If you’re trying to determine a fair cost for SEO services or compare SEO providers, be prepared to do some research. Although SEO has become an integral part of most comprehensive marketing programs — and there is a well-established set of best-practice fundamentals — there are still a lot of variables influencing how much SEO costs:
- SEO service providers may be individual freelancers, consultants, in-house staff, or large agencies.
- Practitioners vary in their experience, qualifications, and capabilities.
- SEO tactics can range from fast and simple tweaks to technically complex, long-running campaigns.
- Pricing models vary across the spectrum of service providers.
Many other factors play a role as well, including:
- The size of the target audience you need to reach
- The competitiveness of your industry
- Your specific goals for a national SEO campaign
- Whether there are existing negative factors (such as a Google penalty) on your site that need correction
- How suitable your current website is for capitalizing on SEO and what technology it uses
- The quality of content needed to reach your SEO goals and who will provide it
- The number of business locations you have
- The number of products and/or services you offer
So does this mean it’s futile to even attempt to understand SEO pricing? Not at all — but you’ll need a clear view of what SEO entails in order to make a well-informed decision about your SEO investment.
What goes into the price of SEO.
For those with only a general idea of SEO, it may, at first glance, seem to include tasks or skills that shouldn’t have much to do with moving a website higher in search engine results. How, for instance, can blogging help? What difference does website speed make? These are just two of a wide range of proven SEO strategies that encompasses a number of skills and disciplines.
Here’s an overview of some of the work an SEO campaign may include.
- Competitive research: Who your competitors are, how well they’re positioned online, what keywords they’re targeting, and what opportunities they may be missing.
- Configuration of tracking and analysis tools: Defining what will be tracked and setting goals for each metric.
- Technical website review and corrections: Reviewing existing factors that affect SEO, looking for areas for improvement, and correcting existing errors.
- Keyword research (ongoing): Determining how your ideal customers search for the product or service you offer.
- Site speed optimization: Ensuring your site’s pages load quickly. Google considers page speed a ranking signal, and studies clearly show that users quickly leave a slow-loading website.
- On-site/on-page optimization (ongoing): Capitalizing on every opportunity to send the right signals to Google by properly structuring page titles, URLs, meta tags and descriptions, text related to images, and more.
- Link-building (ongoing): Acquiring links to your site from other sites that are considered trustworthy, relevant, and authoritative. This is one of the most work-intensive aspects of SEO, but a critical contributor to success. Once initial SEO tasks are complete, a good portion of the budget may shift to link development.
- Content (ongoing): Strategizing and creating content, which is the foundation of SEO success. It must be based on research, be written using SEO best practices, offer real value to the reader, and regularly refreshed. A content strategy may include both the content on your website as well as content on outside channels. As with link development, content deserves a healthy budget.
- Tracking, analyses and reporting (ongoing): Monitoring and interpreting data, and using it to improve SEO results. Data is where SEO can provide an advantage over many other forms of marketing — everything is tracked, so every aspect of performance can be measured, then the knowledge gained can be used to achieve further improvements.
There are additional activities that can go into a national SEO campaign and factors that may affect the cost of SEO. Our best advice? Vet as many SEO providers as you have time for with a particular focus on the results each has obtained for clients in industries similar or comparable to yours.
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