SEO Pricing – What Does SEO Cost in 2021?


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March of 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

As a business owner, you should have an online presence.

The internet represents a whole world of possibilities that didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago. With digital marketing, your business has the opportunity to grow by leaps and bounds.

But for that to happen, you have to be found.

You could have the most exceptional website in the world, but if no one can find it, your business will still fail.

So how can you make it easier for potential customers to find you online?

Search engine optimization.

SEO is a modern marvel of marketing — there’s no better way to get your business seen.

But how much does it cost to run an SEO campaign in 2021? Is it worth the money? And, most importantly, what kind of return on investment can you expect?

In this article, we’ll walk you through the price of SEO, detailing not only what it is but why it’s so crucial for your business.

We’ll talk about how SEO pricing is determined, the services it includes, and the benefits you can reap from running a killer SEO campaign.

What is SEO?

SEO is a series of content and website improvements that act as a guide for popular search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

When someone types a search into Google which is related to your brand, product, or service, you want to show up. By using search engine optimization, you will.

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Since Google has over 90% of the worldwide search engine market share, that’s the service we’re going to be focusing on.

Don’t get me wrong, both Bing and Yahoo are great, and you should take their algorithms into account. But Google is the big dog in the search engine yard.

Unfortunately, Google isn’t your friend if you’re not at the top of the search results. The first result for a keyword typically has a 28.5% click-through rate. Meanwhile, fewer than 1% of searchers click a result on the second page. That means you need to optimize your site if you want to be found.

Through SEO efforts, you’re able to help Google’s search bots understand not only who you are but what you do. That’s super important from a search perspective.

While Google already understands the name of your website, you have to do a lot more legwork to get it to comprehend the actual content fully — that’s where SEO comes in.

SEO is made up of on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.

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On-page SEO

On-page SEO involves adding keywords to your page body, titles, meta descriptions, and headers. Those keywords should be chosen carefully, with market research.

You have to know what your audience is looking for, how those terms are relevant to your business, and the frequency that they are searched for.

Keywords should also be added to image titles and alt text.

That’s because Google’s search bots can’t see images. They know that the image is there —  they just don’t know what it is. If you have a photo of a sailboat on the page, it doesn’t know that it’s a sailboat.

But if you use a keyword to specify that it’s a sailboat in the image title and alt tag, you’ve successfully informed Google and helped it to index your site’s multimedia content.

You also have to crosslink between your pages, ensuring that your articles all connect to one another. This network of internal links helps distribute authority and ranking power throughout your website.

For SEO to work, your content should be updated regularly to keep up with search engine algorithms. Google is constantly changing its ranking factors, so it’s important to stay on top of it.


Since 2009, we have helped hundreds of businesses generate more online leads and sales through SEO. Let us do it for you!

Off-page SEO

Link building is an important part of off-page SEO. You’ll need external links if you want to rank well. You also have to get relevant outside sources to link back to your site. This is the most challenging aspect of SEO.

It’s also an effective SEO tactic. 90% of marketers say that backlink building has an impact on rankings and traffic within six months.

Another vital piece of the off-page SEO puzzle is creating buzz and building a reputation on your social media accounts, all of which should be linked back to your main website.

Technical SEO

Site performance is also a factor. Page speed and other technical elements go a long way toward determining your placement.

This is called technical SEO.

Most experts recommend including responsive design in your site in order to improve the user experience. 45% of consumers abandon any piece of content displaying poorly on the device they are using. Google understands this, which is why it now uses the mobile version of a site for indexing and ranking.

Navigation should be streamlined to make sure that once someone is on your site, they can find what they’re looking for. Google takes this into account because it only wants to recommend quality sites to consumers.

For more information about how you can learn more about SEO, click here.

Do you need SEO?

You absolutely need SEO if you want to remain competitive in today’s market.

As we mentioned above, it’s vital to be on the first page of search results in order for your prospective customers to see your brand.

Bringing in more organic traffic means that more customers will be able to find your business and interact with it. Your conversion rate will skyrocket, and profits will increase.

