The nature of SEO means you have to be prepared for a bit of randomness and unpredictability. Search engine marketing is a complicated arena and it’s full of new strategies every day. SEO companies and contractors spend a lot of time keeping up with the changing face of digital marketing, and they can’t always predict an exact pricing structure, and even if they could, they can’t apply that universally across every business. Every business has different SEO needs, and a uniform pricing and service model would leave some businesses paying too much, and others disappointed in the overall quality.
So, SEO businesses and contractors give quotes directly to businesses and tend to offer a variety of structures to guide the relationship. This can be broken down into four basic categories: Monthly Retainers, Fixed-Price Contracts, Hourly Consultation, and Performance-Based.
Given the complexity of SEO and what SEO companies must do to garner the best results, this is the most common structure for SEO companies. Basically, this model allows you to work out exactly what you expect from the contractor, and to set specific goals as you go along. You’ll pay the same flat rate and establish an ongoing relationship with a contractor hopefully committed to your success. This can be a very expensive option, but it avoids a surprise bill or having to pay more during busy months. There is a range of prices to expect for this or any model, but typically a quality monthly retainer is going to cost between $1,000 and $20,000 a month. It depends on the size of your business and what you need. A smaller local business could get away with less than $1,000 a month, but they may want to consider fixed-price contracts or hourly consultation.
If you don’t need an all-inclusive handler for your SEO, fixed-price contracting is the way to go. For instance, if you already have quality copywriters and people in charge of the marketing strategy, but you need to hire out for the technical side of things, you can get a contractor just for that project. Again, there is a real range here, but the nice thing about project-based SEO is you won’t always be paying for it. Think a few hundred to $7000 per project – depending on the kind of work you need to be done.
An hourly consultant can be a good way to keep costs down. Find a trustworthy consultant and assign them specific tasks. For this route, it probably helps to have a pretty decent understanding of SEO yourself, so you can know exactly what expectations to set with the consultant, and how many hours you should probably get billed for the work. An SEO consultant who charges less than $100 an hour is likely not worth your time. Consultants with experience and a good reputation typically charge $100-300. Those hours can add up quick, so communication is important to make sure the work is being done over and over, racking up your bill. But if you only need a few hours of work a month here and there, this method can save you a lot versus a contract or monthly retainer.
This is a new model that not all SEO companies offer. Basically, this method only charges you for results. You’ll set targets and settle on reasonable expectations. If those expectations aren’t met, you shouldn’t be paying for it. The exact cost for this one is even harder to guess, it comes down to the negotiations with the SEO business. But this structure can be the most successful and cost-effective. The performance-based company is the most motivated to succeed, because if they fail—they’ve worked for free and lost time and money.
Every business is different and has different needs. It’s easy to get in over your head paying for SEO strategies that may not even work. Check out this article detailing how to choose a trustworthy SEO company with a good reputation, a commitment to your success, and a price that works for the kind of company you’re trying to operate. If you’re not Apple, you probably don’t need Apple’s SEO team. But with some careful planning and clear communication, you can get the team you do need, and at the fair price.