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How Much Does SEO Cost? The 2024 SEO Pricing Guide

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Chris Kirksey


seo costs in 2019

Authors note: The costs in this article are meant to help provide a better understanding of why SEO prices vary, and is not meant to provide specifics for your particular campaign.

  • Generally, the following factors play the largest role in pricing:
  • The SEO firm’s geographical location
  • The number of people dedicating time to the campaign
  • The expertise level of the people dedicated to the campaign
  • The time allocation for the campaign (on page SEO, off-page SEO, local SEO)
  • Any hard costs the firm must cover (backlink opportunities, content curation, content distribution, directory placements, competitive research tools, etc.)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a secret weapon of success — a marketing tactic that can skyrocket your online visibility and bring in more customers to your business.

By optimizing your pages and posts for relevant keyword phrases, you can get your website to appear higher in search engines like Google. This means more people will find and click on your content organically or “for free,” rather than having to pay for ads. 

The benefits of good SEO are huge. Higher rankings bring more visitors to your site, generate more leads and sales, and increase brand awareness. Essentially, SEO helps grow your digital presence and succeed online.

By focusing your optimization efforts on high-value keywords, building high-quality backlinks, and creating compelling content, you make your website irresistible to both search engines and internet users.

SEO success compounds over time too. The work you put in today continues to deliver results in the future. And the best part — no expensive ads required.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

The cost of quality SEO services varies depending on the agency and the deliverables proposed.

Most SEO campaigns from leading agencies in 2023 cost between $2,500-$25,000/month, with a 6-month contract being the typical agreement.

A one-time project will typically run you anywhere between $5,000-$40,000. Hourly rates for SEO consultants range from $150-$1,200/hour.

SEO Pricing Break-Down

Average Hourly SEO Consulting Rates (US) $100-$500/hr
Average Managed Local SEO Campaigns Rates $1,500-$5,000/month
Average Managed Regional SEO Campaign Rates $3,000-$10,000/month
Average Managed National SEO Campaign Rates $8,000-$100,000/month
SEO Strategy & Competitor/Market Research $3,000-$10,000/month

SEO costs vary not only based on your reach though…

Many agencies have different experience levels. Based on your agencies expertise and resources, they will propose a price to achieve those goals and hit your key performance indicators.

If the agency size is something you’re wondering about, there are many small firms that do great work.

A simple Google search for a company’s reviews will help you better understand if they’re a good agency or not.

The most reliable source of information about an agency is

All the agency reviews on are real, and as close to the truth you’ll get in terms of online reviews. The Washington DC-based Clutch team schedules a call with an agency’s clients, then conduct a roughly 10-30 minute interview. The interview is then published to the respective firms Clutch page.

There’s no other platform online that dedicates this kind of effort to ensure real, honest reviews are published.

Organic SEO Campaign Costs vs. Local SEO Campaign Costs

Service National/Regional/Global Local
Keyword Research Comprehensive research of high-traffic and relevant keywords for your industry. Focused research on location-based keywords to target your local audience.
On-Page Optimization Complete optimization of your website’s content, meta tags, and URL structure. Localized optimization of your website’s content, meta tags, and URL structure with a focus on local keywords.
Link Building Building a diverse and high-quality backlink profile from relevant sources to improve search visibility. Building local citations and location-specific backlinks to improve visibility in local search results.
Technical SEO Ensuring your website is crawlable, indexable, and optimized for search engine algorithms. Combining technical SEO practices with localized optimizations for better local search performance.
Content Development Creating and promoting high-quality, informative content to attract organic traffic. Crafting localized content that resonates with your target audience, addressing their needs and preferences.
Competitor Analysis Analyzing and monitoring the strategies of industry competitors to stay ahead in the market. Focusing on local competitors to understand their tactics and improve your local search presence.
Reporting & Analytics Detailed reporting on organic traffic growth, keyword rankings, and overall SEO performance. In-depth analysis of local search performance, including local keyword rankings, map pack visibility, and user engagement.
Google Business Profile Management Basic management of your Google Business Profile listing. Comprehensive management and optimization of your Google Business Profile listing to improve local search visibility.
Reputation Management Monitoring and managing your online reputation across various channels. Focused reputation management on local review sites and platforms to maintain a positive local presence.

SEO Pricing: Ranges from $2,500 to $25,000+ per month, depending on the complexity of the project, the size of the website, and the level of competition.

Local SEO Pricing: Typically falls between $1,000 to $2,500+ per month, as it targets a smaller, more specific audience and requires a more focused approach.

Remember, investing in SEO or Local SEO services can deliver a high ROI for your business. Partnering with an experienced agency that understands your unique needs is essential for long-term success. Choose the right service based on your target audience, business goals, and budget to maximize your online visibility and growth.

