[SEO Costs in 2024, And Beyond] A Quick Guide to Understanding SEO Pricing

This guide is designed to help you understand the various SEO services pricing models and what you can expect to pay for search engine optimization services.

First Things First: Should You Invest in SEO?

If you have a website and your potential customers search for your services or products on Google, then yes.

Although no SEO agency can, or should, guarantee you results (after all, only Google knows its algorithm), investing in SEO can yield remarkable results for your business.

For example: After working with one of our customers for three months, we started to see incredible results:

SEO Success Story

 

Every website and project is different, and results may vary, but investing in SEO frequently yields the highest ROI of most marketing activities.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

It depends on several factors. For example: When I started to offer SEO services as a freelancer in 2008, I charged $30 per hour. Today, I’m an international SEO expert who frequently speaks at conferences around the world, hosts in-person and online workshops, and teaches SEO and digital marketing at Universities. Our average hourly blended rate for our services here at Boulder SEO Marketing is around $125.

No doubt. It’s possible to pay very little for SEO. But as with everything in life, you usually get what you pay for.

Many more factors dictate the cost of SEO, but it usually comes down to factors such as:

  • The reputation, expertise, and experience of the SEO provider
  • How long they’ve been in business for
  • On average, how many years of experience do the agency’s employees have
  • The location of your SEO provider
  • The overall scope and size of your project
  • The size of your business
  • The complexity of your website
  • Whether or not you have deployed blackhat SEO strategies in the past
  • Your goals
  • The competitiveness of your industry
  • The quality of the services you select

Hiring an SEO agency that’s right for your business is critical. For tips on how to hire the SEO support that’s right for you, I recommend you watch this short video by Google:

You should also read an article entitled Do you need an SEO? by Google.

I’ve personally been fascinated with SEO for over 25 years now. A fascination turned into a hobby, and then a hobby turned into my professional career. If you’re looking to hire someone to help you with your SEO, I invite you to contact me.

We’ll have a no-strings-attached conversation, and if my team and I are not a good fit for your business, I’ll gladly refer you to another agency that may be.

What Are Typical SEO Pricing Models?

We’ll discuss the different SEO pricing models in more detail later in this guide. For now, please find following a summary of the most common SEO pricing options and other commonly used terms described to use SEO pricing:

Monthly SEO Retainer:

  • The most common range for monthly SEO services is $500–$1,500
  • A reputable, US-based SEO agency that has been in business for 10+ years will often charge between $2,000–$4,000 for monthly SEO services

Hourly SEO Services:

  • Newer SEO agencies, or offshore SEO providers, typically charge around $75–$150 per hour for SEO service
  • Highly experienced and reputable US-based SEO service providers usually charge between $100 and $300 per hour

Per-Project SEO Costs:

  • Depending on a variety of factors, per-project (aka One-off SEO projects) SEO costs usually range between $1,000–$5,000
  • One-off SEO projects typically last between two and four weeks

Small Scale SEO:

  • Usually defined as a business with fewer than 500 employees, the size of small businesses, as well as the purchasing power small companies have, can vary greatly.
  • A small business with three to five employees usually invests between $500–$1,000 per month in SEO services
  • On the other hand, a small business with 50 or more employees will usually invest between $1,500 and $4,000 per month for SEO services in the United States
  • As you can tell, small-scale SEO is a relative term since it depends on how small (or not so small) your small business is

Large SEO Projects:

  • SEO services pricing for large projects usually ranges between $1,500–$5,000 per month
  • Ambitious mid-size companies or nationally operating e-commerce companies frequently invest at least $3,000 per month in SEO

Local SEO:

  • Similar as small scale SEO, pricing for local SEO projects can vary greatly
  • While a local SEO services package can be as much as $4,000 per month, most local businesses with one storefront usually invest between $500-$1,000 per month in SEO

Quality SEO:

  • As with most everything in life, you usually get what you pay for. A reputable, US-based agency that’s been in business for at least ten years charges, on average, $3,000 for its quality SEO services
  • The average hourly rate for quality SEO ranges between $125 and $175

SEO Campaigns:

  • Similar to per-project SEO, an SEO campaign refers to a broader term that encompasses various activities and strategies deployed over a defined period with a specific goal in mind
  • SEO campaigns can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000+ per month, depending on the vertical

Basic SEO Plans:

  • Basic SEO plans usually refer to monthly SEO services packages. The cost for basic SEO plans usually ranges between $500 and $2,500 per month
  • Again, please remember that these price ranges are general estimates and can vary based on factors outlined earlier in this guide

Will The Prices for SEO Increase in 2025?

