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SEO cost varies wildly between different agencies and the top SEO agencies generally charge higher than your cheaper SEO companies. The cost is usually because of wider expertise in core areas including SEO, PPC, CRO & Link outreach campaigns.
The classic movie Forrest Gump was famous for coining the phrase, “Life is like a box of chocolates–you never know what you’re gonna get.” While this is great advice for the unpredictable ups and downs of life, Forrest’s mama could have easily been talking about SEO packages.When it comes to SEO, you get what you pay for–most of the time. There are shady companies who don’t really offer the level of optimization they claim, as well as some true bargains who provide high-quality work at a competitive rate.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that you’ll have to pay a fortune for quality optimization; you should, however, have a realistic idea of your budget and what it will get you.
Determining Your SEO Budget
To determine your SEO budget, you’ll need to consider several factors:
Know your existing rankings.
In order to determine where you want to be, it’s good to have a realistic assessment of where you are. Have you made it to the first page of Google’s results for your keyword–or any keyword for that matter?
If not, you’re facing an uphill battle and will likely have to spend more than a business with an already-established web presence would.
What Are Your Objectives?
Whether you want to make it to the first page of Google results for a highly-competitive keyboard (expensive), or you’re fine with trying to boost the popularity of your site for long-term search keywords (cheaper), you want to develop quantifiable goals.
Vague statements like “I want a better web presence for my site” give very little information to whichever SEO company or expert you choose to hire. You don’t want them acting on what they think is best–you want work that is tailored to your individual aspirations.
What is your timeline?
SEO success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a stretch to say that you should give any large-reach SEO project at least six months to show your expected return on investment.
Chances are, your fiercest competitors have been working hard on their SEO strategy for years, and you’ll need to work hard to catch up with (or to “best”) them.
Importance of Keyword Research
Keywords are the lifeblood of your site’s SEO success.
Choose a keyword that’s too competitive? You run the risk of never making it to Google’s much-desired first page. You only need to think of your own browsing history to think of how infrequently you visit the second or (*gasp*) third page of Google’s SERP.
Choose a keyword that nobody will really use to locate your business online? Why even bother?! Optimizing the wrong keyword means you likely just spent a substantial portion of your marketing budget to essentially remain invisible.
In addition to the keyword you choose for your basic description (i.e. “Meat Pies in Melbourne”), you need to develop industry-specific “long-tail” keywords like “where can I find steak and kidney pie in Melbourne?”
It might seem like a lot of work–and it is–but people are increasingly using voice command apps like Apple’s Siri or “Ok Google” to search for your site.
Now more than ever, a successful web strategy needs to “go with the flow” and adapt to changes to search engine analytics, user preferences, and even the devices people are using. Mobile has taken over the search market in recent years, requiring its own distinct strategy, and we want to help you improve your rankings.
SEO is not cheap
Hopefully, it’s readily apparent to you why you should include SEO in your budget, but you may still be wondering why you can’t rely on some of the cheaper services offering similar-sounding products to the legit guys.
While cheap SEO organizations around the world are notorious for doing shoddy work, this is especially true in Australia. So-called “budget” SEO companies here are notorious for using Black Hat SEO techniques. A few of these include:
Bad Link Strategies
Phony links (sometimes known as “link webs”) are one way that SEO scams operate. While your site does need a bevvy of links to “gain Google’s trust,” if the only links to your site are from spam websites designed to provide these links, it actually hurts your long-term credibility and SERP.
Keyword Stuffing and Article Spinners
While it might be fairly obvious that searching for the lowest-cost SEO provider isn’t going to get you the highest-quality content, you’d be amazed at just how bad some of the blog posts are.
One of the most egregious mistakes that budget SEO companies utilize is to create “content” that is stuffed to the gills with your keyword. While you do want to use your keyword throughout your content, you need to do it sparingly or your site will likely get flagged as spam.
An example of keyword stuffing
It’s not 1999 anymore, and if you want to top Google’s rankings for the term “Bicycle shop in Victoria,” it’s no longer sufficient to write a hundred blog posts that contain that phrase, ad nauseum.
Another common “content strategy” these companies utilize is to provide “articles” from spinners. Spinners take popular content from other sites and flip the words around just enough to pass a plagiarism detector.
The results? The broken syntax that you’d expect. Article spinner pieces usually read as if they’ve been run through Google Translate ten times into various languages, then translated back to English.
Bad content like this will not only lower your conversion rate, you’ll increase your bounce rate (how quickly people navigate away from your site, regarding it as spam).
As we detailed above, you need to focus on creating and optimizing high-quality keywords for your site. Cheap SEO companies often “choose” keywords for you, but 99.999999% of the time, they’re not the ones you want.
Sure, it’s easy to corner the market for a bad keyword. But, unless a prehistoric caveman is brought back to life in the year 2018 (or beyond), they’re probably not going to use broken English, strange syntax, and the other linguistic crimes that these cheap SEO keywords entail.
