Updated: Oct 26, 2020
Companies that need to increase their web exposure most often first turn to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). But for many executives, the world of SEO can be complicated and confusing because SEO pricing varies greatly.
You must go into an SEO investment knowing what you can afford to spend to gain a foothold on that other vital acronym, your Return on Invest (ROI).
One of the most recent SEO price point surveys is from Joshua Hardwick, a content specialist from Ahrefs.com, who published his findings in June 2018.
The average price per hour is $100 to $150 in the United States,
according to Hardwick. But the breakdown in pricing varies widely among
SEO companies, from less than $25 per hour to as much as $750 per hour.
The sweet spot for SEO pricing comes between $61 and $150 per hour.
For example, among SEO professionals:
35% charge $101 to $150 per hour;
21% charge $76 to$100 per hour;
15% charge $61.00.00 to $75.00 per hour.
That’s the price range that targets small to medium size companies as clients. The large agencies and highly experienced SEO professionals charge higher rates. They also target larger corporations.
Experience is a key factor in what SEO companies can charge. An SEO professional with 5 to 10 years will, on average, charge about $120 per hour, which is well above the average of $96 per hour for all SEO professionals working locally in the US.
It’s also important to note that there are pricing variances among the different types of SEO professionals as well. Agencies, on average, charge nearly $135 per hour while consultants average $122 per hour and freelancers average $68 per hour.
If you’re looking outside the US for SEO services, companies in India and Latin American countries offer the lowest SEO rates, while the United Kingdom’s are among the highest.
Retainer or Monthly Pricing (Worldwide)
More than three-quarters of SEO professionals charge a monthly fee or retainer, according to Hardwick’s survey. It’s rare to find retainers of less than $500 per month. According to the survey, most companies charge retainers of $500 to $2,000 per month. Less than a quarter of companies charge more than $2,000 per month, and, again, those are usually big agencies with large clients.
Other SEO Pricing Studies
Rankpay.com, through the Moz.com survey, came up with an average price per hour of $80.00 to $130.00 and the average monthly fees are between $750.00 to $1500.00 per hour and found retainers of up to $20,000 per month at the top end.
Now, consider projections by Webfx.com for 2020:
"The cost of SEO services varies depending on what is included. Most SEO projects in 2020 cost between $750-$2,000/month based on the scope of the project. A one-time project will range between $5,000-$30,000, and hourly rates for consultants fall between $80-$200/hour." –Webfx.com
If you compare the pricing at Webfx.com to the two older surveys by Hardwick and Moz.com, their pricing is still in the same range. The pricing is slightly higher for the 2020 projections, but then again the cost of doing business is probably higher now than even a few years ago.
What do you think?
This is where we get back to the conversation about ROI. SEO is a marketing expense, and marketing costs are predicated on the objective of generating revenue for your company. Unlike most business expenses, which are considered literally the cost of doing business, marketing expenses should come back to you, over time, with sales.
When you plan your marketing and SEO budgets, it needs to be done with the focus on your ROI.
Discussing your goals should be the beginning of your SEO conversation.
What ROI do you need to achieve to justify the expense?
What is the time frame you need for seeing a profitable return?
Improving your search engine page ranking through SEO takes time, like any marketing campaign. Results build. So set your goals and decide how aggressive you need to be to attain them.
The goals you set will help you decide what work needs to be included. Look at what your SEO activity to date has accomplished and what needs to be improved.
Some SEO activities you might consider are:
Keyword Research and Analysis
Monthly Tracking and Reporting
These are just a few of the items included in the scope of SEO.
The list is much longer.
SEO is a Long Run Project
SEO is accomplished over time. Seeing results in 8 to 10 months or even longer is normal. Once you start seeing results, keep working on the processes you put in place. Your business on the internet is beginning to grow and will grow more over time.
One last thing.
People hear all the time that organic search is free. Yes, your listing with the search engines is free. The optimization portion of SEO, helping with your rankings and business growth, is not free. The professionals who work hard on SEO charge for their services. You get what you pay for. Be very careful if you hire an inexpensive SEO service. They may not have the experience to deliver on your goals. The result may very well be stagnation.
That doesn’t mean you need to hire the most expensive SEO professional in the market. But find an SEO professional who has the experience to help you achieve your goals within your budget.
About the Author
Wendy Danko is an SEO and Web Design Consultant at WenKo LLC. Having a design background has its perks, especially when it comes to website design and SEO. Wendy is determined to help every one of her clients improve their website and SEO. With website improvements, her clients have uncovered new leads to grow their client base.