When Should I Invest in SEO?

Research and published data shows that SEO is the best marketing solution for building a lasting, continually growing inbound lead generation funnel (which we’ll discuss later in this article).

In terms of timing, it’s always better to get started sooner, rather than later. The longer you wait, the more you allow your competition to grab a foothold in your market.

Lastly, SEO is not an expense. It is an investment. You put money in, you get money out. The longer you stick with it, the more money you start to get out than what you put in.

website meme 1

According to Hubspot, inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads.

SEO can take 6-12+ months to pay itself off.

Some say that’s a long time to see an ROI. But, is it really?

According to Quora, Normal ROI for SEO is anywhere between 50% and 5,000% and depends on many factors like competition, current situation, client’s budget, and the SEO skills of who they hire. ROI for PPC is usually anywhere around 40-200%.

According to Forbes, the overall average social media ROI is 95%.

According to NerdWallet, The stock market has historically returned an average of 10% annually, before inflation. 

According to the S&P 500 Index, the average return on investment in the US real estate market is 8.6%. The average return on investment differs based on property investment strategies. Residential real estate has an average ROI of 10.6%, commercial real estate has an average return on investment of 9.5%, and REITs have an average return of 11.8%.

SEO is clearly king when we look at “Return on Investment.” The best part? The ROI of SEO can be seen within 12 months.

Now let’s determine how much you should be investing…

How Much Should I Pay for SEO?

If you’ve done a little homework, you’ve likely found that every agency provides you with different pricing structures.

SEO proposals can range from a few hundred dollars per month to thousands per month. Why the drastic differences?

There are hundreds of factors that go into SEO pricing; so it can be pretty difficult to compare what services you get.

The demand for search engine optimization is increasing at a higher rate than almost any other marketing services available.

Just take a look at the job market:

Conductor Salary Guide 2018 feature 06 1024x575 1

The demand for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals is surging ever faster with each passing year, outpacing the rate of growth of almost all other occupations. With such pressing and widespread need comes a proportional level of expense, as the people that can deliver these services naturally command higher salaries due to their relative scarcity.

SEO Hourly & Retainer Pricing Examples

According to a survey done by SparkToro, 32% of businesses spend $5,000+/month on SEO. Below are pricing structures of a few leading SEO firms in the US:

Example SEO Retainer #1: Direction Inc.

Starts at $5,000+/month

“Focused on results, and ultimately, market domination for every single one of our clients, we need to have top-talent on our team and the resources necessary to ensure our clients meet their goals with an SEO campaign. Therefore, our minimum engagement is $5,000/month.” –

office meeting direction inc
Future agency seo pricing

Example SEO Retainer #2: From The Future Agency

Starts at $5,000/month (or $223.55/hr)

“For clients eager to partner with us, and get the time, energy, and attention of myself and my team – we require a minimum monthly retainer of $5,000, in exchange for an average of 20 hours”

Example SEO Retainer #3: Pure Visibility

$3,000-$5,000/month (or $200/hr)

“Our SEO Upgrade plans are built on more than a decade’s experience helping businesses reach their digital visibility goals. We’ve packed each plan with the elements needed to make significant gains in rankings and traffic, which will subsequently increase your website’s ability to generate qualified leads and increased sales.”Pure Visibility

seo pricing example scaled 1
webfx seo pricing

Example SEO Retainer #4: WebFX

$975-$2,795/month ($3,750-$7,000 Setup Fees)

“A custom SEO campaign with WebFX targets on-page and off-page SEO, which includes things like keyword research and content implementation, to help your most valuable audience find you online.” – WebFX

Case Studies on SEO Pricing

01 How Much Do SEOs Charge Per Hour

SEO hourly rate graph

seo pricing guide rates

SEO Pricing for One-Time SEO fixes, SEO Audits, Local Campaigns, National Campaigns & Hourly Pricing.



The Pricing Difference Between Local SEO Services & Local SEO Software

Brands can spend anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 per month on SEO at rates ranging from $50 to $250 per hour, depending on budget, needs, and the type of services you’re getting. Local SEO is often just one piece of that budget.

The cost of Local SEO comes in at different price point than an enterprise or e-commerce campaign, and is one of the most effective means of reaching customers in your area. Most campaigns incorporate local seo into the roadmap, but not all utilize local seo software, which streamlines campaign successes—and at a fraction of the cost.

What About Local SEO services?

