How Much Does SEO Cost?
If you’re wondering, how much does SEO cost, there is a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is this: Setting up an SEO campaign costs a few hundred to several thousand dollars; ongoing charges for a small to midsize company’s SEO campaign range from $1,000 to $10,000 per month. Some midsize companies find it profitable to invest even more.
The above ranges give you a ballpark estimate of how much SEO is going to cost. If you are interested in learning more about why the costs are what they are, and where your business is likely to fall within the cost ranges just described, read on for the long answer.
General Comments About SEO Costs
When all is said and done, what you’re really paying for in an SEO campaign are time and talent:
- Time. Most companies have no idea how much time it takes to execute an SEO campaign. SEO is labor-intensive, as it requires — among other things — content to be written and marketed, website design and development attention, identification of keywords, collection and analysis of data, and reformulations of strategy and tactics based on analytics. If you consider that writing and marketing a single article (for link building) could easily take four hours, you begin to understand why spending less than $1,000 is simply not enough to move the dial.
- Talent. Google’s search algorithm contains more than 200 factors of which the exact nature and relative weighting are unknown by anyone outside Google. SEOs must rely on their experience and analytical expertise to develop campaigns that provide the right mix of SEO activities to most fully — and ethically — move your website content up in the search rankings. And Google’s algorithm is hardly the only variable your SEO partner must evaluate; keywords and competitors must also be carefully reviewed. Talented SEOs command higher fees because they produce higher and faster returns on investment.
Setup Costs for an SEO Campaign
- Website issues. Before an SEO campaign can get rolling, certain fundamentals have to be in order. Some company websites are SEO-friendly out of the box, some need a fair amount of fine tuning to support SEO, and some are so SEO-unfriendly they need to be completely rebuilt. Some website issues take a great deal of time to straighten out. A few of the biggest and hardest-to-fix issues:
- Creating or improving a mobile-friendly website: Google puts more and more emphasis on mobile-friendly sites all the time.
- Creating and/or editing web pages to support targeted product/service keywords. If you have a lot of products/services, this can involve scores or even hundreds of pages.
- Resolving technical issues such as duplicate content, broken links and non-intuitive site navigation. These issues prevent Google from properly indexing and ranking your content.
- Creating or modifying a tracking system on the back end of your website so that accurate and complete traffic and conversion data can be captured.
- Company and competitive analyses. In an SEO campaign, you compete against other companies for keywords. Competitors with deep pockets and great campaigns can be tough to outrank, but that only means an indirect attack is called for — one that targets keywords with high conversion potential that are flying under the radar. Your SEO partner needs to evaluate competitors as well as your own SEO position to craft the right strategy. Areas to investigate include current rankings for important keywords, backlink profiles and on-site SEO characteristics.
- Keyword research. Identifying the keywords for your campaign’s launch requires a lot of data collection and meticulous analysis. If the wrong keywords are selected, your SEO campaign will not generate enough qualified traffic to produce enough conversions to pay for the campaign. This is a very important point, because organic traffic alone means nothing — you need SEO traffic from prospects who are ready to do business or start a dialog. Thus, keyword intent, along with many other keyword variables such as search volume and relevance, must be weighed.
How much does SEO cost? In terms of setup, fixing website issues can run upward of $5,000 to fix technical problems, build mobile-friendly design and expand content. Competitive analysis and keyword research costs are mainly driven by the number of competitors you have and the number of keywords you want to target.
Ongoing Costs for an SEO Campaign
Once your campaign kicks off, there are several “buckets” of work that will be executed by your SEO partner month in and month out. The most important ones:
- Content development. High-quality content drives most SEO campaigns. This means regularly adding high-quality content to your site and producing high-quality content for articles placed on other websites to help generate inbound links. Because quality is important, trying to write content “on the cheap” with inexperienced copywriters is likely to backfire. The amount of content to be produced is driven by the number of keywords and the number of links deemed necessary to obtain.
- Content marketing. Link building is more than a matter of creating links to your website — they have to be the right kind of links. Building the wrong links puts your SEO campaign in neutral — or even reverse. It takes talented content marketers to identify the right websites on which to place your articles, then perhaps even greater talent to get these publishers interested in accepting your work.
- Other link building activities. Article placement is not the only way to develop links; a competent SEO will devote substantial time to reviewing directory link opportunities and other avenues of non-textual links.
- Analytics. Campaign data, particularly dealing with organic traffic, keyword ranking and conversions (phone calls or form submissions from organic visitors) enables the SEO to continually improve your campaign. The analysis can be quite extensive on a larger-scope campaign, but it is essential to go about it carefully and not go through the motions.
- Reporting. You, the client, have an extremely important role to play in an SEO campaign. Your input about competitors and SEO-driven content, to name only two critical areas, provides valuable insight even if your SEO partner is experienced in your industry. Competent SEOs take the time to develop and provide intuitive, detailed monthly reports not only so clients can see results, but also to create a starting point for monthly or quarterly strategy sessions.
Limit Your Goals to Limit Your Costs
It’s quite common for a business to want SEO results beyond what its budget can accomplish — and this can be baffling and frustrating to a company until it understands why SEO is as costly as it usually is.
The answer to a “high cost” SEO campaign is NOT to get suckered into a deal with an unscrupulous SEO company that promises the world for a few hundred dollars a month. These programs never work, and companies that don’t understand SEO costs are easy prey.
The correct answer to an SEO campaign that goes beyond your budgetary limit is to scale back your campaign scope. Instead of going after 50 high-volume keywords, start with 25 long-tail keywords with high conversion potential. Instead of targeting keywords for all 500 of your products, start with 10 products. More effort devoted to fewer keywords is much more likely to move the dial than diluting your efforts. And, when you start to see positive results, you can always expand your SEO campaign’s scope — and do it with real confidence.
To discuss how to launch an SEO campaign that will maximize your budget, contact us now or call 855-883-0011.