This is probably one of the most common questions (if not the most) every small business owner asks. They know they need SEO but they have no idea what that means, or what that will cost. As consultants, clients always want to know our rates. How much money will it be for a typical investment? The way we could typically reply is how much do you expect to spend? Nothing in life is free, and if you’re looking to work with a professional you might take a moment to figure out what rate works for your business or domain.
We hope to address some of the more common questions around SEO and pricing for you below.
Before we get into the pricing part, we wanted to outline what SEO for small businesses actually entails so you can be more informed when deciding which agency to work with. More often then not, local service is something small businesses are more interested in for their websites, so just to clarify, local is very similar but with a few different strategies and solutions to improve and increase rank over your competition.
There are a few main pieces each and every good SEO campaign should include. Barring any super specific needs, you’ll find the following in most cases.
One of the most important pieces of any marketing/advertising/SEO campaign is an Audit. You need to know where you’re business is before you can determine where to go. We’ll get into the specifics of an Audit below as many times this is something we fulfill as a one-off for clients who have, unfortunately, have been let down by a prior SEO practitioner.
This is the less “sexy” part of SEO but a piece that if not complete can render the rest of your content creation useless. Without a site that has it’s technical SEO in order, Google and other search engines may just ignore your site in favor of other sites that do.
The technical aspect covers things like Meta tags and titles, as well as robots.txt files and schemas to name a few. All things that make eyes glaze over in anyone except a true SEO nerd. These are just a few of the “back end” pieces that build a strong foundation for your site content.
BTW, Meta tags still seem to confuse some, so we found an explanation directly from big G themselves!
Content (On-Page Optimization)
This is the one that anyone that owns a website is familiar with. Maybe you’ve spent some time learning how to do keyword research, or maybe you’ve spied on your competitors to see what they are writing about, chances are, if you have a site, you’ve spent some time at this end of the pool.
On-Page is an art form. There are SEO’s that do this well and others that create content for the sake of “covering a keyword”. If you don’t have a good On-Page strategy in place, you may get traffic, but it’s not at the levels it could be when you’ve taken the time to plan and optimize to feed search engines what they want!
Arguably the hardest part of SEO because it’s not something that is always controllable (you’re adding in a variable, a.k.a. other site owners), just because it’s more difficult, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With a great plan and outreach team, anyone can score those all-important links they need to help build their site’s reputation in the eyes of search engines.
Cost Of An SEO Audit
This is a touchy subject among SEOs. There really is no average cost and gauging how much an audit should cost depends on a few variables.
The price range that we’ve seen for a basic SEO Audit is anywhere from $500 for a page (or a very small site) to $6000 for a larger site.
There have been times where a small SEO company may use a “push button” option for their client audits and charge a smaller amount, but you get what you pay for. Though they may have caught a few red flags, their audits didn’t dive as deep or wide leaving their clients “exposed” to issues.
We have a few specialization Audits that deal with “entity” and trust factors but our average audit comes in at $2000 and covers the technical side of the site as well as a few examples of the strength of some key pages.
This gives us and the client an idea of what needs to be fixed before we get to the fun part of content, links, and silos.
You may be asking if you need an audit or thinking that you’re site is just fine and you can skip it. In 99% of situations, we STRONGLY recommend an audit.
In the past, we’ve worked with small businesses that claimed they just had an audit and only needed some links and on-page optimization… only later when things weren’t performing as they should have done we found out that hey had given us incorrect information and had the key pages we were working on hidden by a former employee so search engines couldn’t crawl their site. An audit would have caught this and saved a ton of budget, time, and sanity.
How Much Does SEO Cost In 2020
The million-dollar question!
There is no average.
Every agency or freelancer you talk to seems to have a different value they attach to their knowledge and services. Unlike other parts of marketing like media buying or content creation, there is too much variation in how SEO’s complete campaigns.
Within the SEO world, there are many ways to skin a cat. Some folks lean heavily on things like PBN’s (Private Blog Networks) or risky practices to rank their clients.
In cases like that, clients may see quicker results, but they come at a much higher risk, and ultimately a higher cost if the search engines catch on. Being blacklisted altogether from search results can be devastating.