For any business looking to make their content more visible, local SEO services can provide a reliable avenue for success. With the right combination of keyword optimization, geographical targeting and embedded location-based signals, you’re able to reach a highly relevant audience from within the confines of your immediate neighbourhood. Conversion optimization too is at play here; by presenting your message in an attractive and personalized way, you’re much more likely to garner results that’ll build brand loyalty and drive business growth for years to come. In short, local SEO services offer a straightforward yet potent way of augmenting visibility online—a powerful tool that cannot be overlooked by ambitious companies seeking to succeed.

Local SEO services are generally part of your overall SEO approach (but can also stand alone), so pricing can vary significantly. Your costs will depend on your needs, which might include these or many other options:

  • Technical service availability
  • Whether you need an initial website analysis or setup
  • Your specific business goals
  • The need for backlinks and PR
  • Your overall content strategy

Local SEO services typically range from a few hundred dollars a month to a few thousand. This pricing model is a bit more challenging to nail down due to all the moving parts you need to consider for your SEO services. With this approach, your local SEO may not be getting the full attention it needs, such as ensuring your local listings are being managed and updated properly and regularly.

What is local SEO software?

Local SEO software, on the other hand, typically focuses on managing your local listings, or citations. It helps you monitor and correct information across multiple local directories and sites, including Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and many others. Software can automate your processes, so you don’t have to do much work to see traffic increases to your site or more customers coming into your store. Here are a few pricing examples:

  • BrightLocal – From $29 to $79 per month
  • Moz Local – From $129 to $299 per year
  • SEO Clarity – From $10 to $12 per location per month, or more for custom plans
  • App – From $999 to $1199 a year

A leading example of local SEO software is the App, which allows business owners and marketers to boost their online presence, managing everything from one centralized and intuitive dashboard. You receive automatic updates, and your listings are always synced in real-time across every profile and directory that’s live.

Local SEO software is usually subscription-based, so you pay a reasonable monthly fee for the services you need. Local SEO pricing depends on factors like how many locations you have, the directories you need to be part of, your geographical location, competitors’ performance, and others.

3 2

Going with local SEO software may be the right option for a business seeking to streamline its approach while getting the tools to boost its online presence and get noticed by its audience at a fraction of what digital marketing often costs.

Assessing the Value local SEO software?

Going with a cheaper SEO software may sound like a good move but remember that you usually get what you pay for. Investing in the right local SEO software ensures you’re not getting diluted services from providers that appear more affordable. In the long run, paying less for poorer services can end up costing you a lot more, because they’re ineffective and drive potential customers to your competition instead.

For optimal local SEO and business growth, you need to work with an agency that can give your business the special attention it needs for local SEO.

Many of these cut-rate companies have too many customers competing against one another, so they can’t really deliver search ranking improvements or prioritize what’s best for your business. Whereas,, pairs you with a dedicated SEO expert, who will implement tactics to help you stand apart from competitors.

Be sure to investigate how a local SEO software disseminates your business information before committing to a plan. Some software depend on APIs, while others use data aggregators, which gather business data and pass it on to other data sources. Going with the API approach, which uses, gives you real-time syncing and directory updates so you can rest assured your listings are always up to date and uniform. This is crucial so you never have a citation that includes outdated or inaccurate information.

What About SEO Freelancers?

There’s nothing wrong with hiring freelancers. If you only need a certain aspect of SEO taken care of, such as backlink outreach, freelancers can be great resources. But it almost always takes more of your time up than it should, and can distract you from running your business. Another common problem is quality control issues.

That’s why a small to mid-size firm is a great way to go vs. large (200+ employee) corporations or even freelancers.

You need a well-rounded team working on your SEO.

It’s not going to be “cheap” per se, but, you get what you pay for.

Many firms have in-house copy editors, content managers, graphic designers, and conversion optimization specialists. They have web developers, analytics experts, and account managers. The list goes on.

These firms know that being able to keep up consistent high-quality work requires a solid team.

They know that having enough people to take care of the different aspects of your digital marketing strategy ensures your SEO will be prioritized and given the proper attention it needs and deserves.

What Costs Go Into SEO?

To better understand how much you should pay for SEO, it’s important to understand what services you will be receiving in a monthly campaign.

SEO services are not something you can receive for the same low rates they were sold at even just 3 years ago. And SEO is not just about keywords.

SEO is becoming more complex and time-consuming of a job as Google’s algorithm is ever-evolving.

When your website is focused on great user experience, quick answers to questions, providing useful information and more – your website will be favored by Google’s algorithm.

Google wants to provide users with the best answer to their search queries. Because, well, that’s how Google makes money.

The last thing Google wants is for a user to then decide that Bing or Yahoo! may provide a better answer.

The goal is to have search engines select your website as the best answer to respective search queries.

