After completing this article, you will understand the cost structure behind SEO and SEO Services. You’ll have a pretty clear image on why SEO costs that much, and why you wouldn’t want to pay for cheap SEO. Some business owners are hoping to find Affordable SEO services and SEO on the budget. I hate to disappoint you, but there is no such thing. Whether you will hire a company, or you will “do it yourself”, good SEO gets expensive. It takes endless hours of time and effort, as well as intellectual capacity to push through search engine algorithms. The knowledge required to get these tasks completed is rarely found in a freelance work capacity.
If you are a business owner in a need of SEO services, you need to understand the activity itself, before deciding who to hire, and whether it is a right marketing strategy for you. Prior to hiring an SEO company or a freelancer, take in equation the time involvement necessery. For example, creating a single quality blog post can take up to 6–8 hours. When you take that in consideration, numbers can add up quickly.
Why SEO Can’t Be Affordable
Starting with SEO from scratch with one team member is practically impossible. This is due to the fact that it requires time involvement of a team, and a single individual is almost never enough. Therefore true SEO requires more than one full time employee. If we count content in, it is quickly transforming into an 3–5 people effort, even for smaller projects.
Learn The True Cost Of The SEO And What Do You Need For Your Search Engine Dream Team?
In order to have a team that can produce actual results, you need three people on your team:
- A Developer – to keep your website fast and up to date
- Writer – to produce high quality content for you
- An SEO – Person responsible to optimize the content and find suitable backlinking opportunities
When you take these factors in consideration, you will easily come to a high maintenence number, where you will realize that running a organic search campaign full time can easily exceed $120 000 a year.
What are the costs of Development?
How did we get to this number? Having a junior front end developer (HTML, CSS, Java Script stack), will cost you $50 000 a year. Renting services from a qualified agency will easily result in $100+ an hour. Numerous freelance indie agencies are charging the same. You will need frequent maintenance and constant on-page changes in order to consistently tackle the algorithmic challanges. Probability is that if you want to get some action quickly, you won’t be able to find it affordably. If you rather go and outsource, you may encounter the communication challenges.
If you were to minimize the involvement required on the development side, and stick with 10 hours of work per month, you are looking at $1000–1500 monthly expense for the development work.
Cost of SEO Strategy
Following that, another full time expense would be a person strategizing your SEO campaign. Good SEO strategists start at $95 000 a year and upwards. Agencies are paying this amount for the SEO’s they are hiring, and they are making a 100% markup on their labour, which leaves you with $200/hour if you go through the reputable agency, at the bare minimum. Realistic numbers would hover around $100/hour for SEO with an indie agency. When it comes to SEO, it is even harder to outsource out of the country, due to the fact that SEO requires high language proficiency, and negotiation skills in the realm of the back-linking.
So let’s say that you go with the “value option” and at a minimum you will need a strategy. Usually it takes us around 40 hours to complete a full blown PDF report, that covers SEO and PPC, that will pre-plan the expenses and needs of the successful campaign and appropriate timelines. Lowest end SEO agencies in USA according to MOZ are providing services at very low $70/hour, which would put the one time fee for SEO strategy at $2800.
This strategy would need revisions over time, and maintenance to see its feasibility in the future. Which would require 5–10 hours of labour and would cost $500–1000 a month.
The Cost of Content and its optimization
Depending on the format and the quality of content, we can determine its price. Sure, you can find 500 words articles for $15 an hour, but at that rate, the content that you produce will only affect the content frequency, and won’t add value to the end user. Realistically you can look at $50-$200 for a 1000 words article, which would be a minimal length required, in order to see any meaningful results from your organic campaign efforts.
At the bare minimum you will need 3 blog posts a week, or 12 blog posts a month. At the cheapest level of content production, that would be $600 for articles a month. This means bare bones content, and doesn’t include publishing, ideation and optimization. Each article would require 3–4 hours of work on top of it, like choosing keywords, adding images, optimizing the sub-headings and formatting. At $70/hour, you’re looking at $2520 at the lowest end. This puts content and its optimization at the level of $3100 a month. To learn more about the time requirements for the quality blog post, check out our article on content creation workflow.
