How much does SEO cost?It’s the proverbial, “How long is a piece of string?” question.And if you think about it, this is not without good reason.SEO is not as easy to nail down as, say, sending out a direct mail campaign to 100 recipients.In some ways, it is not always as easy to measure, as many marketing activities may impact organic search traffic.The cost of SEO is also directly related to the potential rewards. Ranking nationally for a highly prized keyword that may be £10 per click in AdWords will have far more costs associated with it than ranking for a locally oriented keyword.But even on a local level, there can be huge variability — and whether you want to rank in a state, county, city, town or micro-area like a borough or village will influence how difficult this will be. This, of course, influences the price of SEO for your unique situation.In this post, I am going to look briefly at the benefits of organic search via SEO to better frame the question, how much does SEO cost? My goal here is to help you make an educated decision regarding how much you should be investing and how you measure results.

SEO prices: What determines cost?

SEO pricing has to consider the following variables:

*Situation. Where are you currently?
*Objectives. Where do you want to be?
*Timeline. How fast do you want to improve?

By analyzing a client’s current situation, understanding their objectives and determining the required timeline, we can calculate a price. There are lots of variables here, and we don’t always know what our competitors are doing, but an attempt should be made to calculate the level of work required and subsequent price.And of course, the industry will in part determine costs.If you make $100 from a new customer, you can expect to pay less than if a customer is worth several thousand dollars.The marketplace, to some extent, regulates price (assuming the work is done properly). It is all about return on investment.The last variable is maintenance and keeping your flag flying once visibility has been achieved.SEO is a moving target.You step up your game, and the competition does the same.It’s tough, and the best approaches need to be tailored to the unique situation and goals of the business.

High-quality SEO vs. cheap and nasty
This week, a local PPC client of ours called us up and detailed a sales call they had received from a local SEO firm.This firm was trying to sell them SEO and detailed the process that they would use to build backlinks.The gist of this process was to find relevant websites that had expired, buy those sites, and then place content on them that links to the target site.Thing is, this client was sold.They wanted it.Afterall, it sounded too good to be true.But when things sound too good to be true, they often are.Really, alarm bells should have been ringing when this supposed SEO company was doing speculative telesales.But that is a whole other story.If you are building a business, you need to play by the rules of the biggest marketing platform out there.And the rules are not always terribly clear.But think in terms of value and common sense, and you won’t fall foul of the thousands of frankly unethical, back-street SEO companies out there.

Enough already! How much does SEO Cost?

What should you be spending?
The prices above are all relative, though.If you are a small but national business in a competitive space, then you are going to need to pay more for SEO than a small business in a localspace.Think e-commerce online store versus a local plumber.The size of your market and potential profit will to some extent dictate what you should be spending to be in the running.So, what should you pay?How do you determine the value of SEO?The only true answer to this question lies in your business and current situation.If profits are big, expect more competition.If profit is low, then typically, there will be less competition.If you have a long way to go, expect to pay more than if you just need a final push into the top three.Ensure that your provider explains to you how they calculated which service(s) you need, and avoid the very low end of the marketplace, as the automation required to deliver SEO at $50 per month or some such will often lead to problems down the road.

SEO & web design
The above mainly looks at the monthly costs of SEO assuming a well-optimized website is already in place.If that is not the case, you may need to consider the costs to build an SEO-friendly website.Your website is your home online and is central to your SEO efforts.A well-optimized website platform that delivers amazing usability for mobile users is crucial.This can be a big investment, but a website that is not built with search and happy users in mind is an SEO wooden leg.

ROI: Why ‘How much does SEO cost?’is not the right question
At the end of the day, return on investment (ROI) is what matters.If a lead costs you $20 from paid search, $15 from social ads or $5 from organic search, then organic is a highly valuable channel which offers the best overall return on investment.Measuring these factors is not always easy but is absolutely essential to understanding what the return is on all your digital marketing activities.And for the manycustomers we serve at Bowler Hat, SEO and organic search still tend to deliver the best overall ROI.This is true when we look at brand awareness,engagement and across the full spectrum of conversions from lead generation to sales.


Peter Zmijewski is the founder and CEO at KeywordSpy.His expert knowledge on Internet Marketing practices and techniques has earned him the title “Internet Marketing Guru“ He is also an innovator, investor and entrepreneur widely recognized by the top players in the industry.