A lot of work goes into properly following search engine guidelines to ensure a website moves toward the top of search results, and it takes a special type of expertise built primarily through experience.

That’s where the benefit of hiring an agency comes into play. So, when selecting an agency, there are four main things to remember here:

  1. Don’t go cheap (A recent study revealed that clients of SEO agencies who spend over $500+/month are 53.3% more likely to consider themselves as “extremely happy” )
  2. Get ready to put in work (yes, this will require time on your end as well),
  3. Know what YOUR KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) will be,
  4. Ensure your business is ready to take on more work,
  5. Be patient.

Remember – YOU are responsible for hiring the right agency.

Whether you’re the business owner, an executive, procurement officer, taking the wrong approach could be dangerous to the company.

When vetting an SEO agency, you should discuss the specific tactics used.

Just a few of the most important questions would be:

  • Who will be writing the content?
  • How do you acquire links?
  • What do you take care of in terms of on-site optimization?
  • Do you monitor analytics and find new ways to optimize for conversions?

Cheap SEO & Scams To Avoid

The “costs” of sub-$2,000/month SEO services sounds tempting, doesn’t it? If the cheapest firm’s services aren’t as effective, no harm, no foul, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Proper SEO can serve as a torch held high in the black of the Internet’s night sky. Handing it to an inexperienced torchbearer can set your site’s ranking ablaze…or worse, fizzle ’em out into nothing.

Your presence may burn brightly for a little while… but once Google shows up to put out the flames, only smoldering ruins remain; smoldering ruins, as in pages two and further of Google Search Results.

seo meme google page 2

1. Avoid Keyword-Focused Strategies

Unfortunately, many people end up on websites almost daily that haven’t learned, so, here we go…

There are people out there who will learn a little about Google keywords then start advertising themselves as SEO experts. In reality, they’re only keyword stuffers.

Google looks for useful content that uses keywords in context. Relevancy is key here. Stuffers tell local businesses to include text for every location they want to rank for. Another tactic is repeating the same words or phrases unnaturally.

Like so:

“At Acme Discount Mattresses, we sell the best discount mattresses. Our discount mattresses offer the best value in discount mattresses. We have the best prices on discount mattresses. Call Acme Discount Mattresses and order your discount mattress today!”

Ok maybe that example may be a little overkill, but it’s possible that a paragraph like this could improve your ranking. But only temporarily. In the long run, this kind of paragraph will draw penalties from Google.

Content strategies need to be focused on topics. Yes, the keywords should be there in the text, but the focus is to answer questions and provide the best information out there.

2. Link Schemes

link schemes

Some SEO “professionals” resort to link schemes to manipulate a site’s ranking. Building spammy links or Private Blog Network (PBN) links in order to attempt improving organic rankings can result in a penalty. Providing excessive link exchanges also results in penalties. Google takes this so seriously that they even have a page set up to report this abuse.

The problem for an SEO client is that this tactic could improve their rankings temporarily and everyone gets excited. Just to find out that it won’t last. Once Google discovers the link exchange network, it all comes crashing down. Google penalizes page after page wrapped up in the scheme.

3. Guaranteed Rankings or Results

Guarantees are good, right? Not when it comes to organic search rankings.

No single company other than Google can actually control Google search rankings.

Many SEO firms promise improvements to your website rankings. That’s normal. If you do what’s right, you’ll earn higher rankings. But a guarantee that you’ll make the first page of results? Or spot #1?

Think twice before hiring that firm.

See what Google has to say about this:

4. Quick Rankings & Results

To achieve that “goal” or “promise” of top rankings, some companies resort to questionable tactics. They meet their goals. You pay. And they disappear.

Shortly thereafter, your pages take a nosedive. What happened?! Google crawlers eventually came across your website, discovering that your site isn’t offering the perceived value it promised.

This could happen for a variety of reasons such as link schemes, over-optimized, unnatural link profiles, poorly written content, poorly structured content, over-optimized pages, under-optimized pages and more. These are all things that have a recurring theme with lower-cost agencies.

Google penalties are messes nobody wants to clean up. We’ve turned down some pretty large opportunities over penalized sites due to the amount of work involved to play clean-up and potential of Google taking their sweet time to decide to forgive you. So, have fun finding an agency to work with you after that.

5. So-Called "Google Partners"

Yes, there are such things as Google Partners, we are one. BUT that has NOTHING TO DO WITH SEO.

Google Partners are agencies who have a certificate for passing the Google Ads test and who manage a number of Google Ad campaigns successfully. This is strictly related to digital advertising and has no relationship to organic rankings. If someone attempts to use their Google Partner status when talking about SEO – they are misleading you. Run.

google partner logo

6. Free Trials

The amount of time and tedious work that goes into search engine optimization is: 7 hours…

Just kidding! believe it or not, SEO never ends. It’s a constant uphill battle against thousands of websites who’ve hired their own SEO agencies fighting for just 1 of the top 10 spots in search results.

