We all know that search engines can be vital sources of website traffic. In fact, whether you’ve built your site with a website builder or on a CMS platform, without search engine traffic it can be very tricky to get your online business off the ground and generating a healthy ROI.
That’s why using search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial part of running a successful business. However, many of us fail to consider the price of getting our websites ranking well. So, how much is SEO and have you got the budget for it?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how much SEO costs in 2023.
In theory, SEO is free. After all, search engines such as Google don’t charge you directly to have your website included in its search results.
Yet, SEO does cost something – effort.
This may be a personal effort or an outsourced effort. Both will ultimately cost you money.
Outsourcing your SEO efforts to an agency will typically cost you a flat fee or a monthly retainer. Doing SEO yourself, on the other hand, will incur an “‘opportunity cost” because the time you spend on SEO won’t be available for other money-making activities.
When you hear the term “SEO pricing”, this is typically referring to the costs associated with hiring a specialist SEO agency.
Of course, it’s impossible to give you an exact figure when it comes to how much SEO may cost you and your business. This is because many internal and external factors come into play.
Some of these include:
- Your SEO goals
- Your product or service offering
- The age of your website
- Your current rankings
- Your industry
- Your budget
- The SEO tools you’re using
- Internal capacity
- Access to SEO professionals
Each of these factors (and more) can drive costs as they vary the level of support and expertise you require in order to achieve success.
Okay, so we’ve made it clear that there is no way of telling you exactly how much SEO will cost you. But we can offer you a ballpark figure. This will help you set your expectations when it comes to SEO.
Like with everything, you usually get what you pay for when it comes to SEO.
If you want to spend $50 a month on SEO, you can. You may see some small improvements to search engine traffic, but it’s unlikely to have a real, meaningful impact on your business.
The best way to understand how much you may need to pay for SEO (in order to get results) is to look at what others are paying. A survey by Search Engine Journal found that businesses that spend $500+ per month on SEO were more likely to be “extremely satisfied” with their results.
Unsurprisingly, the more you spend, the better the outcomes you’re going to see.
When it comes to pricing, there are several different approaches available. In this section, we explore these in some detail.
A retainer or monthly rate is the most common arrangement businesses will have with an SEO agency.
For example, you may agree to a package of monthly SEO activities with your agency. This could include keyword research, website optimization, and backlink building. Each month you’ll then pay a fixed fee to cover that package of work.
This works well for businesses that are committed to building website traffic from search engines and understand the ROI which can be gained from taking a consistent approach.
As we mentioned before, businesses that want to see a real impact from a monthly retainer should expect to pay $500+ per month.
Paying for SEO services at an hourly rate can be a great option for those who want to stay flexible with their SEO efforts.
You may opt for an hourly rate when you know you’ll have different SEO requirements on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. For example, you may pay an SEO specialist an hourly rate when you identify major SEO issues with your site or want a boost in traffic to reach a short-term goal.
Hourly rates vary depending on who you work with, but you should expect to pay $50-$150 per hour.
One-time support counts as anything where you pay an SEO agency a one-time fee for a fixed task or job. This type of pricing model typically works best for businesses that are just starting out with SEO or want to undertake a major SEO push as part of a wide-scale marketing campaign.
For example, when you launch a new website, you may pay an SEO agency to ensure that it’s set up in the best way to perform well on search engines. You may also pay them a one-time fee to undertake keyword research for use across webpage content and in blog posts.
How much you pay for one-time support depends on the scale of the project.
Creating a budget for SEO can be a little tricky when so many factors come into play. In this section, we’ve listed some questions you should ask yourself when formulating an SEO budget.
You may also want to discuss the answers to these questions with your SEO agency or specialist so they can help you estimate costs.
- What are your SEO goals?
Before you set your budget, you need to know exactly what you want to achieve from your SEO efforts. For example, if you just want a consistent trickle of high-value traffic, this is likely to cost you far less than if you want to be #1 for all the major keywords in your industry.
- What is your current website performance?
How well your website is already performing will have a big impact on cost. For example, if you’ve just launched a new website and aren’t currently ranking for any keywords, it’s likely to cost you a lot more than if you’re already getting a large percentage of the traffic for your niche.
- How much competition is there?
If you operate in a highly competitive industry, it’s likely going to take more effort to rank for your keywords. In turn, this will cost more.
- How much can you realistically afford?
Consistency is key when it comes to SEO. When creating your budget, ask yourself how much you will be able to afford on a monthly basis. This will stop you from wasting money pursuing an unsustainable approach.
Your budget should also consider other key cost elements such as website maintenance costs and hosting costs. Having a clear view of your whole financial picture will better help you to see what you can and can’t afford.
It’s difficult to provide a straightforward answer to this question given how many factors there are that affect how much you could pay for SEO in 2023.
Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere between $50 and $500+ for outsourced SEO support. As with many things, the more you pay, the better your outcomes will be, however, your ultimate spend will depend on your overall budget.