How Much Does SEO Cost?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a powerhouse for long-term revenue generation.
It should never be an afterthought in your marketing strategy.
Businesses across every industry must capture relevant, organic traffic opportunities to stay competitive and grow.
Focusing on value over cost is crucial when researching the best SEO agency or consulting firm for your business, industry, and company stage.
And by value, I mean aligning your return on investment and effort with the key objectives that will move the needle on your business.
To do that, you need a team of marketing specialists with industry-specific experience across various SEO disciplines, working together to deliver optimal results for your business. These specialists include
- Account managers
- SEO strategists and analysts
- Content strategists and top-tier copywriters
- Technical SEO experts
- Social media specialists
Building and maintaining fantastic SEO results requires true expertise and ongoing management. More often than not, proper SEO requires an up-front investment—especially for larger, more complex industry verticals in competitive niches and equally high ROI expectations.
For illustrative purposes, let’s pretend you need heart surgery. Are you going to choose the cheapest surgeon you can find or a specialist with a trusted clinical team with extensive experience in successfully treating your specific, potentially complex condition?
You can guess the best answer in a heartbeat! 🙂
While search engine optimization isn't a life and death situation, it can certainly kill your website’s earning potential if it's done poorly (or not at all).
Why Is Choosing the Right SEO Partner So Important?
When searching for an SEO partner, it’s important to recognize that quality, experience, and expertise vary tremendously.
Low-tier and highly productized SEO has the potential to significantly harm your site’s search rankings, authority, and trust with search engines, prospects, and customers.
Be wary of web design or marketing agencies that say “they also do SEO” because more often than not:
- they don’t have the skill or expertise to improve the quality and quantity of traffic to your website—especially in medical verticals.
- they may add generic SEO services to their project plan to extract more money from your business.
When not correctly implemented, building, redesigning, or migrating a website can negatively affect your rankings in search engines.
That’s why it’s crucial to work with a skilled SEO partner that understands how to retain the SEO integrity of your site and protect the ability of consumers to connect with your brand.
When site changes don’t include SEO planning as an integral part of the design and development process, the results can be disastrous, negatively impacting search engine rank, organic search traffic, brand visibility, and revenue.
What Is the Average Cost of SEO?
Fees for SEO vary widely, though most legitimate SEO agencies charge somewhere between $4,000 to $5,000 per month for a small to medium-sized site in a moderately competitive vertical.
However, it can cost significantly more if the agency is specialized in your market, you’re in a competitive space, you are a new business, or you have ambitious SEO goals.
This is especially true in healthcare SEO. which must meet Google’s Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) guidelines and demonstrate higher standards of experience, expertise, authority, and trust for SEO success.
What Determines SEO Cost?
SEO cost not only depends on an agency’s experience and industry expertise, but also on
- The industry you are in
- How competitive your niche is
- Your business objectives
- Your business history, reputation, and industry authority
- Whether you want to rank locally, nationally, or internationally (or all three!)
- The specific keywords, keyword iterations, or keyword phrases you want to compete on
- The budget and effort needed to outrank your competition
- The size and complexity of your site
- How many sites or locations you need to optimize for
- Your desired outcomes
- How quickly you need the work done (and results!)
- The track record, reputation, expertise, and experience of your SEO partner
- The amount of project management time you want to invest
- Your competitors and how robust their SEO strategies are
- For example, the bariatric, fertility, and plastic surgery industries have high reimbursements and are highly competitive, meaning businesses are paying a premium to compete. And, if you want to rank for “best plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills?” it’s likely to be significantly more expensive and take more time to achieve.
In short, there is no simple answer to “How much does SEO cost,” because the SEO landscape has many moving parts.
Your SEO partner must fully understand the current state of your site’s SEO health and what is needed to achieve your desired outcomes before they can provide a realistic cost estimate commensurate with the effort required to achieve desired outcomes.
If you want to achieve high-level results, you’ve got to partner with high-level SEOs with specialized industry experience.
Given These Variables, How Long Does SEO Take?
When selecting an SEO agency, it’s important to remember that everyone wants the top search engine spot, and competition is often fierce and unrelenting.
Maintaining a consistent, iterative, comprehensive, and high-quality SEO strategy is essential for staying ahead of the curve—and your competition.
SEO must be an integral and ongoing part of your marketing strategy. Gone are the days of a "set it and forget it" keyword strategy.
Today, Google rewards higher rankings to sites that best address and satisfy user needs through helpful, relevant content served within a satisfying site experience.
For highly-competitive niches, SEO should never stop.
That said, here is a general timeline for new clients with small to medium-sized sites in moderately competitive verticals, and where search opportunity exists:
- Onboarding and assessment (approx. 4-6 weeks) - includes reviews of the current site, historical data, competitive landscape, technical platform and content
- Site audit and priority updates for site stabilization (approx. 3-4 weeks) - this “low-hanging fruit” prioritization helps triage any major issues and set a solid base for future iterative improvements and larger-scale initiatives.
- Building of SEO strategy and plan of attack (approx 2 weeks)
- Execution of SEO plan and strategy (approx. 5-12 months)
- SEO content creation (ongoing)
- Strategic planning updates and realignment based on successes, competitive environment, and recognized opportunities (assessed every 5-6 months)
However, this is not to say you won't find high-quality SEO services within your budget. You may need to spread your services over a longer timeframe to achieve your desired outcome.
The Cost of “Affordable” SEO
Signing on with an agency or consultant offering SEO services far below industry averages is extremely tempting, especially if you’re trying to limit expenses.
However, it’s risky and can cost you more in the long run. Cheap SEO agencies or consultants often use templated strategies and generic SEO tools and focus on low-value tasks requiring zero expertise.
If you’re working with or considering a low-cost SEO solution, watch out for these common red flags:
- Feckless busywork
Be wary of SEO solutions that focus on finding and fixing “errors” that aren’t crucial for modern SEO growth. What’s more, if they do a poor job of “fixing” 404 errors, title tags, or meta descriptions across your site, it could damage your site authority, trustworthiness, and brand reputation.
- Poor quality content
Google rewards high-quality, helpful content that satisfies search intent. Cheap SEO services often retool existing content, creating the appearance of new content. While this may seem like a good idea, poorly written, unstrategic content will not perform well in organic search and may hurt your online reputation and site’s authority—which damages SEO for your entire domain.
- One trick ponies
Be extremely wary of SEO agencies or consultants offering a one-size-fits-all pricing and service package. As I shared above, all businesses are unique, with countless variables impacting their SEO strategy.
Too often, self-proclaimed "affordable" SEO agencies and consultants focus on making fast money instead of providing long-term value for you.
If you want to build and maintain a competitive edge in organic search, finding a skilled SEO partner that provides scalable, professional services and solutions that meet your unique business needs is a must-have part of your marketing strategy.