You should make it a point to rank in the top results for most of the high-value relevant keywords associated with your business.


The potential for a return on investment is enormous. That’s probably why 49% of marketers believe organic search is the most profitable channel they use.

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Organic search also drives over ten times more website traffic than organic social media.

Of course, social media is essential, and you still need it to be successful. But it’s a piece of the overall marketing puzzle. SEO is a much more significant piece.

But, as you’ve seen, there’s a lot that goes into SEO. It’s a valuable service in 2021. Unless you’re an expert, it’s not recommended that you take on the task of doing your own SEO.

You need to contract with an SEO specialist and understand what you should be paying.

What should you spend on SEO services per month?

Now that you understand the need for an SEO company, it’s time to talk about what it costs and what you should be paying out of pocket.

However, it’s important to develop a smart budget that is personalized to the specific needs of your business. What’s suitable for one company might cause ruin for another. It’s all wrapped up in your business model, your current profits, and what your services cost.

Your budget is going to boil down to what you can stand to make vs. how much money you’re putting into this.

Remember that there is a “you get what you pay for” reality to this.

You might come across an SEO firm that is severely undercutting the pricing models of all of the others. But don’t be fooled. Discount SEO services are often too good to be true.

Companies that spend over $500 per month on SEO are 53.3% more likely to be “extremely satisfied” with their SEO company than those that spend less.

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These smaller discount SEO firms tend to cut corners, using “black hat SEO” tactics, or fail to devote the necessary amount of time to your campaign. When that happens, it’s like you’re throwing money in the trash. What you see as affordable SEO is not good SEO.

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A typical SEO budget can fall anywhere between $400 and $10,000 per month. Of course, this is dependent on the size of your business, the amount of competition you have, and the level of service you choose.

But there should never be a flat price point for SEO services. If you see a company offering that, it should be an instant red flag. Your budget is based on your specific goals.

One size fits all pricing doesn’t cut it because every SEO campaign is unique. You market a shoe store differently than you market a plumber. Likewise, national SEO takes a much different approach than local SEO.

It’s important to remember that this is not a one-time cost. It’s not as if you’re going to do SEO for six months, get that number one spot, and then it’s yours forever.

SEO is an ongoing process. It never stops. You rise to the top and then defend your ranking. Remember, you have competitors out there, and all of you are gunning for the top of the search engine mountain.


Since 2009, we have helped hundreds of businesses generate more online leads and sales through SEO. Let us do it for you!

What’s included in SEO services?

Typical SEO services that you purchase through an agency are composed of several elements.

Social media optimization

87% of marketers use social media to distribute content.

Social media is one of the best opportunities to build links. The more content you share, the more likely it is that other people will share it and link to it.

Content marketing

Content marketing is at the heart of SEO.

SEO improves through tweaks made to your website content. Content marketing uses relevant content to drive a specific action from your customers.

Once your content is optimized for SEO, drawing new eyes to your page will also urge them to action.

Conversion analysis

You have to understand where you are to better determine where you have to be.

By analyzing your conversion rate, you can better get an idea of how much organic traffic you have to draw in using SEO in order to achieve your goals.

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Link building

SEO relies on links — It’s incredibly important and equally as difficult.

Many SEO firms write content and shop it around to industry-relevant websites in an attempt to get links listed back to your site.

Technical optimization

The back end of your site has to be optimized for SEO as well, and technical issues are usually discovered in an initial SEO audit, which typically includes a full-service package.

This includes your meta descriptions, title tags, alt tags, page speed, page experience, website architecture, schema markup, and more.

Local SEO

If your business has a physical location, general SEO isn’t enough. You don’t just want organic traffic to your website, you want customers in your area to shop at your store or use your services.

Local SEO can help with that.

Modern consumers increasingly turn to search engines to find businesses in their own neighborhoods. Mobile queries for “Where to buy” something “near me” have grown by over 200% in the past two years.

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Local SEO is a set of techniques designed to put your company’s website or business information in front of those local customers.