No legitimate agency would ever provide that kind of work for free or at heavily discounted rates. Usually, they just want access to your website to use it for their own spammy reasons. Run Forest, run.

7. Email SEO Scams

We’ve all received those unsolicited emails from an “SEO Guru” on the other side of the world, and sometimes even here in the US (so they say).

We receive those emails as an SEO agency. Our clients get those emails too – no matter how great their website is performing.

seo email marketing scam by cheap overseas contractors

These scam emails usually say that you have issues or problems with your rankings, your website, or that you aren’t on page one of Google and they can help you fix that. Usually at a very attractive, low rate.

Unfortunately, many business owners fall for these scams. You’ve now been warned. Just mark it as spam.

8. Phone SEO Scams

If you thought the spam emails were bad, just wait to hear some of the phone scams.

(commence overseas accent) “Hi, this is bob from Google. I am calling to help your website get found.”

Ok first of all, Google will never outright call you. There’s a process which you must go through in order to even request a call from Google.

Second of all, Google doesn’t provide personal help if getting your business found or ranked or anything of the sort.

They have tools in your Google My Business account that provide tips and encourages you to do different things to help you get found, but they do not have people dedicated to calling and helping you.

(commence impressive English accent) “Hi, this is Tasha, can I please speak to the business owner? I’m calling to verify your business information on behalf of Google and Yelp.”


A Note on Ownership of Content

Did you know that since SEO is a service, content produced and placed on your website is actually owned by the agency doing the work? Well, not unless they specify otherwise in the contract that is.

In every single one of our contracts – we state:

“Everything we create for you is 100% owned by you. Meaning we will never remove any work done to your website. This is an investment in your business, and we respect your decision to choose us as your partner in growth. We do not take a single penny you spend with us lightly, and are very serious about producing results.”

Make sure that when choosing an agency to work with, you ask that very important question of who owns the work.

SEO is Time & Work-Intensive

Because SEO requires a lot of meticulous, detail-oriented labor, many cheap SEO firms do a LOT of outsourcing.

It’s not always bad to use contractors for specific tasks, but only if the work they do is of high quality.

Often, people writing the cheapest content will be freelancers whose first language is not English. This can result in poor grammar, spelling, or confusion due to cultural differences.

Let’s be clear: This is NOT the kind of content you want on your site.

That being said, working with an SEO firm that is not located in your country is a flat-out terrible idea, dare we say, suicidal to your online presence.


Because over the past few years, Google has given the quality of the content on your website higher priority than ever before.

And content is only becoming more and more relevant in rankings.

If you hire someone who doesn’t speak your language fluently and isn’t well educated in your language, the content will never be what it could be if you hired a content marketing agency in the US.

Not to say that everyone in the US is a great writer, but you’ve got a much better shot at getting better content written for you if you hire a US SEO or content marketing firm vs. an “SEO” company in, say, Mexico, Thailand, India or Pakistan.

Setting Proper Expectations

An SEO firm that knows what they’re doing will set the proper expectations with you up-front. Because they all know that when SEO is done correctly, it takes time.

All right. Your servers are humming along. You’ve optimized your content. You’ve made some great relationships with media outlets online and received powerful backlinks from them. You’re stacked up against your competition.

Now what? How long is this SEO thing going to take? Well, that depends.

Don’t lose heart! We’ll get there and you are off to a great start. There are a lot of factors to consider.

Google takes over 200 factors into account when analyzing and ranking your site.

An experienced SEO firm is familiar with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

The best digital firms focus on the factors that have the most impact. And when the competition is tough, that’s when they’ll also work on the smallest factors. Because it may be that .001% change that will differentiate you from the competitor enough to bump ’em out of their top rankings and place you there instead.

Overall, you want a firm that considers and prioritizes long-term success for your company. Now is the time to explore the factors that will contribute to the long term success of your business online!

Optimizing Your Site For Search Performance

Some initial optimization needs to take place before reformatting the content that shapes your online presence. Your site must be set up to let search engines access it. Overlooking this step will make all the work useless.

SEO firms will often help you optimize page speed. And they ensure that your site renders well on smartphones, tablets, and desktop PCs so that you’re easily accessible by anyone and everyone.

