How Much Does SEO Cost?

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I’ve recently spoken with a number of prospective clients who are interested in SEO and I’m finding a common theme that’s pretty disturbing… it seems that the scammers are working overtime claiming they can deliver “top rankings for a low price”.  RUN!!! I cannot begin to tell you the problems with this proposition. SEO is not advertising or a way to fix your website, it’s an in-depth marketing strategy that crosses over and works in tandem with your other marketing initiatives and key business goals. Here are a few reasons why real SEO isn’t cheap, and a few facts about some of the most common SEO options being offered out there.

Why good SEO isn’t cheap…. Even if the price is.

There are a lot options for the business owner who wants “SEO” for their website.  I have spoken to 5 potential clients in Denver over the past week who are spending $150-$400 per month for some kind of SEO program.

I found that in 3 of the cases the on-page SEO was performed but no real link building had been done, so they remained on pages 2/3 and receive virtually no traffic.  With some of the right high-value links they could be ranking on page 1 of Google for relevant high volume searches!

In 2 of the cases there was absolute neglect, 1 of which is a large insurance company that was paying a web development firm who had launched the site without even performing the most basic on-page SEO (see below section on web developers providing SEO).

If you don’t see the point here it is; while they saved on their monthly marketing costs, their money was wasted and real opportunities were squandered because someone offered them a cheaper option and they took it.  You get what you pay for folks.

 How Cheap SEO Could Sink Your Boat!

Quite simply, without the proper resources to run a real SEO campaign the only way to get any results is to cut corners.  This can be using spammy link networks, outsourcing SEO, automated directory submissions, spamming forums, and other kinds of black hat SEOIf you are being offered results for a few hundred dollars a month one of two things is likely to result.  1.) You get few results that actually turn into customers and hopefully get to see your site higher in the rankings to make you feel better (this is the better of the two)2.) You pay for the service and get actual traffic and maybe even some real leads!! “Holy cow this is to good to be true!”  It is.  If you have been getting results for little money in a relatively short period of time chances are the person or company you are paying is gaming the search engines to get you results.  Maybe it will work temporarily, but only until the search engines win the game… and they always win.  While not common, if the links built to your website are spammy enough your website could be de-indexed from the search engines.  If this happens your looking at 10X the cost just to get your website listed back in the search engines for your company name.

 Here’s what Search Engine Land Contributor Jordan Kasteler had to say about The Hidden Cost of Cheap SEO & Social Media Labor, he’s spot on and details some of the specific consequences that can occur when going super saver on your internet marketing.

Outsourcing your SEO.

There are some outsourced (outside the country outsourcing) SEO companies that you can use to perform basic and possibly even intermediate SEO, however I would argue very few countries can offer advanced link-building service internationally because at some point you are developing real relationships and the skills required are more in line with sales than any technical expertise.

There is a clear issue with language barriers, especially when you are talking about direct conversations on the phone to get a link.  The hardest links are often acquired through direct contact and require some level of trust and faith in the person on the other end. Just manually building links to low-quality sites will usually only pass enough value to compete with other websites also using the cheap and easy strategy

All the inexpensive outsourced companies I have had direct experience with are a few years behind the SEO industry here in the US/UK, and are using old techniques that don’t really work anymore. (Prospective clients have provided me with the links that these SEO companies are building for them).  A few companies are good, most are not.

Web Developers and Marketing Firms Providing SEO Services

It’s important to note there are digital marketing firms, web development agencies, and general marketing firms that have invested significant resources into developing advanced SEO programs. These companies offer high quality, custom-built SEO services that provide real value to their clients.

Unfortunately for every one of these companies there are 10 that add the words “SEO” to their offerings and throw out some jargon to make you think they provide real SEO.  Most web development companies don’t really do SEO, they do a version of it that touches on the first 5% of real SEO.  SEO isn’t something that someone can do on the side, even web developers and advanced marketers.  It takes a completely different skill set and background, most developers don’t have the marketing skills required, and many marketers don’t have the technical expertise (many of them actually sub out SEO to companies like us).

 How much should SEO cost?

It depends.  Here is a great article from Search Engine Land contributor Trond Lyngbo on how much SEO should cost. The bottom line is you get what you pay for, there  aren’t any short-cuts that don’t pose risk.  Real SEO requires careful strategy and planning by an expert who has a deep understanding of SEO and it’s influencing factors.  At our firm we offer a wide range of SEO options generally starting at $1,000 per month, but have clients that spend as much as $5,000 per month.  We have found $1,000 /month to be the minimum that most professional SEO providers can perform SEO services for (for most small businesses/websites with average competition).

Outside of that we do a starter program at $600/month, and have seen some companies that offer limited SEO services in this range; if you are a small company in an uncompetitive industry/market you could do well with a program around this cost. This price range could be sufficient to cover most critical SEO needs allowing a website to rank naturally over time.  I don’t see real SEO being performed for less than $600/month, that’s our minimum and there’s really no way to go lower without being unethical.

We generally do packages to keep it simple but the actual SEO hourly rates for many SEO companies can range from $60/hour to $300/hour, and even up to $750/hour.  These are market rates based on consumer demand, and the SEO firms that perform for their clients produce extreme results that move the bottom line in a big way.

If you would like a free SEO website review, visit this link and we’ll see if we can help you.

If you want to learn more about SEO on your own see the sites listed in the “advanced resources” section in the footer of this website.

Update:  5/19/13 – Just found an excellent post on Search Engine Watch about types of payment structures and rates for SEO, definitely good information here.

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