Even small changes can make a big difference. For example, 60% of smartphone users have contacted a business directly from the search results page. Making sure your phone number appears at the top of the SERP is just one local SEO tactic.

Remember, firms should be well versed in all six of these areas. Make sure you ask about their strategy and success record when it comes to getting you ranked.

What is the typical SEO pricing model?

There’s currently no industry standard for SEO pricing among agencies. It’s up to the consumer to decide if a price presented by an SEO consultant is fair and fits into their budget.

That’s why it’s important to create a budget with return on investment (ROI) in mind. If you enter into an SEO contract with all the bells and whistles, you need to make sure that at the end of the day, you will bring in more money than you put out.

The overall budget could be anywhere from $500 to $30,000, depending on how much work has to be done.

There are four different payment models that most agencies follow:

1. Monthly SEO package

When you’re putting an agency on a monthly retainer, you’re typically paying anywhere from $750 to $5,000 per month.

Under a retainer, clients pay a monthly SEO fee for the services they’ve selected, and that covers all the time that the SEO agency dedicates to your campaign.

2. Fixed-price contract

This SEO pricing model lets clients pay for the services that they want specifically. This can go beyond what is listed here and differs agency by agency.

When working on a fixed-price contract, SEO Copywriting, a form of content marketing, will run from 15 cents to 50 cents per word. The site SEO audit, which examines your conversion rate, among other things, might cost between $500 and $7,500, depending on the size of the site.

Link profile audits, which gauge the level of backlink building that has to be done, can run you from $500 to $7,500. For social media setup, you’re looking at $500 to $3,000.

3. Project-based pricing

Project-based pricing is one of the most straightforward contracts you can enter with an SEO firm. Essentially, you’re paying a predetermined fee for ongoing custom services.

Depending on the level of service you’re asking for, expect to pay anywhere between $1,000 and $30,000 for the full project. At the end of the contract term, you can renegotiate.

4. Hourly rate

Hourly rates are considered consultation fees. Much like working with an attorney, the firm will keep a running log of the hours that they spend working on your SEO strategy.

It’s not uncommon to see hourly pricing from $100 to $300 per hour.

While there’s a lot of variety in the prices we’ve listed above, it’s important to remember that SEO packages charging less than $750 per month should make you wary.

Another important fact to remember: search engine optimization takes time. It’s not an instant thing. Sometimes it can take up to six months before you start to see a return on your investment.

What factors affect the cost of SEO services?

The price of SEO services for your organization will be determined by a combination of factors.

First, successful and experienced SEO agencies can charge more. The average SEO specialist who has been in the business for less than two years charges $79.37 per hour. That jumps to $142.50 for those with over ten years in the search engine optimization business.

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It can be worth it to pay for the expertise of an established company, but make sure they have something to show for all that time in the industry. A successful SEO agency should be able to show you case studies with real numbers.

A good SEO firm will also have built a reputation. Look at reviews or seek out industry award winners.

Secondly, when you first sign on with an agency, they’ll often start by conducting an SEO audit to evaluate the current state of your website. The more work it needs, the more you’ll pay.

The scope of the SEO project also matters. Does your website have thousands of pages (common for ecommerce sites) or just a few? How much new content do you want to create?

Your search engine optimization rates will depend on which types of SEO you need. If you’re only looking for on-page optimization, your SEO package will probably be cheaper than one that includes technical SEO and link building as well.

Finally, your industry and the strength of your competition affect SEO pricing. A competitive landscape means your SEO project will be bigger in scope and more time-consuming.

In conclusion

When it’s time to write a check for your SEO services, it’s important to remember that you’re making an investment that could shape the future of your entire company.

That’s why, before you make that first payment, you should have a strong understanding of SEO pricing models as well as why you need it.

You should also be able to identify the various ways that most agencies price these services and be wary of anyone trying to set SEO pricing at less than $750 per month.

By keeping all of this information at the forefront of your mind, you will be able to make an educated SEO budget and ensure that your search engine optimization campaign will be profitable for the long haul.


Since 2009, we have helped hundreds of businesses generate more online leads and sales through SEO. Let us do it for you!

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