As inflation continues to slow down, it’s reasonable to assume SEO package prices will increase moderately in 2025 or potentially stay the same. Don’t fret. If you turn to a reputable agency, the cost of search engine optimization will remain a sound investment. With more traffic comes better conversions, which translate to higher revenue.

More Details About the Different SEO Services Pricing Models

SEO agencies tend to charge for their services in various ways. It is crucial to carefully examine the proposed pricing model before signing a contract. After all, you’ll want to ensure you get the best possible value for your money.

It’s also wise to consider the agency’s transparency, as it will speak to its integrity. For example, is it clear what you’ll pay for and when? Or do you think hidden fees will pop up along the way?

Naturally, the most cost-effective approach for your website will depend on various factors. Here are some of the most common SEO services pricing models to consider:

Monthly SEO Packages

Over the years, search engine optimization has become quite complex. Google’s algorithm consists of hundreds of ranking factors, and getting a website to rank at the top of Google requires a lot of work, the right resources, and knowledge. Since agencies recognize as much, many offer monthly SEO packages, which include a well-rounded bundle of services for a single flat rate. This rate typically corresponds to a set number of monthly hours the agency will work for the client.

À La Carte

When a website needs only a few tweaks to improve its rankings, it often makes financial sense for the business to purchase SEO services à la carte. Services may be provided once or ongoing, depending on the nature of the work. Either way, the client pays the agency only for tasks performed.

Per Project

Paying an SEO agency per project is analogous to buying services á la carte, with the agency completing the agreed-upon tasks without deviating from them in both scenarios. The only difference is how the services are billed: per project or individual service.

Hourly

Like many service-oriented businesses, SEO agencies sometimes charge by the hour. The exact rate can vary immensely from firm to firm because every agency weighs its time differently. On average, you can expect to spend between $100 and $250 per hour for services from a reputable company. Any lower, and your account might not get the attention it deserves. Any higher, and you could be getting exceptional service with outstanding results—or you could be spending more than you have to.

What Affects SEO Costs?

No one wants to pay for more SEO services than they need. SEO should boost your bottom line, not threaten it.

Let’s look at the most significant influencing factors of SEO costs:

The Company’s Size

In most cases, larger companies have more complex websites. Consequently, they have more complex SEO needs. On the other hand, much smaller businesses can get away with more straightforward websites, which are easier to optimize across the board, especially regarding backend issues like tech fixes.

The Company’s Scalability

Companies still growing or planning to expand significantly need more SEO services. Their SEO needs will evolve, and they should expect to pay more for SEO as their operations grow.

The Site’s Current Status

Sites already ranking reasonably well are usually easier to optimize. On the other hand, those that aren’t doing well can cost quite a bit to revamp to meet Google’s standards. As such, you can expect your site’s current status to influence how much you pay for SEO next year.

The Site’s Number of Pages

More pages mean more content to optimize. While the most innovative SEO agencies are deviating from implementing strategies across the board—it can take years to optimize an entire site, after all—they at least want to audit every page so that they can identify any significant red flags. Naturally, this can drive up the cost of their services.

The Site’s Technical Health

Google doesn’t want to direct traffic to sites with many issues on the backend. For this reason, deploying tech fixes is a critical pillar of every comprehensive SEO strategy. Sites that need a lot of technical attention cost more to optimize because of the sheer amount of work involved.

The Site’s Target Audience

Since the size and scope of the audience you’re trying to reach will affect the strategies your SEO team deploys, it will influence the amount you end up paying for your SEO package.

Local SEO

Local SEO is usually for brick-and-mortar businesses that want to reach those within their surrounding communities. Boosting engagement on social media is a significant component of a successful local SEO strategy.

National SEO

National SEO is for companies that serve clients across the country. Since they’re competing with companies nationwide, they need more aggressive strategies, which inevitably cost more to deploy.

International SEO

Businesses operating globally can expect to pay the most for SEO because they need to produce multilingual content that appeals to a vast portion of the population.

For additional information, I invite you to watch the recording of an hour-long international SEO webinar that Daniel Burns, our COO, and I presented.

How Much Does the Average SEO Campaign Cost?

Unfortunately, as pointed out earlier in this SEO pricing guide, there’s no straightforward answer to this question. Since every website is unique, so is every SEO campaign. A local campaign with only a few prongs might cost less than $1,000 to deploy. On the other hand, an international SEO project that aims to target people in a host of countries could cost five or even six figures. The easiest way to determine how much you can expect to pay is by consulting an expert directly and discussing your specific needs and goals with them.

