There is simply no doubt anymore that businesses must invest in search engine optimization (SEO). The only question that companies are grappling with is how much should be invested?
Sure, some companies may be able to do things on the cheap and still accomplish meaningful results. But a great majority of businesses are going to require far more meaningful results than simply leaving everything to chance.
When you are debating how much you should invest in your own SEO strategy, consider this article to be a primer on things to consider when debating your own investment. Many companies will invest in an SEO agency, and you should certainly be diligent in your efforts to find the right agency to work with.
How You Pay for SEO
When it comes to paying for SEO, an agency is typically going to use one of four different models of payment. Some agencies may give you a choice while others may be committed to only one of the following four:
- Monthly retainer — Monthly retainer fees are paid in advance to ensure that services are available for the period covered. This is usually a recurring fee. The monthly retainer is perhaps the most common kind of SEO services agreement because it is significantly less than an annual fee and also allows the client some freedom to still invest elsewhere. Monthly retainer fees will still involve having to sign contracts, possible setting tiers of service, defining payment terms, providing regular reports, and regular reevaluation of terms.
- Contract services at fixed prices — This agreement is most common when a client is not yet ready for a monthly retainer, as contract services allow a company to have work performed to evaluate how good of a fit an SEO agency will be. SEO website audits are a good example of services provided on contract services.
- Project-based pricing — Paying on a per-project basis is another common SEO approach for many companies because some businesses may only need certain specified SEO help. This type of contract can be ideal for a company that perhaps only needs assistance with local SEO concerns or social media accounts. Project pricing is also known as fixed pricing and can be a better option for both freelancers and clients because freelancers will be rewarded for efficiency while clients know exactly how much they spend.
- Hourly consulting — This model is quite simply an hourly rate for SEO work, but SEO agencies are generally opposed to offering hourly rates because they can be punished for being efficient. In most cases, an agency will offer an estimate of how many hours it will take to complete a project, but they can lose money if they end up completing the work before reaching the quoted amount of time.
Virtually all agencies offer all four of these options, but most will have a preferred payment option that they will try to steer you towards. In many cases, clients will enter into multiple agreements over the course of working with an agency, perhaps starting with the contract at fixed prices before transitioning to the monthly retainer.
How Much You Will Pay for SEO
According to the audience research tool SparkToro, 87 percent of SEO services offered monthly retainer charges while 65 percent charged either hourly rates or per project and only 15 percent offered performance-based pricing. The median cost per month for SEO was between $2,500 to $5,000 per month for SEO services with 31 percent paying as much as $50,000 and only 18 percent paying less than $1,000.
In 2017, SEO firm Higher Visibility surveyed 500 people who do marketing for small businesses and found 46 percent of small businesses were allocating 0 percent of their marketing budgets to SEO and 54 percent did not even have an SEO budget. The majority of respondents who did spend money on SEO (38 percent) spent less than $100 a month, and 33 percent of respondents believed it was “very likely” that their business would rank on the first page of Google results.
As Search Engine Journal noted, companies that spend over $500 per month were 53.3 percent more likely to be “extremely satisfied” with their SEO results. In general, SEO prices break down as follows:
- Monthly retainer — A monthly retainer can be as little as $750 up to as much as $5,000 per month. A majority of businesses pay somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000 a month.
- Contract services at fixed prices — Prices vary depending on the service sought. For example, SEO copywriting could involve a per word fee that ranges from $0.15 to $.50 per word. Work such as website content audits can cost anywhere from $500 to $7,500, while social media account setups may run from $500 to $3,000.
- Project-based pricing — Prices again vary depending on the project. A project could cost anywhere from as little as $1,000 to as much as $30,000 depending on the complexity of the project.
- Hourly consulting rate — An hourly consulting rate can range from $100 an hour to as much as $300 per hour.
You can also review the Moz survey of 600+ agencies regarding the estimated costs of SEO services.
Be Careful with SEO Promises
Not all SEO agencies are operating in good faith. Many will make promises that they cannot possibly deliver on, so you should be aware of some of the most common kinds of claims that end up being false.
Here are a few things you should be particularly wary of:
- Costs lower than $750/month — When an agency is taking pride in a great deal they are offering you, it usually translates to fewer services that you actually need. Be especially cautious about any deal that sounds too good to be true because it probably is.
- Guarantees — Very few things about SEO can be guaranteed, so be especially cautious if any agency is promising to deliver anything. The nature of SEO is constantly evolving, so things can change overnight.
- No. 1 spot on Google — The top spot on Google is certainly what every company wants, but it is also something that can never be promised. Any claim like this should almost always be disregarded as impossible because achieving the number one ranking on Google involves a lot of luck.
- Instant results — Keep in mind that SEO results take significant time to see, usually a number of months. Any agency promising a quick turnaround may achieve some solid results but may do so through highly unethical practices. Such efforts will end up hurting you in the long run and might be even more difficult to correct.
- Shady link-building services — Every website will need valuable hyperlinks to the website, but you need to know that not all linking services are viewed equally by major search engines. If you work with an agency that engages in black hat SEO techniques, it will again cause more harm than good. Only work with an agency that promises to deliver white label services that are viewed as being far more ethical.
Pointers to Remember
In the end, here are some basic SEO tips that every person should remember at all times:
- SEO remains important — If you have taken the time to develop a website, then you need to do what you can to drive traffic toward it. Simply hoping people will find it will never be enough.
- SEO takes time — You need to know that when you hire an SEO agency, you are not going to see meaningful results in the first few weeks. Instead, it will take a number of months so try to be patient.
- SEO services are not created equal — Some agencies will charge more than others, but that is usually for good reason. Try to find an agency that has a good history of work and a solid portfolio. Be skeptical of the companies that are newer to the business and charging less for their work.
- SEO changes and so do rankings — Google is constantly modifying its algorithms used for SEO purposes, so you need to be prepared for sudden changes to your SEO standing. With the help of a reputable agency, you can give yourself a solid response to any unexpected change.
- Hiring an SEO agency remains the safest option — Many business owners want to save money and handle SEO themselves or delegate the responsibilities to employees with much more limited knowledge of best SEO practices. Do not make this mistake. An SEO agency is going to make it their full-time job to ensure you are getting the best results and your website will be much more likely to prosper because of it.
The Final Decision
Investing in SEO is not really any kind of option for most businesses today. The only real question that remains is exactly how much you are going to spend.
Be sure to look for a high-quality SEO agency you can trust and feel comfortable working with. When you find the right agency, it will make much of your life much easier.
Find an SEO Company in Houston | SERP Matrix
SERP Matrix has handled all kinds of local SEO issues for scores of clients throughout the greater Houston area as well as other cities across the nation. You should also know that we offer an SEO services guarantee that refunds a portion of fees for any service that was not performed.
SERP Matrix also has a content writing team that can deliver high-quality website content that helps companies rank highly in SEO. The quality of your website content can play a major role in the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.
If you need any kind of SEO help in Houston or a surrounding area of Texas, get in touch with SERP Matrix today. Our representatives are ready and willing to do whatever we can to make a real difference for you.