Invisible/Hidden Text and Other Chicanery
The last “SEO strategy” that these cheap sites utilize is the sneakiest, dirtiest trick of all. They’ll hide text on your site that features your keywords–sometimes by making it so small that it’s unreadable, other times by making this text the same colour as your site’s background.
GUYS: Google sees past this. Immediately! It doesn’t work, and you just paid good money for it that could have been spent on actual optimization. Good job (***cue sarcastic clapping***).
The Final Word on Cheap SEO Companies
SEO is a borderline necessity for businesses these days. More than 3/4 of people start their search for a product they’re interested in via an online search. Online success and real-world success go hand in hand. You owe it to your business or site to build quality backlinks, great content, and high-quality keywords.
Average Cost of Real SEO
Okay, as fun as it is to bad-mouth the cheap SEO “experts,” we know that that’s not what you came here to read (at least not entirely). Let’s get to the real meat of this article: how much you should expect to pay for your high-quality SEO help…
Paying for SEO by the Hour
Currently the average cost, according to Moz.com falls somewhere between $75-250 per hour.
This isn’t quite all of the information you need, though. Big SEO projects can take longer than your company expects, and you can end up paying more money than you’d budgeted.
On the plus side, though, you do receive an accurate portrayal of where your money is going, and how much time the SEO expert actually spent on your website.
SEO By Monthly Retainer
Similarly to hourly pay, there’s also the “monthly retainer” option for SEO help. Monthly retainers can range from $1000-$25000
Given how often Google changes its metrics, SEO is clearly a long-term project. Because of this, many businesses prefer to find an optimization expert whose work they regard highly.However, this often comes with a longer commitment than many are seeking. Unless you find someone whose work you feel like your site can’t live without, you should most likely seek other options.
An SEO Consultant
If, on the other hand, you’re fairly confident in your ability to optimize your own website, you can hire out the services of an SEO consultant to check your work (SEO Checklist) and make sure it’s actually going to improve your site.
Project-based SEO is one of the most frequently offered (and purchased) SEO packages. can provide an excellent value, depending on whom you rely to do your work. For one thing, you’ll typically use some kind of contract to negotiate prices, terms, and deadlines.
You can potentially get a lot of bang for your buck, but you can also easily overspend–particularly if you’re not familiar with the current rates. You also forgo flexibility–in the event that you change your mind, want to revamp your plan, or decide otherwise to pivot away from your original plan, you might be out of luck.
“Pay for Performance” SEO Services
Some SEO companies are willing to adjust their price in relation to the SEO results your site sees. This obviously seems like one of the most low-risk ways to invest in your site’s optimization. However, many of the companies that offer this pay-scale (actually, most in Australia) are the cheap rip-offs that we detailed above.
Even if they’re not, the fact is: companies that do offer this performance-based service are often very choosy about the keywords they’ll work to optimize; they know that they’ll have to put in too much effort for competitive words.
Owners of smaller businesses (especially those working in niche markets or small areas) will probably be tempted to utilize this kind of service, but they should avoid them.
Important Takeaway Points About SEO Costs
We’re sorry if this piece has left you with more questions than answers thus far–it’s certainly not our goal to dodge the question at hand. To quote Samuel L. Jackson in the movie “Pulp Fiction” well, allow us to retort. Here are the figures you need:
While Per-Hour SEO Varies Widely, $75-$200 is the Most Common Price
Australia and New Zealand actually have some of the world’s highest-priced SEO experts, followed only by the United States and Canada. While you can shop around and try to find a good bargain, you should expect to pay no less than $75 per hour. You should also reconsider if you’re paying substantially more than $200 an hour–unless, of course, your site is improving so quickly that you literally can’t believe it (in which case you should also scrutinize heavily for black hat SEO techniques).
Project-Based Rates Usually Run from $1000-$25,000
Nearly 3/4 of SEO companies, including those that offer e-commerce SEO, offer pricing that is determined per-project. These projects usually fall between four ranges:
Competitive keyword ranking usually falls in one of the latter two categories.
The Widest Price Range is for “Retainers”–Anywhere from $250 to $25,000
Monthly retainers have a huge range of prices, depending on whom you’re hiring. We’d advise against this payment strategy unless/until you find someone whose work you stand behind completely.
SEO Companies Aren’t Necessarily Just SEO Companies
To some, it seems that the “pure” SEO agency has died–this is far from the case.
Many of the world’s best SEO experts work for companies that advertise themselves as “inbound marketers,” “web design (or development),” and other web-related terms.
In order to develop a truly realistic idea of what your site’s SEO will cost, you should seek out an expert’s advice. They can tell you how many hours/months your project will likely take.
Once you have this information, you can weigh it out and do the math to see which payment option is best for you. Don’t scrimp and save, but don’t blow your entire budget on SEO results you could have spent less on, either!