Why Do Some SEO Agencies Only Charge a Few Hundred Dollars a Month?

Unfortunately, many SEO agencies take a cookie-cutter approach to their client’s sites. Since they deploy the same strategies for everyone, they can spend little time on each tactic. As such, they can justify charging meager rates. At the same time, hiring an agency that charges a fraction of what the average SEO package costs may be appealing. However, doing so probably won’t yield the results you want.

What Are Some Red Flags When It Comes to Pricing SEO Packages?

Regarding pricing SEO packages, especially small business SEO packages, a few red flags can indicate a less-than-reputable service provider. First, be wary of agencies that offer “guaranteed” rankings. SEO is a complex process influenced by various factors, and no one can guarantee specific results. And if they do, they’re likely using tactics that go against Google’s spam policies, which can ultimately hurt your standing with the search engine giant in the long run.

Second, be skeptical of extremely low pricing. If an agency offers a package at a price that seems too good to be true, they’re probably cutting corners or using tactics not in line with Google’s best practices.

Third, avoid agencies that use automated software, AI content generation tools such as ChatGPT (make sure to read Google’s guidelines about AI-generated content), or other “black hat” SEO techniques. These techniques, such as keyword stuffing and link farming, are against search engine guidelines and can result in your website being penalized or even banned. Always ask the agency what techniques they use, then research them to ensure they are legitimate.

Finally, avoid working with providers that promise a quick turnaround. SEO is a long-term process that can take several months to see measurable results. When an agency promises immediate results, it often indicates it will leave you with a site that doesn’t meet Google’s standards.

You should also be careful of agencies unwilling or unable to provide detailed information about their services. They should explain the tactics they will be using and provide examples of previous work and customer case studies.

How Can You Tell When the Cost of SEO Is Worth It?

It’s up to you to decide what is and isn’t worth it regarding your business expenditures. Generally speaking, the right SEO package will be a sound investment if it includes the following:

  • Tailored strategies
  • Proof of concept
  • Satisfied clients
  • Relevant experience
  • Ongoing communication
  • Innovative SEO tactics, such as our proprietary Micro-SEO Strategies℠ methodology

What Kinds of Services Do SEO Packages Include?

A comprehensive SEO package should include both on-page and off-page services, addressing as many ranking factors as possible. It should also cover both front-end and back-end components. While the best packages are custom-tailored, here are some on-page services to look for:

  • Keyword research
  • Page wireframing
  • Graphic and infographic design
  • SEO design and layout
  • Content creation and optimization
  • Meta tags/image/alt tags optimization
  • Ongoing technical and functional audits
  • Page updating and relaunching
  • Schema implementation
  • Internal link optimization
  • Content ideation and creation
  • As for off-page services, they generally include:
  • Google Search Console indexing
  • Inclusion in social media activities
  • Digital PR activities
  • Content syndication
  • Creation and promotion of platforms such as LinkedIn Showcase pages, About.me, Linktree, etc.
  • Link-earning and Google approved link building activities

One Size Does Not Fit All

While SEO packages are often marketed as one-size-fits-all, ensure you get an SEO package tailored to your unique needs and goals. If you don’t think the agency will adapt its approach, look elsewhere for an SEO service package.

What About Ongoing Maintenance?

Google updates its algorithm in minor ways daily and significantly throughout the year. That means search engine optimization is an ongoing process, and the best packages help clients climb to the top and stay there. Services indicative of the kind of ongoing maintenance you deserve include:

  • Diligent reporting with year-over-year comparisons
  • Periodic restrategy sessions
  • Regularly refreshed content

How Do I Compare SEO Pricing for Packages?

To determine whether SEO costs are worth it, you will want to consider each agency’s:

Process

The best way to judge an SEO agency’s process is by reviewing the strategies they use to optimize the sites they work on. Do they follow Google’s best practices and use only white-hat SEO techniques? Do they adapt their approach with every algorithm update? How much emphasis do they place on the elements Google values most, like high-quality content and E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness)?

You can also ask the agency how they would optimize your site specifically. This will give you a good sense of their process and whether it fits your needs.

Results

You want to buy a package that’s going to deliver actual results. While past successes don’t guarantee future wins, agencies with a history of helping clients climb the rankings are promising, and it’s likely worth investing in one of their packages. To evaluate results, look at case studies, reviews from past clients, and where the sites the agency is currently working on stand today.

Expertise

While every agency has to start somewhere, you probably don’t want to entrust your site to an untested team. Generally speaking, agencies that have been around for a decade or more and know what they’re doing can charge a few thousand dollars monthly for their packages. This is a reasonable cost to pay for such expertise.

