In the web-driven world of today, deciding if you should get search engine optimization (SEO) services is not an option anymore. It is essential. Before we begin, it should be understood that you can’t just decide on an SEO service and go on with it to achieve 99.9% conversions. Businesses need to understand the type of service they need and the period of time they want it for. Once that is established, there will be no disappointment later on in the conversion phase.
To be clear, SEO is one part of the complete Inbound Marketing process. It brings in traffic, and not just any traffic but the most targeted traffic to your site. According to Search Engine Land,” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines. These referrals can turn into strong leads and sale for the business.
But, for instance if you are selling real estate, this is not something that people buy instantly as it requires in depth research and time to come to a decision. That could take anywhere from days, to weeks and even months to happen. In that case, SEO can bring the most targeted visitors but because buyers cannot indulge in impulsive conversion, a business owner might think that SEO isn’t bringing results, although it well may be.
In such cases, it is necessary to have a detailed and well-searched Inbound Marketing plan that slowly nurtures the potential customer and takes them towards the conversion funnel.
What to expect from SEO?
SEO is a complex process that brings organic traffic to your site. If you are getting high ranks on your website and the conversions are getting a boost, SEO is working for you. However, if you lack the ability to invest time and effort in improving your site’s stats, an SEO consultant will do it for you. The goal of every website is to show up on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing search engines. If your site is on the second page, no one will know you exist. Better visibility on search engines can lead to increased brand awareness and high sales.
How much does SEO cost?
Cost depends on multiple factors like how big the website is, how competitive the industry is, what kind of short and long term goals a company has, what pricing model they are using and more. As far as the pricing is concerned, there are different models offered by different companies. That includes hourly pricing, monthly pricing, pay per result SEO, fixed jobs and more.
Choosing an SEO consultant is like buying a car- everything depends on what you want. Do you want a Hyundai or a BMW. Many questions are asked when you go to buy a brand new car. “What can you afford?” or “How much do you want to drive?” and so on.
First things first
Let’s look at different pricing models and then see some actual numbers to give you an idea, and specify what your needs can be.
- Pay-per-result SEO
This type of SEO doesn’t run on any specific pattern or formula to success, so it’s advisable to NOT choose this kind of SEO. Setting unrealistic goals to achieve quick results is just not the way to do SEO. It is both useless and also lands you in Google’s list of shady websites that can get punished. This article explains in detail why pay per result SEO is actually a big risk.
- Project-based pricing
Project-based pricing models are devised specially to cater to a client with a project in mind. Price depends on the type of project. For example, a local shoe shop asks a consultant to help them with their local online marketing. It will need social media presence and the client will explain what they need. Considering the needs, both the SEO agency and client will decide on the scope and length of the project and the pricing.
- Monthly Retainer
This is the most common payment model used by businesses. It includes a set fee, which is paid every month in exchange for an array of services like regular analytics reports, keyword research and optimization, on-site content improvements, link building campaigns, blog management, content generation and more. It provides the greatest ROI.
- Contract Services
Almost all SEO agencies sell contract services. Often, monthly retainer clients also agree upon a contract service that is suitable for their needs. A common example of this is website audit, which surveys the client’s site and analyzes their online presence. It also does competitive analysis, strength and weakness analysis and keywords that can yield the maximum ROI.
- Hourly Consulting
This familiar model provides hourly services in exchange for a fee prescribed by the agency before subscription.
Most agencies and clients use all of these models. A client can simultaneously get a monthly retainer, use an agency’s services for a special project and sign a contract as well, thus entering three models at a time.
Typical SEO costs
- Project based: It is variable in terms of price. Depending on the type of project, prices can range from $1000 to $10,000 and even more.
- Monthly retainer: It can start from $750 and go up to $5000 per month. Within this range is the number of service the client needs from the agency. Smaller firms need limited services, whereas larger firms need a whole and compact SEO solution. Most businesses will pay from $2500 to $5000 for a monthly retainer.
