So your website is all set up. The design looks polished, the content is piling up, and the traffic begins to flow. Search Engine Optimisation is next and you’re wondering: “How much does SEO cost?” While this is a good question, it’s not an easy one to answer. Think of it this way: just like buying new clothes, you can do SEO on almost any budget, but the results will vary accordingly.
Factors that impact SEO cost
Whatever your budget, the goal will be always the same: ranking higher than your competitors. How much you need to invest to achieve this goal depends on a lot of factors.
Let’s take a look at two of these:
- The design of your website
- Previous SEO work (if any)
The design of your website
When we look at your website, we have a few questions to take into consideration.
Is the design of your website SEO-friendly? Some templates facilitate good SEO, while others can seriously undermine SEO.
What will be the remedial costs in the case of a poorly-designed website?
Is it worth using a free website builder? They often limit what SEO can be done and ranks will likely be adversely affected by the often bloated source code of the website builder platform you’re using.
Did the web designer apply any basic SEO practices or will an additional SEO consultant be required?
Previous SEO work
If we look at the existing SEO work on an existing website, we might find two issues;
- If the SEO work is done well, it can assist in ranking your site higher with further SEO work
- If done poorly, it will be detrimental and end up costing you more than if no work had been done at all.
We suggest not taking any helpful offers of “SEO work” unless you’re sure the person doing it has a proven track record of success.
What are you paying for when you invest in SEO?
There are so many pricing models, agencies, price points, choices and services available that it’s easy to get lost in the SEO market. Focusing on the services that may help your online business, the question that comes to mind is: what are you actually paying for when you invest in SEO?
The work carried out by SEO companies can be divided into research time, education time and project management time. How these components will be distributed across your particular project depends on what your goals are and what you expect to achieve.
You might want detailed explanations of what SEO work is being done and extensive reports about your web presence, but the best way to positively impact your business is by investing a lot of time in actual SEO services, not trying to explain in intricate detail what is being done and why. Trust the person you’re empowering to help you and focus on the results.
Having said that here’s an explanation of some of the main aspects of SEO.
If you’re considering investing money in SEO, it should mean that you’re familiar with the final goal: optimising websites in order to place web pages at the top of search engines results to gain more visits. This is all well and good but how is this achieved? In other words: how do we win the sought-after first page on Google or other search engines?
There are many things SEOs can do to achieve that, but these are the most common and useful services they provide:
This consists of selecting the right keywords that will bring readers to your website. It is mostly a research task, aimed at finding out what searches related to your business are most popular. After pinning down the keywords to target, they have to be integrated on your website. However, this has to be done without making your pages look stuffed with keywords, which weakens the site’s readability, the general user experience, and perhaps even the rankings.
This is often the bulk of an SEO campaign. In addition to optimising your content, SEO companies may be charging for creating it. Their goal will be to make your website look interesting, useful and relevant since Google recognises and values websites that provide quality content. Additionally, your posts will be engaging, easy to read, and optimised for a web reader’s experience. Other SEO companies will leave the client come up with the content of their posts, which may help them interact with their reader the way they want and will optimise the content before it gets published.
Quality link building
Quality is highly-rewarded on the web, and this is true for links too. Bad link construction is likely to damage your organic rankings, while good link building will boost your pages. Link building includes both internal links (between different pages of your website) and external ones from sites that Google consider to have authority in your industry. This link endorsement from other sites helps your site to rank in a higher position and stay there. This is also known as ‘backlinking.’
This involves a third type of link, also known as ‘incoming links’, which are received by other websites and web pages. Once again, the quality of such pages is key. Top level domains and reputable websites will have a good impact, while poor ones will not. Think of it as if someone is quoting your work, and you want them to be as trustworthy and authoritative as possible.
How SEO-smart is your SEO Consultant?
Even if it’s your first experience hiring an SEO consultant, there are many ways to recognise professionalism and avoid incompetence. Here is a list of questions and signs that indicate value and keep charlatans away:
- Ask them for a list of current clients and check their performance on search engine results pages.
- Make sure they’ll adhere to Google’s webmaster best practices, which clearly state what common SEO tricks are discouraged or even prohibited.
- Avoid those who promise top rankings or a specific ranking position. This result is impossible to guarantee.
- If you’re a small business who’s targeting nearby clients, make sure your consultant has expertise in local SEO strategies.
- The consultant’s skills and expertise should include Google Analytics; this way, they’ll be able to track the success of their campaign in terms of traffic, links network and keywords effectiveness.
- Be clear on what will be communicated and how often; this includes whether or not the consultant will be willing to share every change they will make to your website. Bear in mind that the value of the SEO service is that not everyone knows how to do what they’re doing.
In my opinion, it’s relatively irresponsible (and non-transparent) to guarantee rankings, since these simply aren’t within a consultant’s control (no matter how talented you may be). Hopefully, the folks who do offer them do so with the full knowledge (and with their client’s full knowledge) that SEO is not a guarantee-able process, especially rankings.
Rand Fishkin – Moz.com
What to watch out for to make your SEO investment worthwhile
Cheap rates, false promises and dodgy shortcuts are among the main traps that those who don’t know the ins and outs of the SEO business might fall into.
Traps involving links are very common. When a company’s strategy is focused on links, make sure you know what links they are talking about. Some companies offer great expertise in providing quality links and analysing link profiles to get rid of the bad ones. But other, less professional SEO providers base their link building strategy on buying and selling links, which will eventually damage your rankings and business.
Be wary when someone promises top rankings; while this is the obvious final goal of an SEO campaign, it is also something very difficult to achieve, and companies who guarantee such result are likely to be unprofessional.
This is not exclusive of the SEO market, but also cheap fees have to be looked over with suspicion. The low end of the marketplace might look tempting but will not lead to a satisfactory experience.
Ultimately, as obvious as it may sound, avoid companies who are not ranked for their own target keywords.
How To Pay For SEO
There are a number of ways you can pay for SEO, and they can be tailored to your needs and goals. These are however the four options that are commonly offered by SEO companies:
- monthly fee, arguably the most common option
- hourly fee
- fixed price
When the payment is based on performance, SEO companies may charge according to the number of visitors (pay-per-hit), the number of rankings achieved or competitiveness of the keywords.
How much to pay for SEO?
Now that we’ve explored the SEO market a bit further, we are back to the initial question. The monthly fee companies are willing to pay ranges widely, from a couple of hundred dollars per month to tens of thousands.
What you should invest, depends on your current situation and the nature of your business. Are you a small and local business, or a national company? Are you operating in a niche market or in a highly-competitive environment? Are you looking for a basic introduction to SEO or do you want your businesses to have a strong SEO approach?
As SEO’s, we can work to any budget but the best way to work out what is worth spending is to decide what higher rankings could be worth to you. More sales from higher rankings could be an extra few dollars or it could mean capturing the market and establishing yourself as the first choice provider of your product or service. Under-budgeting on SEO is planning to fail.
These are the sort of questions you’ll have to ask yourself before setting your ideal budget. Whatever you settle for, make sure to choose your provider carefully and avoid offers that sound too cheap, as a $50-per-month plan is unlikely to deliver a satisfactory SEO service.