How Much Should I Be Paying for SEO? And Where Does Your SEO Fee Go?
By Jack Turner
When it comes search engine optimization (SEO) services, it can be helpful to understand what goes into a balanced, well thought out campaign before deciding how much to spend on it. Gauging how much to invest in SEO is not quite as cut and dry as calculating your PPC spend. There are several factors that you should think about when determining your SEO investment.
There is a notion out there that Organic traffic is “free” (aka not paid for through an ad), so many people ask exactly where their SEO fee they are paying monthly for is going. Although you are not paying for traffic directly, there are costs that go into making sure your site shows up on the first page of Google. It takes time, tools and content.
When deciding how much you should be paying for SEO. Ask yourself, and your digital marketing company, the following questions:
How competitive is my market?
Market competition has two factors: your business’s target keywords and what city are you in. Going for the #1 spot as a snow cone shop in Fargo, ND is going to have much less competition than attempting to rank for “personal injury lawyer” in Los Angeles. More competition = higher spend.
Analyzing competitors’ sites is a great way to quickly check the market competition. Simply search your top keywords and get the URLs of the sites that are consistently showing up for these keywords. There are dozens of free online tools to check their backlink profiles, and also just clicking through their sites will give you a good idea of how much money they are pouring into their online presence.
If your competition is strong, you need to be stronger.
How quickly do I want to move up the rankings?
Different businesses have different timelines. As an SEO professional, I always tell my clients to be patient, as changes on your site can take months to get picked up by search engines. However, you can move up the rankings quicker if you invest more time/money into the site.
A company that is more seasonal like a landscaper might have a set timeline to get up in the rankings. If it is November and they want to be on the first page for their main keywords by May, they will want to spend more aggressively in the months of November-February to make sure the effects of the SEO boost their website’s rankings in time for the busy season.
SEO involves a mix of several strategies to build your site’s authority and standing in Google’s eyes (I will go into these later). An agency can “speed up” your climb on Google with a higher budget because it allows for two things:
- The ability to spend more time on your site. A lot of SEO work is time spent analyzing your site and coming up with strategies to beat out competing businesses/websites. A lot of SEO companies will even charge hourly for their work.
- It provides your SEO team more resources to build content for the site, build out local citations, and pay for various other services that increase your site’s credibility.
A knowledgeable SEO agency will be able to tell you exactly what they will analyze on your website and will have a robust plan for improving your site’s important SEO metrics.
What is the condition of my current site?
If a site is already built for SEO, or the site has a healthy backlink profile already, you may have an easier time climbing up the rankings. There are several tools that will give you a quick indication of your site’s SEO health. Website Grader is one of my favorites, especially to show SEO beginners. Of course, an SEO professional is better suited to analyze and explain your site’s health to you, as it is not always so black and white.
When auditing a new client’s site, an SEO professional might simply recommend that the business build a new site. This can be for several reasons:
- Cost – Building a new site might be cheaper than doing SEO for several months. Sometimes sites need a refresh. If you have had several web developers and companies working on your site it can become a mess. It can cost months of SEO to fix all of these issues. Instead, it may be more cost effective to build a site from scratch that has SEO in mind from the start. Plus, you’ll end up with a brand new, modern website.
- Bad Backlinks – Many SEO Agencies will, or at least used to, use poor backlinking strategies that can leave your site vulnerable. They build tons of bad backlinks using strategies that may have worked in the past but are now harmful to your site. Google has cracked down on many common link building strategies, causing numerous sites to be penalized. In this situation, it may be a good idea to change URLs and start over with a clean slate. It’s possible to keep your current site’s appearance and simply change the URL. Moz and Ahrefs are good web tools to quickly check your backlink profile.
If your site is suffering from SEO problems, our team can help you determine their cause and take action to fix the issues.
What are my current rankings?
Your current rankings can also play a big factor in deciding how much budget to allocate to SEO. If you are not ranking in the top 50 for any of your major terms, this is a sign that extensive SEO work needs to be done to get to the first page.
The amount of effort and time to get up the rankings raises exponentially as the site climbs up the rankings. Going from position 50 to position 12 can be as difficult as going from position 12 to 7. This is because as you go up the rankings, your surrounding competition is getting tougher, so it requires more work to outrank them. Think of a sports team going through the playoffs and each round getting more and more difficult to win.
Where exactly is my SEO fee going?
So you are spending more money on SEO to see expedited results, but what exactly are you paying for? Many people associate SEO with the service that provides you with “free” organic traffic. While you may not be paying per click, there are a lot of costs associated with SEO to ensure you are in a position to get these clicks. These SEO expenses include:
- Labor/Time – This is probably the largest cost associated with SEO if you decide to go through an agency. Time has to be spent looking through keyword rankings, creating content plans, analyzing data and reporting. Even if you decide to try and take on SEO in house, you will either be spending your valuable time to learn SEO, taking away the time of another one of your employee’s to learn it, or you will end up hiring another employee to manage it. No matter what you will be spending money on labor for your SEO efforts, so it would be advisable to hire an SEO professional who is trained and has done this kind of work for dozens of other sites.
- Content – Great SEO takes great content. We recommend adding new content to your website on a continuous basis to keep the site fresh and show Google that the site is being updated. Whether you write the content in-house or outsource it, this will cost you money and/or time.
- Backlink/Citation Building – Building out business citations and doing outreach to build backlinks can be one of the most costly, recurring monthly expenses for SEO. There are many online services which build out citations for you, however, they all have a monthly cost to maintain them. You can build out citations yourself, but again this costs time. Many online directories charge a monthly fee, especially for premium directories that generate a lot of traffic, such as Avvo for attorneys.
- SEO Tools and Resources – There are plenty of great free online resources for SEO, but you do get what you (don’t) pay for. SEO Agencies rely on paid tools to get great insight to improve their strategies. Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush, Keyword tracking programs, Website crawlers, review monitoring programs, and reporting programs are just a few examples of the tools used by SEO agencies and businesses to create and implement their SEO strategies. All of these tools can become quite costly if you are only paying for them for one site. That is why SEO agencies are very cost effective, as they can spread out the cost of these tools across all of their clients.
It can be hard to quantify how much doing all of this on your own would cost you. An SEO agency, however, understands what is needed to plan an effective SEO strategy and put it into place. We can help you determine how much all of this would cost for your business.
Get a Quote on SEO Services
Many of the big online SEO services and even some smaller SEO agencies will give you a menu of services and their prices and you pick and choose what you want. This system works fine and makes their job easier, however, it is more beneficial for you to speak with an agency that will give you a custom quote on services. This allows them to build you an SEO package that fits your needs and leaves out items that you may not. This means you are only paying for what benefits you.
Contact The Search Engine Guys today if you are interested in receiving a custom quote on SEO or a website build. We can walk you through the SEO process and explain exactly what you should be paying for. Call us at (512) 394-7234 or reach out to us online.