SEO Pricing: How Much Should SEO Services Really Cost Your Business?

Author Larry Engel - SEO Director at OuterBox
by Justin Smith
Updated July 18, 2018

Determining appropriate SEO pricing for your business is no easy task.

When a business decides to hire an SEO company, it is often done to fill a void in your business' skills or expertise. Thus, with no in-house experts to help you evaluate potential companies, and the somewhat intimidating vernacular of SEO, how can a business begin to understand what SEO services they need? More importantly, how does one gauge the value of those services to determine what kind of budget to allocate to SEO services? SEO rates can be all over the place, so let's dive into what to look for.


SEO Pricing Models - What To Expect

Whether you hire an inexpensive SEO consultant from a foreign country (hint: India) or a nationally-recognized ecommerce SEO agency, there are a few different types of pricing models you can expect to see offered:

  • SEO Monthly Plan Pricing

    Many SEO companies will offer monthly or annual contracts that revolve around a monthly calendar. At OuterBox, we create our strategies several months in advance and reflect on our work, results, and progress on at least a monthly basis. A two-way street of communication between the SEO company and client is crucial to achieving the very best results possible. It is important to note that while we offer monthly plans, we do not offer one-size-fits all SEO monthly packages, since that kind of approach to SEO isn't the most effective. Many monthly packages offered by other companies will include a set number and type of services, such as articles written, backlinks gained, and pages optimized. These types of "turnkey" packages are often sold by inferior SEO agencies who are more concerned with delivering a specified amount of tangible work each month than producing results. Beware of any companies promising to build a specified amount of backlinks per month, especially since the quality and relevancy of backlinks pointing to your website is significantly more important than the quantity. While our planned tasks and SEO activities are scheduled on a monthly basis for organization and streamlining workflow, our strategies are not confined by these types of "pre-assembled" monthly packages. Our SEO services are instead customized so that we are always working on what we know will deliver the greatest ROI.

Local / Regional Focus

Keyword Research (50-100 Keywords)

Analytics Setup & Configuration

Monthly Strategy Discussion

Title Tag & Meta Tag Creation

Internal Link Building (Crosslinking)

Content Editing & Optimization

Basic On-Site Optimization

Monthly Custom Report

Monthly Review Call



Example Advanced SEO Plan

Competitive Keywords / Nationwide Focus

Keyword Research (500+ Keywords)

Analytics Setup & Configuration

Monthly Strategy Discussion

Title Tag & Meta Tag Creation

Technical SEO - (Robots.txt, Sitemap, etc.)

Speed Optimization / Image Optimization

Internal Link Building (Crosslinking)

Content Creation, Optimization & Editing

Advanced On-Site / Code Optimization

Offsite Link Building

Conversion Optimization

AB / Variation Testing

Heat Map / Usability Reports

Monthly Custom Report

Monthly Personalized Review Call

  • Pricing SEO by Hourly Rate

    SEO hourly rates mostly fall in the $50-250 per hour range. If your business is making only a few hundred dollars per month in online revenue, don't expect to see a fast turnaround on $1,000 per month of SEO spend. If you are looking to pay for SEO by the hour, it may be wise to hire a consultant or hire an agency to perform an SEO audit and then pay an hourly rate for specific SEO services as needed. However, if you do need those types of immediate results with a website with very little existing exposure, you likely would benefit by supplementing your SEO efforts with paid advertising to begin with. Don't fret; OuterBox also offers some of the nation's leading AdWords management services.


How Much Does SEO Cost?

In the spirit of transparency, I'd like to share a real-world example. Keyword research indicates that an average of 500 people search the exact query "how much does SEO cost" in Google each month! That's part of the reason we decided to write this article! This question is a considerable source of confusion, especially for those early in the researching stages. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.

The short answer is that SEO costs range anywhere from $50 per hour to over $250 per hour. The SEO-famous Neil Patel ostensibly charges up to $5,000 just for an initial hour-long consultation. All of that is not to say that your neighbor's daughter down the street who is "good with computers" won't offer to do it for $200 a month, and heck, she might even know what she's doing! We're also not saying that Neil Patel might not be worth that $5,000 price (spoiler alert: if you're not a Fortune 500 company, he most likely isn't).