Creating Content

Content is key. This is one of the largest factors to consider in SEO pricing. Your content should be:

  • Original content (not copy-pasted),
  • Specific to your business,
  • Offer value,
  • Be actionable and have call-to-actions (CTA’s),
  • Have an attention-grabbing headline,
  • Answer questions in-line to what the user searched,
  • Be engaging and thought-provoking,
  • Be visually appealing – use photos/icons/mini-graphics/infographics/video,
  • Represent the goals that you strive for in order to rank high,
  • Be regularly updated,
  • And to-the-point, or, in other words, not stuffed with filler content just to hit certain word counts.

A good SEO firm will help you analyze your site from the get-go and make sure that what’s posted is unique, and engaging while targeting the right audience and satisfying user intent.

It’s not only important to rank for popular keywords. Your content needs to provide value, and of course, a little edge to engage those users searching for key searches related to your products and/or services.

Did you know that there are these machines called Google bots that crawl all over your page?

These bots are constantly exploring, monitoring and analyzing user behavior across the entire internet.

If users continue to leave your page without engaging (clicking-through to other pages, clicking to call, email, download something, etc.), those Google critters may decide that someone else is providing better user experiences. That someone else just so happens to be your organic search competition. Ouch.

When users don’t engage with your content, you are less likely to rank for the very key terms that represent your services.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be the case when you invest in properly implemented SEO strategies.

Google wants to see vibrant, valuable content which isn’t outdated.

Your page needs to answer a user’s query better than your competitor does.

Don’t let users get lost in too many words, improperly structured content with headings, lack of visuals, etc.

The key is bringing them to their answers in a timely, easy-going manner.

Make your content engaging, as that’s what matters most.

Additional metrics will do their job and prove to Google that users found what they needed.

 Content Posting Intervals


Posting various types of media and content consistently helps SEO tremendously. It can also speed up your efforts. When you add new content, Google’s spiders crawl your page more often. Although, your agency should also be regularly checking your Google Search Console to ensure it’s actually getting crawled.

Posting new content also encourages users to return to your site. Google views returning visitors as having positive experiences. They like what they see on your website, and Google gives your page a better ranking.

Good news! Google doesn’t care how fast you publish your content as long as it’s valuable and engaging. So churn out those quality posts as quickly as possible! (GR??)

number of blog posts
Image courtesy of Hubspot

Interlinking and Backlinks

An SEO firm will help you optimize your backlinks. But, what exactly are backlinks?

Backlinks are the futuristic branches to your business’s tree, they reach out online to and from all the reputable sources, showing that you have solid roots in your specific industry.

Google tends to view sites with more trust and authority when they link to and from reputable sources online.

referring domains vs organic search traffic ahrefs content explorer 1
The correlation between referring domains and organic search traffic, based on a study of ~920 million web pages.

So, the more backlinks the better (as long as they are quality, relevant links.)

This is where some businesses get desperate, and who likes desperate? We’ll tell you who – not the ones holding the actual power to grow your business – Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

It can be hard to get a website to link to your site. Especially when you play by Google’s rules and do it the right way.

More links help, but that’s not all you need. You can have a vast amount of links from low-quality and low-ranking sites. Google may look at this in a negative light. You need quality links from relevant websites.

Google also wants to see links over time. If you get a sudden rush for links, Google’s little bots know you are trying to play games, may think your site is attempting to manipulate the system.

It is good to be natural in any relationship, let people find your site organically and choose to link based on the unique and engaging knowledge you create when you invest in a great SEO firm.

You want to rank for the right reasons, naturally with unique content and a good representation of the amazing business that you have built!

SEO firms do the research on each page of your website to make sure you’re linking to those reputable sources and actively engage in the online community to earn links to your valuable content.

Credible sources represent your knowledge basis and integrity as a business, with roots grown deep into your field.

These backlinks should also hold value to visitors. If they click on a link from another site to yours, or from your site to another, the content they land upon should always be useful. It should expand their own knowledge.

With many branches and roots grown deep to and throughout your website, Google sees that your site provides more value as users visit your site from others and engage with the links on your website as well.

Sizing Up Your Competition

A good SEO firm will do a lot of research into who your top search competitors are online.

They’ll use tools such as SEMrush and AHREFS to measure the top 3, 10, 20, and sometimes even up to 100 competitors. They’ll measure, analyze and compare things such as:

  • Does your website compare as an authority figure in your field when it comes to systems, crawlability, and optimization?
  • Do you have backlinks from reputable sources? And is the content behind those sources great content?
  • Is your own content unique?

What you need is a fresh voice of reason that truly speaks to your audience and their pain points. Your website’s knowledge base should also be easily digestible and relates directly to the users’ needs.

Often this research can’t be done by cracking the surface view of your competition’s site.

That’s why the best SEO firms dig deep and peer behind the technological curtain of your competition’s code.

