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How much does SEO cost in 2024?

The average cost of SEO is
$400 - $1,500

per month, depending on your strategy and business needs.

Need some help with your SEO but not sure of the cost? Read our handy guide to find out how much you’ll pay an SEO consultant on average for their services.

In the complicated forest of digital marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a well-trodden path that that can either lead you to better business profits or take you into a dead end. For a small to medium-sized businesses (SMB), hiring the perfect SEO specialist is no easy feat. And that's not to mention the big question on everyone's lips: "How much will SEO actually cost me?"

Whether you're looking to get your digital footing steady for the first time or are considering upgrading your current SEO strategy, we're your friendly, flashlight-waving guide. In 2024 the cost of SEO specialists varies considerably, much like the shifting forest of the digital landscape. We're here to shine a light on where you'll spend your digital dosh, and help ensure that cost aligns with the value you're seeking to capture.

Already looking for the right specialist to boost your business? Find a local SEO consultant now.

Hang On, What is SEO?

SEO man

SEO is short for search engine optimization. As the name suggests, the aim is to make your website’s content easy identifiable by search engines. This will improve the visibility of your website, causing it to climb the rankings of search engines like Google, in principal ramping up your visitor numbers as a result. 

All content, whether it’s landing page copy, your blog entries, or even your domain name should be optimized. And it's not just about making sure there's good content on your site - things like site speed and the 'hygiene' of your website will also be a factor in how well Google ranks it. Although many tactics to improve your SEO could be done in-house, a lot of business owners don’t have the time or knowledge to be able to fix theirs. That’s why many outsource their SEO to an expert instead. 

The SEO Bill—Breaking Down the Cost

When it comes to spending money on an SEO expert, think of it as another way to cut through the forest of your competitor's content and make yourself more visible. But understanding how much SEO costs is a tricky business, as it also depends on your budget and how much you're willing to invest in the first place - with SEO, often the more effort you put in, the greater the potential rewards. Let's dive in.

Average Price of an SEO Specialist for SMBs

The price of an SEO specialist can swing wider than Tarzan on a vine (if you'll excuse another jungle metaphor). On average, a US-based small to medium business is looking at a retainer of $400 to $1,500 per month for decent ongoing work.

The cost of SEO is also going to depend on how much work is required, and whether specialist software is used or not. Even when you have all the keywords, a lot of hours will be needed to fully implement them into your content, and that's on top of making the technical optimizations that will make your site more appealing to Google.

Remember, given the goal of SEO is to boost traffic to your website and ultimately conversions, if implemented correctly the cost will pay for itself. This is especially the case if you climb to the top pages of search engines when you previously ranked much lower.

Hourly Rates for SEO Experts

If you opt for an hourly rate, which may be a good choice for much smaller projects or simple periodic check-ins, brace yourself for prices ranging between $80 to $200. This cost can fluctuate and depends significantly on the SEO's experience level and any upfront research they may need to invest in.

Daily SEO Rates

For the brave souls pursuing SEO assistance on a daily basis, prices can land in the region of $1,000 to $3,500 per day. Consider day rates if you have a short, intense project that requires dedicated attention.

Monthly Retainers

This is where the adventure truly begins. Monthly retainers are the backbone of ongoing SEO strategies and can range between $500 to $5,000 per month, with select elite SEO gurus commanding retainers of up to $10,000 monthly. Retainers ensure a consistent, ongoing SEO strategy, which, much like establishing a permanent camp, requires trust and a long-term vision. The amount you spend will depend on how many hours you're getting out of this retainer - usually you're allocated a certain amount of resource, and your SEO specialist will help you decide where to spend it.

Monthly SEO costs
Type of SEO serviceHighest average priceLowest average price
Basic$400$120
Standard$1,500$500
Comprehensive$10,000+$6,500

Project Rates for SEO Specialists

For one-off, clearly defined projects such as site migrations or audits, project rates are varied and can range from $500 to $30,000. It's akin to hiring a local guide for a specific leg of the adventure; you're handed a set map, determine your destination, and work tirelessly until the last piece of SEO power is harnessed for your site’s rankings.

What's included in the cost of SEO work?

SEO group

Each SEO specialist is different, but everyone is likely to focus on these common key areas to begin with.

Keyword research

Whatever you pay for SEO services, you'll probably get keyword research as part of the price. Most SEO consultants will start with an SEO audit to understand where your website ranks for certain words and phrases. There are free tools for this as well as paid ones such as SEMrush or Surfer SEO. The paid tools are much more comprehensive, though do come at a cost that will be passed onto you by your SEO expert. 

Keyword research is vital because it tells you exactly what your website is currently lacking. If your page isn’t the top result on a search engine, you will be told which keywords you need and how many times they should be added. 

SEO experts will never ‘keyword stuff’ either, as the content still needs to remain easy to read and personable to your brand. But, within the headings and body text, there needs to be plenty of keywords to make your website more visible to your audience.

