If you’re considering utilizing an agency to help you with your SEO, one of the first questions you probably have is, “how much should we allocate for an SEO budget?”, or “how much will SEO cost?”

Before deciding to invest in any service, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of how the pricing model works, and just how much different services will cost you.

This blog provides an insider look at digital marketing agency pricing based on the model used at Perfect Search Media (PSM) — a search and social agency that uses seoClarity. It’s important to understand that agency pricing is determined based on what is fair to both the client and to the agency. Everything is calculated with the client’s perspective and needs in mind!

Read on to understand exactly how SEO agency pricing is determined and the different services that companies can invest in. Then, we’ll breakdown the prices you can expect across various SEO services.

How SEO Agencies Determine Pricing

Step 1: Receive an audit of the website

The first step in deciding how much to budget for an SEO program is to audit your website. This is akin to looking under the hood to see what the biggest SEO opportunities are, and if there are any potential obstacles to SEO success.

There are four pillars of SEO that we audit at PSM that are a core component of many SEO audits across the board. These are:

  • Crawl: Are search engines able to crawl the pages of the website?
  • Index: Can search engines index your site content?
  • Rank: What are the most opportunistic keywords within striking distance?
  • Convert: Do website visitors have a positive user experience on the website?

After a website audit is completed, your agency has a much better sense of the most immediate SEO focus areas and growth opportunities for your company, leading us closer to determining a final SEO budget.

Step 2: Ensure all components of the statement of work are clear

Every agency’s SEO services differ slightly. To determine our pricing at PSM, we take inventory of all the services we offer and match them to the needs of the client to make sure relevant work is appropriately reflected in the statement of work, or SOW.

Cataloging every service offering is an important part of the process, in order to ensure that all of the hard work the agency puts in for clients is reflected accurately in the SOW. This ensures that both you and your agency are clear on the expectations of the SEO services you are being provided.

Then, based on these services, PSM uses a basic pricing template to clearly define costs. From there, this template can be customized based on factors like project, industry, and scope.

(Perfect Search Media uses a pricing template to calculate and define various costs.)

Step 3: Receive an SOW customized to your website’s needs

Next, we’ll take the audit findings and decide which SEO components are needed.

Components of a typical SOW include a combination of technical SEO, content strategy and creation, conversion rate optimization, as well as time allocated for reporting, project management, and communication.

Once we’ve identified those components, the next step is to determine the resources that are needed for each. For example, an ecommerce company may need significantly more technical SEO hours to address the thousands of product pages with complicated URL parameters. Conversely, a simple website for a B2B services provider may require significantly less technical SEO hours, as they only have a few hundred pages.

Each month looks a little different – there is generally more work to be done at the very beginning of an SEO engagement, so those onboarding hours are accounted for as well.

Step 4: Determine the final budget

For long-term SEO engagements, a recurring monthly retainer fee is charged: total project hours x agency hourly rate.

Many SEO agencies typically charge a unique monthly rate. Occasionally, some stand-alone projects have a flat fee, such as a site migration project or a set amount of blog posts created in a given time period.

Finally, we’ll take our estimated number of hours for each month and multiply by our agency hourly rate to come up with our final numbers. There are a number of ways that agencies calculate this.

What is a Typical Hourly SEO Services Cost?

As we now know, the final cost of your SEO services is determined by much more than a set rate. However, when hourly rate does come into play, it’s important to know how much different professionals will charge.

SEO Hourly Rates(Image Source: Growth Ramp)

However, business type is not the only variable that may influence SEO services pricing.

SEO hourly pricing can also be determined by:


SEO and content strategy for a company in a niche industry may require more research and work on the part of the analyst or content strategist than content strategy for a company in a well-known industry that has a lot of available information that is easy to research.

For example, if your industry is very new, there may not be any keywords present in available databases, or if there are, there might not be a ton of search volume around key terms.

Experience of the SEO Professional or Agency

For professionals with 2 or less years of experience, the retainer costs average out around $1,266. For more seasoned SEOs, that number averages to $2,563.

So, in general, the rate of a senior manager’s work will be higher than a less tenured analyst. Agencies typically make staffing decisions on accounts to try and match experience level to the size of the company’s budget.

Note: seoClarity clients can benefit from SEO Professional Services — a data-driven approach to SEO that allows enterprises, agencies, and digital teams to accelerate their SEO efforts and performance metrics. Not an agency, SEO Professional Services supports clients with Technical, Content, and Link Audits, Managed Services, and Content Writing Services. 

Local Market Pricing Averages

If you’re looking to hire an SEO professional from your area, it’s important to note that service prices may range depending on geographical location. This includes if a business offers local SEO or global search efforts.

For example, SEO pricing in Chicago may differ from, say, Missouri. Internationally, U.S. SEO pricing tends to average out at $75-200/hour, while Latin America hovers around $25-$60/hour. If you’re looking to save costs on your SEO budget, you may want to consider utilizing a consultant or agency in a cheaper market.

SEO Tools

Depending on the type of SEO tools your agency or professional uses in their services, your costs could fluctuate.

For example, some SEO tools require pricey subscriptions or time in training — which is then factored into the final cost of service.

In Conclusion…

To recap, the cost of SEO services can be determined by:

  • A customized statement of work (SOW) based on your SEO needs/services
  • The type of SEO professional (agency, consultant, freelancer, etc.)
  • The local SEO market
  • The level of experience and tools within a company

Now that you have a greater understanding of how SEO is priced (and how much it will cost), choosing a plan that works best for your goals is paramount.

Ready to take the next step?

Perfect Search Media is a premier search and social media agency located in Chicago, IL.  They are a long time seoClarity client with a host of Case Studies to back up their work in SEO.

Request an audit and determine the SEO needs of your business today.