They use tools and systems that have special bots (also known as crawlers), to inspect what’s going on behind the scenes and turn your website into a lean, mean ranking machine.

Once you execute your SEO strategy, you’ll sprint past the other site listings and seep your roots deep into the knowledge basis and beyond! You’ll eclipse billions of webpages in a short time. But once you start getting closer to the top, “IT’S TRICKY”- Ayee thanks Run-DMC your melody holds #TRUE.

run dmc

You’ve improved your site, give yourself a pat on the back, but recognize that other sites in your niche have been around a lot longer, they hopped on the technological train years ago. They might even have great content too, along with a solid basis of visitors, and followers online. It’s going to take time to prove your value.

If you’re hoping to get to the number one spot, it’s going to take some time, and when you invest in SEO time is on your side. Those constant social media updates, blog posts, fast loading pages, and pristine design are watering your tree.

measuring success in SEO and reporting

Measuring Impact & Reporting


How do you know if your SEO strategy is working? Your marketing agency should measure its long-term impact. A one-time makeover is great, but ask any woman and she’ll tell you that a makeover can easily fade and be wiped away overnight.

Getting A new website is not the answer, you need upkeep people beauty takes time and maintenance. You have to feed your website with a healthy amount of content and constant care to keep it running clean! It is 2020 and online presence means everything.

Keyword rankings don’t only measure SEO success. Organic sessions, conversions, and revenue must also improve. SEO should result in an impact to your business that goes full circle and spreads your branch of knowledge to users all over the internet.

You should have a regularly updated news or blog section on your site so that people know you are always in sight and on top of the next big bang within your industry. This means maintaining social media accounts as well.

You have to keep using SEO in these areas to drive traffic to your site. A good SEO firm will track all these metrics for you so that you know whether or not your goals are being met, and if they are not, try to find out why.

investing in conversion rate optimization 1024x1024 1 1

How Long Until I See Results?


Any idea at all? Well, you might start seeing improvements in ranking in a few weeks. But competitive topics and search terms could take months, and highly competitive industries, sometimes a year or longer. Think about it – if you’re starting on your SEO now, you’re also competing against competition who has likely been working on their site for years.

You need to be ready to put in several months to a year into this new found Google relationship, I mean come on no one likes easy.

So, give it time and a little love before seeing results from your SEO strategy.

Even then, you probably won’t be on top, but you are headed in the right direction. Tim Soulo found that only 5.7% of new pages make Google’s top 10 within a year.

This is why so many SEO firms prefer and recommend monthly retainers. SEO is a long-term investment. There are times when you need an aggressive campaign. But if you have a site you want to rank high for a long time to come, those tactics won’t keep you on top.

Check out our SEO timeline guide.

analyzing costs of seo

Thoughts On The Costs of SEO

You still want to know the answer to your burning question:

“What can I expect to spend? There must be an average SEO cost or at least some kind of estimate?!”

Keep in mind that all SEO service companies price themselves differently.

If you want to hire a leading SEO company for a local campaign, expect to pay an SEO cost per month of $2,000 or more.

The SEO pricing for a regional campaign will usually start at a minimum of $2,500 to $5,000 per month.

Once you start targeting search results on a larger level, there’s really no ceiling to how much you can spend.

You can’t do all pieces of a fully robust SEO campaign on your own, neither can one or two employees, and $500/month means you’re being scammed.


A robust SEO campaign requires a team of specialists and tools for them to work.

Let’s go over who’s needed, and the average salary of each team member so that pricing for organic search marketing makes sense.

how much it costs to have an in-house SEO team

Overhead of an SEO Team

SEO Manager – according to Conductor, the average salary in the US is $89,750/year

Primary responsibility: Initial campaign research, strategy building, implementation of SEO both on and off-site, oversight of SEO team and more.

Content Marketer – according to Glass Door, the average salary in the US is $81,078/year

Primary responsibility: Creating and Promoting of media content, blog posts, building relationships with other authority sites, writing guest post blogs, developing content marketing strategies and more.

Graphic/Web Designer – according to Glass Door, the average salary in the US is $48,561/year

Primary responsibility: Creating graphics, videos, infographics, designing and redesigning web pages, and much more.

Web Developer – according to Glass Door, the average salary in the US is $75,487/year

Primary responsibility: Ensuring the website is in healthy shape as new content and pages are being added, continual improvements of site speed, mobile optimization, collaborating with the SEO strategist to build and implement SEO resources which require code such as, building out new functions while working with the conversion optimization specialist to improve sales.

Conversion Optimization Specialist – according to Payscale, the average salary in the US is $77,000/year

Primary responsibility: Setting up Analytics, Monitoring, A/B testing, optimizing all pieces of the campaign and more.

