Like most marketing services, how much SEO costs changes based on a number of factors and the reputation of your SEO provider. Your goals also define how much you’ll pay to a search engine optimization agency both as a monthly retainer and for specific services. But generally speaking … you get what you pay for and going cheap on your SEO provider isn’t a smart move. Companies that offer their SEO service for a low rate are typically second-rate, lacking access to the right tools and not employing experienced staff to handle your project. Instead, the average cost for SEO services ranges from $80 to $130 per hour, with retainers ranging from $750 to $1500 per month. Large companies with a serious concern for SEO, like Amazon, pay much more for their monthly SEO bill. More importantly, an SEO budget that is too low won’t yield results.
In this article, we help identify how much you should pay for search engine optimization.
Why it’s important to have great SEO services
SEO is the backbone of all your online marketing and even contributes significantly to your offline business success. Think about SEO as the highway that brings vast numbers of potential customers past your store. The better your SEO, the more traffic flows past your door and the more customers wander in to sample your offerings. A store located off a dirt road likely has little opportunity outside of existing customers, while businesses located on a popular offramp from a superhighway have vast potential for discovery by new customers.
SEO determines how high up your links show when users search for products and services or information through a search engine like Google. Comprised of a complex, rapidly evolving group of factors, weighted for their impact on search results, search engines attempt to satisfy users’ needs by serving up the most relevant and valuable links first. Since users likely select links from the first page of results, often links in the top 3, showing up first in the results list is critical for success. That is what SEO is all about. Mistakenly, most business owners focus on hacking Google’s algorithm, which might work for some time. However, the best practices are user-oriented. That is, if you may, the holy grail of SEO.
Even for customers who must visit your physical location, such as a restaurant or service provider, showing up first in the results increases the likelihood that users will find you. That’s why spending money on SEO services makes financial sense, even if your business only sells through a physical store.
Understand the Different Services Associated with SEO
More often than not, companies have a bad experience with their search engine optimization agency because they are not clear on what the agency is actually going to do for them. SEO is a broad category that boils down to one purpose: optimizing your website for search results.
This includes (but isn’t limited to):
- Meta information optimization. Your metadata helps users and search engines alike understand what your web page is about. One service you may choose to help your SEO performance is the optimization of metadata. In this process, the agency optimizes the pages on your website to match search intent, in other words, the results users want when they enter a search query.
- Building backlinks. Backlinks work like votes. The more high-value backlinks you have, the more people “vote” for your content, thus indicating the value of your content. Some SEO services focus heavily on backlink building.
- Content marketing strategy. Another facet of SEO involves creating valuable content on a consistent basis, so you have links to content matching search intent. When it comes to content marketing strategy, an SEO agency may create an editorial calendar that hits on keywords that represent how users search for you and others like you. Content marketing agencies create content for you or create content to share with high-authority sites, like Market Maven, to build backlinks that improve your SEO.
By understanding these service buckets, you communicate more effectively with potential SEO services agencies to ensure you get the biggest return for your money. Because the search algorithm changes frequently and managing the SEO process is an ongoing activity, most SEO firms work based on a retainer, as well as fees for additional services they offer that are one-time, such as a website audit. If an agency offers SEO for any less than the fees above, you want to investigate why and how they offer these lower fees.
Questions to Ask a Potential SEO Candidate
Much like hiring for a position internally, the interview process for a potential SEO services agency is the key to finding the right partner in your SEO journey. In addition to examining their skills and talking to existing customers about the results achieved, ask the following questions:
- Do you have experience in my niche?
- What do you feel is unique about my business?
- What is your approach to SEO?
- How do you prioritize SEO tasks?
- When was the last time you ‘broke up’ with a client? Why?
Why? Because soft skills are just as important as hard skills. How you work together and respect one another sets the stage for the results you and the agency of your choice might achieve. More importantly, answers to these questions help set expectations with the agency and your team.
Conclusion: Know What You’re Paying For
More often than not, small businesses feel scammed by their SEO companies. This isn’t always because the company failed to do what it promised, but rather that the client and the SEO agency were on a different page from the very beginning and didn’t work effectively together. SEO is really a joint responsibility.
Though it is important to see if the company you’re hiring gets results, never hire a search engine optimization company simply because they boast big results. Take the time to understand exactly what they’re offering. Not only will you be happier with your results, but you’ll also have a better understanding of the expectations you can have of your SEO company.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.