The Cost Of Backlinking
One of the main activities of your SEO will be to obtain contextually relevant backlinks for your website. You can’t find any backlinks, as they need to be legitimate, relevant and appreciated by Google. Your SEO needs to review the backlinking opportunities and makes sure that you are not buying bad backlinks, that could potentially be a waste of your resources.
Our experience with buying backlinks tells us that price per link varies based on their quality, and there are numerous different levels of the quality of the link, and you need the link variety for the successful organic campaign.
Beside the hourly rate of your SEO, you would need to calculate the back linking budget, which would determine your final price. A good outreach program takes a lot of time, and can extend itself to full time. But based on our experience, having 40 hours invested, usually yields 5–10 backlinks. Getting these usually requires hundreds and hundreds of emails being sent.
Depending on the level of your competition, you may be looking to obtaining 10 backlinks a month, or even hundreds. But for the sake of a conversation, let’s assume that you only need 10 backlinks a month, and you want to run with an independent contractor for this job.
40 hours would cost you $2880 for the labour (at $70 hour / rate ). And 10 backlinks with average price per backlink of $150 would cost you $1500. Your monthly charge for the back linking side would start at $4000/month, only for the outbound campaigns.
Total Monthly Cost of SEO
- 10 hours of front end labour monthly – $1500.
- SEO Strategy $3000 and $1000 monthly.
- Content and optimization $3100 monthly.
- Backlinking $4000 monthly.
For a grand total of $9600 a month of recurring expenses. The cost of a single SEO campaign on a tight budget is $115 000. This is just a reality of the market. Of course business owners will try to mitigate these costs, but this is a rough estimate of what is needed in the terms of raw value, based on the fair running market prices.
Now to bring this number further down to some more reasonable level, let’s assume that you will want to outsource. When you know that real professionals are making half of that sum, that agency charges (assuming that agencies are going 1 to 1 to their labour investment), you can put that number almost in half, roughly speaking. Assuming that people would want to work outside of their day jobs to freelance for you, at their salary rate. (Hint: They usually won’t do it). And you would have the increased overhead of communication, that from experience I know slows things down. But let’s bring down this cost to $70 000 a year, if working with freelancers. Still a considerable amount, I would argue. This means that you’re looking at the fairly uncompetitive industry. In order to understand the true costs behind a realistic SEO campaign, we always recommend that you check the Digital Marketing Business Plan, that will give you deeper insights into the industry.
Reducing The Volume Of SEO
Unfortunately, SEO will remain a mystery and unattainable activity for numerous small business owners. One of the best ways to make it affordable is to pay it either with your own time or going with freelancers.
Becoming frugal in SEO means picking your battles carefully. And for those that want to see what are their realistic chances of fighting in the search engine arena, we highly suggest investing in thorough keyword research!
Keyword research will help you find the lucrative opportunities for you to create content for. When your time is limited, you need to be very careful at picking and choosing your optimization battles. The difference between competitive and non-competitive term can become elusive, and dynamic behind the data can be overwhelming. But if you are determined to start ranking, the best first step would be to see what you can realistically expect to rank for, and what kind of volume, will you be able to attract.
Investing into the queries that are low in volume, and with small to none commercial intent, you may find yourself wasting your hard earned dollars on the futile effort. Your SEO agency, or SEO provider, need to be capable of providing you with the insight on the intent behind every query.
Are There SEO Alternatives?
You may have realized by now that SEO is not cheap, and that it is a long term investment of your company in your digital future. However, your business is in a need of quick solution, that will yield profits the next day. Well, luckily, there are online advertising opportunities that can start yielding you the positive return on your investment right away. One of those activities is pay per click and display advertising.
What To Do Before You Start SEO
Before we start working with our clients, we build out a methodical approach to SEO, where we take in consideration the potential return on investment and the volume of traffic that can be obtained. These are not perfect numbers, as most of the queries are polluted with bot searches and artificial user experience, however, these numbers are giving us the estimates, where we can determine the value of SEO for the business, and the size of the desired investement. This way, you as a business owner, can weigh in on the risks and rewards, and the amount of the labour required to accomplish the task.
Only when you see the full picture, of the labour required, and the potential gain, can you talk about “affordability” of SEO.
Get in touch with us, and let’s start discussing your SEO strategy, and all the elements required to run a succesfull search campaign that will fit your budget.