- Contract services: The prices are variable. Businesses that are just testing SEO services of an agency usually take a contract service to test the waters. Typical contract services include things like SEO copywriting ($0.15-$0.50/word), site content audit ($500-$7,500), link profile audit ($500-$1,500), and social media site setup ($500-$3,000).
- Hourly services: SEO consultants usually charge $100-$200 per hour for a wide array of services.
Whatever pricing model you go for, here are the few things you should keep in mind:
- SEO will take its time: Mark Jackson wrote, “The real value of SEO efforts are, generally not realized in the first month(s) of the effort.” It is true. SEO is like a long term investment. The more time you invest in SEO, the better results you will see within a span of a few months. Aggressive campaigns also have their place and do earn results, but nothing matches the results of a decent SEO campaign done the right way.
- Not all services are equal: Once again, don’t fall for the cheapest solution. Search an agency that walks you through the process and educates you while at it. Ask for the complete scope of their services. This way, it will be more beneficial in the longer run.
- SEO will change and so will your rankings: It should be noted that the industry trends will keep changing over time. Algorithms also keep changing with every new update and it requires constant monitoring to stay ahead of the newest tricks. SEO is unavoidable: The idea of existing as a business online is to be known. If you aren’t doing all it takes to be found, you don’t have to be online. SEO helps a lot in rankings and sale so do give it a try. It might be the best decision you took this year! .
- Hiring an agency is the best idea: It takes a certain level of skill and savvy to be able to perform SEO on your own. Sure enough, it is not impossible and you might be thinking that you can just get done with it, but truth is that you can’t match the expertise of an agency. It requires way more time than a business owner has, and even a good employee who knows SEO can’t do it solo. To get good ROI, you need to hire an agency who can do the job perfectly for you.
This discussion can’t be complete without fair warnings of things you should avoid.
- There is no guarantee: The nature of this field is always changing. No firm can guarantee you complete success, and if they do, you don’t have to buy that.
- There are no instant results: Instant services and tweaks may get you instant results, but in the long run you’ll be in for a bad surprise! These practices that are gaming the system usually go against the quality guidelines. Google keeps hunting for such wayward practices and penalizes websites indulging in them. The loss in ranking as a result may take months to recover from, so take it slow but steady.
- No one can make you #1 for sure: It is the ultimate dream of a website to rank #1 in search engine results, and may you all get it. But keep in mind that no agency can hand it over to you. Once again, it is a slow process.
- Lower prices aren’t great: Any service that is asking for less than $750 a month should be scrutinized. Beware of rock bottom prices and great deals. It’s not about cheap services, it’s about efficient service.
- Shady services: Link building is part and parcel of SEO. You can’t have a good ranking without good inbound links. But there is a dark side to it. There is a link trust that needs to be formed. Before you enter into an agreement with the agency it is better to ask them where they get their incoming links from. The links should be ethical and white label. Shady links will be found and punished by Google.
Last word on SEO pricing:
I will highly urge you to go read this great article by Josh Steinlee on SEO pricing, where he describes choosing SEO agency as if you’re choosing a mechanic for your Rolls Royce. The article also has a very helpful infographic. In other words, to hand over your brainchild to an agency requires mind and heart. It can be a huge risk too. Make sure you research the agencies well and compare them. Talk to other people in business about their Inbound Marketing strategies.
Also, take a look at the Periodic Table of SEO Factors which explains everything, from choosing SEO to its effect on your website. In the end it is you – the business owner – who decides what’s best for your marketing. Online ads and direct mailing all have their own special share in marketing your product, but the organic audience SEO brings to your website is one of a kind.
It is the beginning of a relationship which can turn into potential leads and potential customers. Make sure you ask the SEO agency if they have dealt with a business similar to yours in the past. Try to hold face to face meetings with agency representatives to have better and open communication. Hopefully this guide will have answered many of your questions related to SEO pricing and help you formulate a unique marketing plan that is best for your unique business.