SEO implementation

To take advantage of all that keyword research and insight, you'll also be paying for content creation. Your content either needs to be rewritten from scratch or edited directly. Usually, website owners redesign their website at the same time as creating their new SEO-rich copy. This would also allow for a website designer to make sure the design and features of your website best support the SEO. For example, having easy-to-read fonts, clear headings, and a user-friendly design.  

But on a basic level, rewriting your existing content and tweaking headings will make your page much more SEO-friendly, and this is what you're paying your SEO expert for. If using professional software, your SEO expert can then compare the new changes with how the site was before they started. Even renaming your image files needs to be considered, as the more clues you can give Google about what you can offer, the more likely users will be able to find you.

Technical tweaks

Before your site is good to go, your SEO expert may implement some technical tweaks. This may include simple steps such as adding meta data, improving 'crawlability' (Google's ability to check out and rank your site), page load speed, and more. These seemingly small touches are actually extremely useful.

Reports

Reports and ongoing analysis may be included in the price of your SEO project, or you might pay more - both are common. Ideally, your SEO should have improved from where you started. But, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your website's performance once it’s up and running, especially as keywords and trends are ever-changing.

What Changes the SEO Price Tag?

SEO computer

We've identified the map to success; now, here's where the terrain gets tricksy. There are several factors that influence the salary of a hired SEO specialist and understanding these can be the difference between a cost-effective trek and a financial trip hazard.

Location Is Your New North Star

Much like in real estate, in SEO, location matters. The cost of an SEO specialist in Omaha won't resemble even a shadow of SEO in New York City. Be prepared for price disparities depending on where you plant your digital flag.

Experience

No treasure has ever been found without guidance from experienced voyagers. The same rule applies to hiring an SEO specialist. Highly-experienced professionals will demand higher fees but also are significantly more likely to deliver high-value results that justify the cost.

Agency vs. Freelancer

Choosing between an agency or a freelancer can be tricky, but price differences may help you make up your mind. Agencies can offer broader services, and often with more resources, at a higher cost; while freelancers may hone in on your specific needs at a potentially lower price. In theory neither is better than the other, so the best thing to do is speak to a few potential options and decide which one you click with.

Your Business Size

For larger businesses, the scale of effort required to get you up to scratch may necessitate a larger SEO retainer, while small businesses may find more value in hourly rates or project-based pricing.

Specific Types of SEO Consultancy

The tailored suit of SEO services can affect your overall cost differently. From local SEO to e-commerce optimization, each aspect of SEO may come with its tailored price tag, depending on the particular expertise required.

Remote or In-Person

With remote work catapulting into the post-pandemic norm, deciding between remote or in-person collaboration can sway your SEO cost. In-person meetings and local presence can add intangible value but will likely increase the overall fee.

Saving Money on SEO Services

SEO laptop

In the digital age, a penny saved is potentially a keyword implemented. Saving money on your SEO investment isn't easy (good service costs for a reason), but here are some tried-and-tested strategies for keeping your SEO budget in check.

Be Your Own Trailblazer

The more you know about the jungle, the less guides you will need. Investing in your own SEO education can dramatically reduce the ongoing need for specialist intervention.

Choose Quarterly Check-Ins

Instead of a perpetual party of retainer payments, consider quarterly check-in sessions to keep your SEO strategies shipshape without draining your coffers.

Try Automated SEO Tools

Harnessing the power of automation through SEO tools can significantly reduce the hands-on hours required from a specialist. Having said this, using those tool can be a job in itself, so unless you feel confident using them, a specialist may be more help.

DIY and Outsource Specific Areas

Do-it-yourself may not always be the answer, but for smaller tasks or straightforward projects, the DIY approach might be more cost-effective. Outsource only the most complex or time-consuming tasks.

Choosing an SEO Specialist Based on Your Budget

SEO woman

When your budget and SEO needs converge, it's time to set your hiring compass. Finding the right SEO specialist is about more than matching price tags; it's about aligning goals, values, and performance indicators.

Quality Over Quantity

Remember that the cost is one lens in a multifaceted kaleidoscope of SEO success. Don’t skimp on quality just to save a few dollars; a reputable SEO specialist will ultimately bring more value than they cost.

Read the Reviews and Collect Testimonials

An SEO specialist’s track record is worth more than silver in the digital age. Read the reviews, get the testimonials, and ensure they’ve left a trail of satisfied businesses in their wake.

While it’s possible to implement your own SEO, this requires skills not to mention the time that most business owners don’t have. SEO experts are well versed in all things digital marketing. They know how to write snappy website copy, all while making sure it’s keyword rich. From headings to tags, they will leave no stone unturned in the battle of making your website more SEO-friendly. 

If you want to build traffic organically over time, then SEO is the way to go. Like with any service you wish to outsource, enlisting the help of an expert can make all the difference. 

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