Nearly 2 billion websites — and counting — exist on the Internet. To do business today, companies need an aggressive search engine optimization (SEO) strategy so they’re visible to customers searching for their products and services online. Otherwise, they’ll just get lost in the crowd as even more websites are created daily.
Search engine optimization is a critical part of every digital marketing strategy, especially in the competitive online landscape. What most companies fail to realize, however, is the cost of such a strategy. Many believe it’s a “one-and-done” ordeal, or underestimate how imperative it is to online marketing success and are shocked when they receive the bill.
What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Moz defines search engine optimization as “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to [a] website through organic search engine results.”
Generally speaking, the goal of SEO is to drive customers searching for related products, services, and information to a website without paying for specific ranking placement. Paying for higher rankings on search engines is known as paid search.
3 Critical Reasons Why Businesses Need an SEO Strategy
Just as the Yellow Pages was once a lucrative marketing tactic for attracting new customers to local businesses, SEO is now how companies get in front of potential customers online. Benefits of establishing a strong SEO strategy include:
1. Credibility and Authority
Customers want to do business with and support companies they can trust. Having a strong placement in the search rankings demonstrates to potential customers that a company is a credible source within their industry and community.
The first five organic results on Google receive 67 percent of all clicks, according to Advanced Web Ranking. This is partially due to Google’s algorithm using a multitude of criteria to rank websites based on authority and context. By ranking in the top five spots, a website is positioned as an authority to consumers searching for queries related to a particular topic.
If executed correctly, an SEO strategy can drive up to 40 percent of a company’s revenue.
In a study by DataBox, 70 percent of marketers say SEO is more effective than pay-per-click (PPC) in gaining leads and obtaining goals. This is due to SEO’s ability to generate significant website traffic and begin the inbound marketing sales cycle.
3. A Long-Term Marketing Investment
The marketing world is full of short-term investments such as display ads, expensive tools, and other quick expenditures. These purchases are often looked at as frivolous and do not generate a continuous return for the business.
SEO, on the other hand, is a long-term marketing investment for a company of any size. With a well-organized and implemented strategy, a business can obtain top search rankings and drive ongoing traffic to its website for years.
For instance, if a brand wants to increase its website traffic by 40 percent in three months, an SEO and inbound marketing strategy work together to accomplish this without spending more of its budget than allotted.
How Much Does SEO Cost?
The cost of SEO services depends on the client’s current needs.
Launching a New Website
Businesses launching a website will need to do a lot of SEO work from the ground up. This requires fundamental tactics including keyword research, competitive analysis, link building, and more.
For foundational SEO work, businesses can expect to pay an onboarding fee of around $250 to $500 plus an hourly or per-project fee. Hourly rates can range from $75 to more than $200 per hour while per project rates are anywhere from $1,000 to more than $4,000 based on the scope of work required for the new website.
Businesses who already have a website but are struggling to break onto page one of Google require a serious SEO strategy. In this instance, SEO professionals will analyze the state of a company’s rankings and website, devise a plan, and work to improve the search rankings through:
- Citation claiming
- Content creation
- Website optimization
- Technical SEO tactics
- Local SEO
SEO pricing for this situation will typically include the onboarding fee plus a per-project or hourly fee.
Ongoing SEO Maintenance
With Google’s regular search algorithm updates, rankings can disappear overnight if not deliberately maintained.
Companies with strong page one search rankings must work to keep these placements. Websites with established rankings require constant planning, updates, and monitoring to ensure these rankings and the resulting website traffic do not falter.
Companies looking for continuous SEO maintenance will most often sign up for a monthly service from an SEO company, agency, or consultant. These retainers often cost between $750 to more than $3,000 per month based on the size of the website, number of keywords, type of reporting, and other factors that make up the total scope of work.
Choosing an SEO Company or Agency
When businesses do not have the resources or staffing to complete SEO work in-house, they look to reputable SEO companies and agencies to get the job done.
However, not all SEO agencies are created equal. Before signing up for SEO services, research each company thoroughly by reviewing key areas.
SEO companies can talk about successful rankings and increased traffic all day long. But can they prove it? When searching out an SEO company or service, ask to see proof of prior work and improved rankings, website traffic, or other criteria.
If the SEO company fails to provide such information, this should raise a red flag about its qualifications.
Recommendations and Reviews
Before contacting an SEO expert, look at its customer reviews. Are they positive? Negative? Use this to gauge how a typical experience partnering with the company might go.
Ask for recommendations and referrals from past clients, too.
Individual or Team?
The SEO industry is filled with reputable experts with years of experience. As a result, many of these individuals work on their own as consultants or freelancers.
However, depending on the scope of the SEO project, the assistance of an entire SEO team, rather than one individual, may be required.
While neither option is “correct,” one may be better suited for a project and budget than the other.
SEO is a key component of a larger inbound marketing strategy. If a business needs an entire marketing plan, it may consider selecting an SEO agency that also offers services such as:
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Copywriting and content writing
- Website design
- Pay-per-click advertising
Since these services will also help improve search rankings, many businesses find it advantageous and cost-effective to employ an SEO company that can do it all under one roof.
Types of SEO Pricing Packages
Each SEO company will structure its rates and packages differently. In general, rates can be broken down into the following categories.
Fixed pricing often is for individual SEO services such as copywriting, link-building, or website optimization. The price will be at a specific rate per service. The rates will range depending on the service provided. For instance, SEO copywriting may be priced at $0.45 per word. This allows businesses to pick and choose what services they need, and develop a custom SEO quote.
Some agencies prefer to charge SEO services by the hour. Expect these rates to vary based on the agency’s years of experience as well as the services being provided.
While hourly rates may sound ideal at first, consider that SEO projects take time to accomplish. Rankings do not happen overnight. It takes weeks to fix website errors, research keywords, craft content, and optimize pages to rank for specific queries. As the hours stack up, so does the final price.
If a company needs certain one-time SEO services, many agencies will charge a project fee. This price can be upwards of $5,000+ depending on the SEO company hired and the extent of the work required.
SEO work requires consistent monitoring and strategizing to preserve high search rankings. Companies who take their search rankings seriously often hire SEO companies to secure these placements through ongoing work.
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