No matter who you ultimately trust to provide SEO services for your business, how much SEO ultimately costs depends on many variables, including:

  • Overall technical aptitude of your website and the CMS (content management system) for the content on the website. For example, OuterBox is a leading provider of ecommerce website design, and the websites we build for our clients are designed to exceed the expectations that Google and other search engine algorithms demand. Having a technically sound site built with SEO and ecommerce best practices in mind makes it much, much easier to optimize effectively and efficiently. The majority of CMS out there significantly lack in this area (looking at you, Magento).
  • Existing visibility in organic search. If you're starting with a brand-new website with zero domain authority and no rankings to speak of, expect to pay more or wait longer for tangible results.
  • Existing brand awareness and exposure. See the previous point.
  • Expertise level of the company providing SEO services. This is especially true as it pertains to your industry and niche within that industry.
  • Business goals and objectives. That includes the role you anticipate organic traffic from search engines like Google and Bing to play while working towards those goals.
  • Competition. Overall competitiveness will vary depending on your industry and the set of keywords you need to target
  • Urgency. SEO takes time to be effective, so quicker results require more time and resources.
  • Target audience and demographic. Are you looking to run a national or global SEO campaign, or are you a local business operating within a confined geographical area? This may or may not affect the overall price of your SEO campaign.

What Affects The Cost of SEO?

  • Skill Set & Expertise

    Those with real expertise and in-depth capabilities tend to have proven results and therefore can demand higher rates.

  • Location

    Located in Akron, OH, OuterBox overheads are significantly lower than SEO agencies operating in NYC, for example, which helps us keep our prices down despite our proven skills and expertise.s.

  • Competency in your target audience's language

    While hiring a cheap SEO company based in India, for example, might sound like a great idea at first, be sure that the company you select has a firm grasp on the English language if you plan on optimizing your website for English speakers. This goes for any language.

  • Level of expertise in your niche

    For example, our specialty at OuterBox is ecommerce SEO and lead generation SEO for B2B websites. Look for a company that has experience working in your industry, but be prepared to pay extra for that experience. Your results will be worth it.


Local SEO Pricing

We hinted above that local SEO campaigns may theoretically be more affordable than attempting to rank nationally for the same set of keywords, but geographical target area is just one variable that affects the cost. Local SEO pricing is still subject to the same variables that we've touched on above. Read more about our local SEO services and pricing for more information!


SEO Services Pricing vs. ROI

If you are ready to hire an SEO company, or even just an SEO consultant to perform specific SEO services, some SEO companies do offer á la carte services or at least may be willing to tailor their monthly plans to meet your needs. At OuterBox, we offer monthly packages uniquely customized to each client's needs and industry. We base our strategy and recommended financial investment on what we know will move the needle the fastest - but we are also sure to account for any specific client needs or requests within those monthly strategies.

Once a customized strategy and monthly cost is recommended, we resolve to make your money work as hard as planned.

If we determine that any specific client requests are of lesser "SEO priority" than our recommended SEO strategies and planned tasks, we communicate that openly. We will still honor a client's requests, but there may a separate cost. This way, we ensure that we deliver the results the client expects while still meeting any and all special requests.

In fact, this complete transparency extends far beyond pricing and is one of the lesser-known advantages of working with OuterBox.


How Can You Tell If SEO Costs Are Worth It?

Generally speaking, you do get what you pay for with SEO, but there is a certain amount of vetting one needs to do before choosing an SEO company. Here are some tips on that:

  • Look for proven results. Look for case studies and ask the companies you're considering to give some real examples of their success. If they struggle or hesitate to provide you with any success stories, odds are they haven't had much success.
  • Listen to past clients. Read reviews both on their site and on 3rd party websites. Keep in mind that even the best companies (SEO and otherwise) will always have a few negative reviews, so take those mostly with a grain of salt. Instead, look for overarching trends, and if you see any recurring red flags, you should likely move on.
  • Talk with the team directly. Ask to get on a call with the actual employees that would be managing your SEO account or to speak to whoever oversees the SEO department. It's not unreasonable for you to want to know a little bit more about the people you'll be paying to work on your website and what strategies they might be implementing to improve your search results, especially when going with a more legitimate agency.
  • Learn to spot a shady strategy. Read up about "black-hat SEO" and be sure that any of the strategies the salespeople discuss with you don't seem to violate any of Google's guidelines. At OuterBox, we are a strictly white-hat SEO company, which means we work within the rules of Google to ensure your site is never penalized as a result of the work we do. That would be entirely counterproductive!
  • Try a few and compare. Consider purchasing standalone SEO audit services from several companies, and then compare the findings of those audits. You may pay a little extra at the get-go, but you'll have a better chance of choosing the best company. After selecting an SEO company to work with, share those findings with your new SEO company to ensure any valuable discoveries you paid for are leveraged accordingly.

Beware! Unfortunately, assuming that those companies charging the most must, therefore, have the most expertise or "best SEO services" is seldom a practical approach. If you're in charge of choosing an SEO company for your business, no matter what the price, select the company that instills the most confidence in their ability to deliver an ROI on the budget your business decides to allocate to SEO services.


Still Have Questions About SEO Pricing?

We hope this article helps clear up some of the confusion and that we have empowered you to make a more informed decision about the SEO company that is best for your business. If you have any remaining questions or would like to discuss your website with an SEO expert, please give us a call now at 866-647-9218 or request a quote below.

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