SIDE NOTE: Here at PBD, we like to practice what we call “Eternal SEO”. This means that we mitigate the risk to our clients by avoiding practices like PBN’s or mass page builders. We focus on the basics; optimized and engaging content, links, and a solid site structure. It is a recipe that’s been working through every algorithm update and rankings shake-up, so we’re sticking with it!
Although there are many many ways that an SEO can bill a client, there are a few common ones we can outline for you.
Although this is what most clients dream of, only paying for what’s ranking, it’s also the riskiest. This type of billing incentivizes quick results at all costs, which leads to SEO’s leaning heavily on black hat technics to achieve their goals. We don’t recommend this billing model unless you are aware of and okay with, the risk involved and the practices being used by the SEO or agency.
Per Campaign Pricing:
This occurs when a client and an agency clearly define the needs and scope of the project beforehand and the agency can give a detailed outline of the work involved to meet the goal. Things like site migrations or audits often fall into this category of pricing.
Monthly Retainer Pricing:
This is a very common pricing model for SEO that still varies pretty wildly depending on the agency. Basically, the client would pay a retainer (say $2000 a month) for a set number of hours to be dedicated to their campaign. Although this is probably the most common model, it often leads to scope creep or overbilling when changes need to be made.
For example, the “package” may include 2 blog posts and 4 links a month, but if you happen to want to create an infographic, the agency will either, in the best-case scenario, underbill and do the extra work to keep you happy, or to the opposite, overbill you for the pain of straying from the program.
This is the “freelancer” model that many new SEO’s or smaller agencies tend to offer. It’s a great option if you’re looking for just a little technical cleanup or some on-page optimization of posts your unsure of, but it often leaves many stones unturned when talking about a well-rounded SEO campaign. It can achieve similar results, but you’ll end up paying a much higher premium in the long run.
The Hybrid Pricing Model:
The SEO pricing model that we’ve adopted here at Painted Brick Digital is a bit of a hybrid of all the best aspects of the other options. We refer to it as a “points method”.
Since we don’t do “packages” and each campaign is created bespoke per client’s needs it allows us to build out a campaign that can be translated into a set of tasks. And when those tasks, that have predetermined values are added together, they create a campaign.
For example (these numbers are not real…), say a client is starting a new site, there is a ton of work that needs to be done…
…and the list goes on, but with our points system, we know that each of those tasks takes a particular amount of time, and based on that we can assign a point value to it. The client then knows how many points they have to work with each month and we know exactly where those points are allocated within the clients budget:
Site Layout- 60pts
Web 2.0’s- 15pts
Social Signals- 40pts
Meta Descriptions- 10pts
By adopting this pricing model we’ve been able to curb the “scope creep” issue while ensuring we don’t overbill and the client knows exactly what work is being done on their campaign each month.
If you would like to learn more about our process, please schedule a time to discuss your particular project HERE.
SEO Package Prices And Practices
Before we leaving this topic we wanted to give you a little bit of insight on what to look for when choosing your SEO partner.
Things to look for, and more importantly to look out for before you make a buying decision.
What to look for:
- An understanding of the link building process
- A clear plan outlining all the practices and techniques they use to achieve their results
- Winning case studies
- An analytical mind that is excited to dig into your project
- Responsiveness (Nothing worse than a partner that goes dark if something bad happens)
What to avoid:
- Guaranteed rankings (They don’t own Google, so be very wary of these claims)
- Low prices (If it’s too good to be true, you may be paying someone to learn SEO on your project)
- Slow response times (You don’t want to have to chase them if there’s a fire)
- A lack of transparency in their practices (SEO isn’t magic, if they don’t want to tell you how they are doing it, that’s a bad sign)
Did you learn anything?
The best piece of advice we could give is to educate yourself a bit and shop around. Talk to a few companies and see who you like, believe, and most importantly trust. You want a partner to grow with you and celebrate your wins together.
We hope you found this helpful, though there is no set pricing or pricing models in SEO, this should give you a better understanding of how most agencies and practitioners work.
If you want to discuss your project with us, we’re here to help! Grab a time that works for you HERE.
For 15+ years now Adam has helped business brand, plan, and grow.
With a background in media buying and specializing in data-driven marketing he founded the Painted Brick Digital Agency to act as your in-house marketing and advertising department.
“Cookie cutter doesn’t work in a world that is constantly evolving.”