly based on the actual work being done. If an agency or consultant tries to pitch you on a large project-based price (that’s not a website redesign), ask for a monthly billing arrangement instead.
Monthly Recurring ($250 – $3,000 per month)
A survey done by GetCredo found that the average recurring rate from individual consultants was $887 per month, while agencies billed $1,461. If you have an ecommerce store, or multi-location company, this number would probably be higher — especially with additional services intertwined with the SEO strategy.
As the digital marketplace gets more crowded, you’ll need to find ways to stay competitive. New technologies like mobile search, voice search and augmented reality all play into the cost of SEO and the difficulty of outperforming competitors. On the positive side, there are great agencies out there that can help.
Cost of Hiring an In-House SEO Specialist
If you’re unsure about hiring an SEO agency or consultant, you may benefit from hiring an in-house SEO specialist. According to Salary.com, the average salary for an SEO specialist in the United states is around $46,000 per year in 2022. Although it can prove profitable, this is often a more costly approach for many small businesses.
How Much Should You Spend on SEO?
With the pricing models in mind, let’s answer an even more important question: “how much should you spend on SEO?” The main factor to consider when answering this question is competition. Typically, the more competitive areas such as e-commerce websites or local services in large metropolitan areas will require a higher cost. You will likely be looking at the higher end of the cost estimates discussed above. Local SEO campaigns in small towns or cities will have much less competition – meaning a lower cost. Refer to the lower range points to estimate your cost. Ultimately, how much you spend on SEO should depend on your competition.
What SEO Tasks are Worked On?
At this point, we understand the numbers and specific costs behind SEO. Let’s jump into some of the specific SEO tasks an agency, consultant, or specialist could work on during a campaign.
Content optimization (or on-page SEO) is considered a critical, first step in an SEO strategy. As a small business, you may not have much content on your website. Content optimization is all about optimizing existing content and building more effective content that will rank higher on search engines. Optimized content is not the only ranking factor but is a great place to start. It should cover fundamental SEO best practices and will likely make a significant impact. Content optimization mostly happens as a one-time task but it’s best to have an ongoing SEO content strategy.
Technical SEO refers to improving the technical aspects of a website to improve search rankings. Search engine algorithms not only pick up on content, but other factors such as mobile friendliness, site speed, and more. Instead of taking hours and hours to learn about each of these factors, hiring an SEO company can save you much needed time. You could pay for technical SEO projects on a one-time basis or as an ongoing process depending on the task. It’s best to make sure your website is running at full capacity so hiring a company or consultant to manage it for you can make things easy.
Creating backlinks (or link-building) plays a crucial role in any SEO strategy. Search engines highly favor websites that other websites point back to them with a link. Some links happen naturally on your site as you create quality content. If you are looking to rank more quickly, outsourcing your SEO strategy for backlinks to a link-building agency can help save you time and money. It’s best to build quality backlinks month over month to show search engines consistency and authority.
Local SEO / Business Listings
If you have a local business, or looking to promote your business in a specific geographic area, local SEO services and online business listing management can help get the job done. Local SEO can help you rank for target keywords in a specific area. It’s an affordable and effective way to improve your visibility within a town or city. Business listings create more opportunities for your business to expand online and help give customers accurate information. Local SEO and business listing services go hand-in-hand with monthly recurring SEO campaigns.
How long does it take to see results from SEO?
Generally, it takes 6-12 months to rank on the first page of search results. Once you reach the first page, it takes time and work to maintain your rankings and consistently improve your strategy. As rankings improve, you will likely see an uptick in website traffic – which hopefully leads to more revenue. Along with your spend level, results will depend on the amount of competition you encounter.
Is SEO Worth It for Small Businesses?
Yes, SEO is more of a long-term strategy in comparison to PPC and other digital marketing strategies. However, the results and return on investment from an effective SEO campaign can bring huge long-term results. If you want to appear and remain on the first page of search engines, SEO is a great option. Although there is a higher cost upfront, SEO is a great way to generate more leads and revenue for your business at a lower price.