How Long Are the Contracts for SEO Packages?

Most SEO package prices are charged monthly; however, the duration of the entire contract might be a year or more. When comparing SEO costs, account for the minimum contract length, as it will determine how much you pay overall.

While it may be tempting to avoid lengthy contracts, keep in mind that optimizing a website is like climbing Mt. Everest. You might be able to achieve some of your smaller goals–i.e., make it to the first or second base camp–in a couple of weeks, but if you want to make it to the top, you will have to stick with it. With that in mind, a four to six-month contract is reasonable. It will give the agency enough time to deploy strategies that hopefully yield results. Still, it won’t lock you into working with them for an excessive amount of time if you’re unsatisfied with the services you get.

Is It Worth It to Pay for SEO Services?

Many business owners would rather avoid adding SEO costs to their monthly marketing expenditures. When done correctly, however, search engine optimization will pay for itself several times over in more traffic and better conversions. Of course, once business owners recognize the value of SEO, they usually wonder if they can’t just optimize the sites themselves.

BSM has been around since 2009, and our approach has evolved to keep up with the ever-changing SEO and digital marketing landscape. We’ve helped hundreds of customers achieve remarkable results and would love to do the same for you.

To get a sense of what we can do for you, check out some of our customer success stories:

While SEO isn’t rocket science, outsourcing your optimization tasks can be worthwhile when you find room in your bottom line. Here are some of the biggest reasons why:

SEO Is Time-Consuming

When it comes to optimizing a site, there are no shortcuts. While innovative tools can streamline specific tasks, SEO, if done right, is an incredibly time-consuming process. Considering time is your most valuable resource, your efforts are undoubtedly better spent elsewhere when growing your business.

SEO Has Become Pretty Technical and Complicated

Optimizing a single page on a site is inherently complicated. You must complete on-page and off-page tasks, tech fixes, and numerous foundational tasks for maximum impact. While there’s no shortage of resources for those who want to take a DIY approach, it’s often easier to turn to professionals.

SEO Is Ever-Changing

Google tweaks its algorithm daily and unleashes significant updates throughout the year. If you try to optimize your site yourself, you may deploy dated strategies without realizing it. If you turn to a reputable agency, on the other hand, you’ll have total peace of mind knowing the tactics they’re using are always going to be up-to-date.

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers About SEO Costs and SEO Packages Pricing

Question: How much does SEO cost for a small business?

Answer: Small businesses that want to see real results from their SEO services should expect to pay upwards of $1,500 monthly. Naturally, the more comprehensive the package, the more it will cost. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for regarding SEO, so be careful of working with an agency that charges a fraction of what their competitors do.

Question: Are SEO packages worth it?

Answer: Yes. A comprehensive SEO package tailored to your unique needs and goals will always be worth the investment in the long run. The challenge is finding an agency that delivers on its promises, so doing your due diligence first is essential.

Question: What does an SEO package include?

Answer: An SEO package should include foundational SEO, technical SEO, content creation, SEO design, and on- and off-page optimization services. These are the basics every website needs to climb the rankings on Google Search.

Question: How long does an SEO service contract last?

Answer: Because SEO is an ongoing process that can take several months to yield tangible results, most service contracts last from six months to a year. This varies considerably between agencies, of course. It comes down to the custom SEO strategy your SEO agency will deploy for your business.

Conclusion & Next Steps

As you know by now, SEO is a complex and ever-changing field, but it can be a highly effective way to drive traffic to your website and boost your bottom line. If you’re considering investing in SEO, it’s essential to understand the different pricing models and factors that affect the cost of SEO services.

Here are some key takeaways from this article:

  • The cost of SEO can vary greatly depending on your business’s size, your website’s complexity, and your target audience.
  • There are three main pricing models for SEO services: monthly retainers, à la carte services, and per-project fees.
  • Your business’s most cost-effective pricing model depends on your specific needs and budget.
  • When choosing an SEO agency, it’s essential to perform research and choose a reputable company with a proven track record of success.

I created this SEO pricing guide to help you better understand the different pricing models and factors that affect the cost of SEO services. Hopefully, you can now decide whether SEO is right for your business and how much you should expect to pay.

Last but not least, we originally published this SEO price guide on August 9, 2023. This guide will be updated on a regular basis as pricing, and pricing models for SEO services change on a regular basis. Additionally, I recently participated in an SEO agency pricing models survey conducted by SE Ranking, one of our favorite SEO tools. In addition to reading this guide, I also invite you to read the results of their SEO agency pricing survey.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can answer any questions.