Digital Marketing Manager – according to, the average salary in the US is $99,534/year

Primary responsibility: A knowledgeable resource who ensures the collaboration of team members and is able to ensure each team member is properly implementing strategies. This person should an overall knowledge of each team members specialty and tie everything together, constantly building out strategies with each individual member.

My guess is, you want a full digital strategy though.

This means you’ll have to add a digital advertising specialist, a social media marketing specialist, and a few other team members.

But since we’re focused strictly on the costs of SEO right now, let’s look at the cost of an SEO team if you were to hire the right team in-house:

An organic inbound marketing team comprising of 6 core members would cost you roughly $450,000+/year.

Woah, buddy, that’s a lot of dough $.

Even if you were only to have an SEO specialist on your team, you’re looking at almost $5,000/month.

Are you starting to see now how if you were to pay anything less than $2,000/month for SEO, how that wouldn’t even make sense?

Oh, and it doesn’t stop there. Which brings us to:

software costs for seo

Marketing Software Expenses

Part of what goes into SEO pricing are the tools needed to perform the work. Let’s dive into just a few of the many tools agencies utilize.

A team is only as good as their tools.

For example; a skilled electrician wouldn’t be able to do any work without a set of tools to even get started. An SEO team requires tools of their own.

Over the last few years, Google has been limiting the data shown from Google Analytics – unless you’re paying for Google Ads. This means that in order to fully analyze, track and optimize organic marketing campaigns – marketers must now rely on third party data tools.

There are a plethora of different tools on the market, but for now, I’m going to just mention the ones we use here at Direction Inc.:

semrush seo tool

Marketing Tool #1 – SEMrush

Category: Organic Search Marketing Insights, Backlink & Competitor Data, Google Ads Insights, Automated Reporting, Social Media Calendars, Campaign Optimization & more

Cost: Roughly $6,000/year depending on which plan you choose.

ahrefs seo tool

Marketing Tool #2 – AHREFS

Category: Organic Search Marketing Insights, Competitor Data, Campaign Optimization & Reporting

Cost: Roughly $4,000/year depending on which plan you choose

spyfu seo tool

Marketing Tool #3 – SPYFU

Category: Organic Search Marketing Insights, Advertising, Competitor Data, Campaign Optimization Insights

Cost: Roughly $3,000/year depending on which plan you choose

moz seo tool

Marketing Tool #4 – MOZ

Category: Organic Search Marketing Insights, Competitor Data, Campaign Optimization & Reporting

Cost: Roughly $2,000/year depending on which plan you choose

adobe suite for marketing

Marketing Tool #5: Adobe Suite (including Adobe Stock)

Category: Graphic Design, Stock Photography

Cost: Roughly $1,500/year

canva design tool

Marketing Tool #6: Canva

Category: Graphic Design, Stock Photography

Cost: Roughly $120/year

grammarly content creation tool

Marketing Tool #7: Grammarly

Category: Content Creation

Cost: Free! But there is also the option to go Premium, which costs roughly $100/year

majestic seo tool

Marketing Tool #8: Majestic

Category: SEO

Cost: Roughly $1,000/year

slack collaboration tool

Marketing Tool #9: Slack

Category: Team Collaboration / Project Management

Cost: Roughly $8/month/user

basecamp project management

Marketing Tool #10: BaseCamp

Category: Team Collaboration / Project Management

Cost: $99/month (or $1,188.00/year) 

Anyways, that’s just the start. With just those tools and that team, you’re looking at about $460k/year.

That’s not even including other tools such as call tracking, or purchasing pieces of an SEO campaign which are required such as directory submissions in local listing directories, video creation tools, computers, computer equipment, outsourcing different pieces of the campaign to contractors and the list goes on.

Considering building an in-house digital marketing team?

A fully-staffed, well-rounded SEO company is looking at a minimum of $500k/year in overhead.

For some companies, it makes perfect sense. For most other companies, it’s not even a consideration. Hence, the existence of digital agencies. Hallelujah!

Now, when speaking with different companies hopefully you have a better understanding of why they price the way they do.

Make SEO Work for You

At the end of the day, you want a website that ranks at or at least near the top of Google’s billions of pages for what you offer. I’ve got some good news for you:

It’s possible to get there!

But it’s going to take a considerable investment of funds, hard work, and time to water your website with a tree of knowledge and roots that seep deep into the internet basis of your niche!

Now that you know the factors of how much SEO costs, find a team of SEO experts to get you to the top.

We work on optimizing websites every day for clients in Washington DC and across over a dozen other states in the USA.

Then make the smartest marketing decision a business can make, invest in inbound marketing and organically grow businesses revenue. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

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