There's no catch-all price for SEO work. The truth is, the cost of SEO will be determined by your goals and your budget. Put simply, the more budget you have, the more work can happen, and the faster that work can start delivering returns.
Whilst it's not possible to nail down a definitive figure for SEO pricing, it is possible to give some rough guidance about how much SEO costs in general.
Let's get straight into it. If you are interested in working with me, my minimum monthly spend is 1000 GBP per month.
This gives you access to SEO consultancy at a fair price, which remains competitive against SEO agencies, delivering the same experience, but at a much more accessible price point.
My overheads are significantly lower because you're not covering the cost of the following:
— A bloated team, including account managers, analytics consultants, and project managers. Only the largest accounts require these to run smoothly. These roles generally benefit the agency more by making the team smoother to run, but the cost is ultimately passed on to you, the client.
— Office space in an expensive location. I'm not paying for office space in London, Leeds, Manchester, New York, or any other location which has absolutely zero impact on the quality of the work I produce.
— Unnecessary tools. I only pay for tools that are vital for the work that I produce. As someone that used to have the keys to the tools agency side, it can be surprising how fast tool and software costs stack up, and these costs get recovered from the client.
— The red herring of agency experience. With an agency, you have little to no control over who is assigned to your account. The reality is that you could end up paying a high fee for work carried out by someone that is relatively inexperienced. By working directly with me as an experienced SEO consultant, you get exactly what you pay for: an experienced SEO consultant.
There are a few ways the cost of SEO can be worked out and charged for. The most common of these pricing methods are:
— By the hour
— Fixed project / fixed deliverables
Pricing for SEO by the hour can be fine in consultancy situations where all you need is someone to check in with for a couple of hours a month. Outside this arrangement, in my opinion, paying for SEO by the hour is a terrible move for everyone involved.
It encourages busywork, can be a pain to manage and keep track of, and can work out extremely expensive (either for the end client, or for the person delivering the service if things go wrong, and they have quoted a hard limit in terms of billable hours).
Long story short, in most scenarios, pricing SEO by the hour isn't the best way to go.
In nearly a decade of taking on SEO projects, I have never taken on clients where the work was priced hourly, and it's unlikely that I ever will.
SEO retainers are my bread and butter. These are by far the most common way for SEO services to work and offer a fair arrangement for contractors and clients alike. They're also one of the easiest forms of payment structure to understand and implement.
A retainer fee is an agreed amount paid upfront at regular intervals throughout the duration of the contract. The terms and deliverables of the retainer are clear, and are simple to negotiate before a campaign starts.
For me, my most common SEO retainers revolve around working a set number of days for a client. This gives me the ability to easily manage my time and client expectations easily. It also gives the client peace of mind knowing they will have access to me for a set amount of time each month, at a set cost.
If you're looking for something simple but effective, a retainer is probably the perfect solution.
Pricing SEO work as a fixed project can also be effective in certain scenarios. Fixed price projects work best when there is a clear deliverable involved, such as a content plan, SEO audit, or some copywriting.
Fixed price projects are generally used when there's a clear issue that needs addressing, whether this be as a completely one off piece of work or additional work in conjunction with a retainer.
Lots of businesses bill for SEO services. SEO agencies, web design agencies, content marketers, and any have a go hero can charge for you for SEO.
However, not all of these will get the results you need. In my experience of being involved with agencies (both being agency side, and being an outsourcing partner to agencies), clients, and my experience of being an independent SEO consultant, this is what SEO costs in the UK.
Price estimate: 100 – 500 p/month
Likely to be offered by poor quality agencies and people that shouldn't really be selling SEO because they don't understand it, but plough ahead regardless.
This is all about box ticking for the provider. They will use the cheapest outsourced blog posting service possible, and buy some spammy links from link vendors.
You'll likely receive a poorly written blog post that's a few hundred words long, that doesn't demonstrate any real understanding of the topic, and a handful of links from websites that nobody in their right mind would actually read.
You may also receive some page title tweaks, if you're lucky, and maybe some guff data dump from a dodgy tool talking about 'text-to-HTML ratios', if you're unlucky.
Price estimate: minimum of 2000 p/month, interesting work starts closer to 5000 p/month
SEO agencies need budget to do their thing effectively. If you are looking to give an SEO agency everything they need, then your budget should be enough to cover some kind of meaningful content marketing, as well as all the other staples that go into a solid SEO strategy.
Good SEO agencies understand their craft, and also understand the impact it has on clients. Any SEO agency billing significantly below this price point should probably raise red flags.
Price estimate: starting at 10,000 – 15,000 p/month
These SEO agencies will have experience of running enterprise accounts and will have all the latest tools, likely some custom-built solutions, a wealth of experience, and the ability to execute work to a really high standard without relying on freelancers or outside resource. Everything related to the campaign should, in theory, happen inside the agency.
This prices out most of the market in terms of who can access these services, but that is precisely the point. These agencies know their target client well, and competition between them is competitive in order to land those accounts.
Price estimate: starting at 300 – 500+ p/day up to a monthly cost that fits your budget and their availability
SEO consultants offer a great way to get experienced input without committing to the large fees that decent agencies can command. Consultants can bring in targeted expertise to solve specific issues at a much lower cost to the client than what could be achieved through an agency.
However, whereas with an SEO agency, the overall monthly cost may include content production, maybe some development input, and generally the other add-ons that may be needed to make a campaign successful, the cost of an SEO consultant only covers SEO consultancy.
This can be an excellent way to work if a business already has a marketing department, a content team, a web developer, or retained other such resources from external agencies, and what is needed is somebody to pull everything together.
Pricing can be a huge red flag with SEO consultants, too. Someone billing a low amount isn't likely to be experienced (either in SEO, or in running their own business, both of which can be problematic for you).
Working with consultants and freelancers isn't an ideal fit for everyone. If you're a business owner and do not have an internal marketing team, or the time to engage with a consultant, consultancy isn't going to work for you. You would be much better suited to a completely hands-off service handled by an agency.
It's unwise to go with the absolute rock-bottom quote of a few hundred pounds per month. A quote for SEO work that is significantly lower than others should ring alarm bells for a few reasons:
1) It could mean that their service offering is poor, or that they aren't actually providing anything meaningful. If they offer a low price without adding value or ROI, then this isn't a smart use of budget.
2) It is well understood that SEO is a relatively expensive service to run. SEO, content creation, web development, analytics, UX, PR, CRO — these are all skills that need a decent amount of budget behind them in order to execute properly. None of these disciplines, even in isolation, are particularly cheap to offer, so a service that essentially blends all of them isn't going to be cheap either.
3) Dubious tactics (whether simply outdated, or just straight up dishonest and reckless) can result in Google penalising your site, resulting in lost traffic and revenue. On a less ominous note, these tactics could simply do absolutely nothing, which means the work will not generate any form of return.
4) If site receives a penalty or dramatically loses traffic, the cost of undoing that damage increases. The service that you need becomes more urgent, more complicated, and ultimately more financially sensitive. This means that anyone taking on that work will command a higher rate. So whilst the cost of SEO may have been cheap to start with, that cost soon ramps up to the point where it would have been more profitable to allocate more budget to do things properly the first time around. And that's before any lost sales revenue has been factored in.