The Ins and Outs of SEO Pricing:
Determining SEO Cost for Enterprise Organizations
One of the first questions we consistently get asked: should I invest in SEO and if so, what do I need to invest in SEO? We surveyed the SEO community – agencies and enterprises – and asked them this very question: How much do you invest in SEO?
The range of answers varied widely, from $2,000 per month to more than $20,000 per month. In response, we wanted to answer this question in a way that paints a complete picture of SEO cost. We’ve read every SEO pricing guide out there and believe we have covered it all, from technology to internal team resources to full-service SEO agencies and even the different costs in local SEO and eCommerce SEO.
SEO pricing and SEO plans vary widely from organization to organization simply for the fact that each business has different needs. Determining search marketing and cost of SEO for your enterprise business requires carefully weighing the different options available along with their potential value. That way, you can create scale or implement a plan that is tailored to your business.
"The best answer is that it depends. It's so frustrating, and you can see why - companies invest anywhere from $2,000 - $20,000 per month! But, there’s a reason - so much goes into what SEO costs.
There is no single cookie-cutter SEO pricing package for every organization. Moreover, you should be very wary of any agency, consultant or tools provider that tells you otherwise.
Because your business’s organic search strategy must take into consideration the things that set it apart from the pack, the dollars you put in should reflect that. Your SEO plan is dependent on your current search visibility. For instance, the launch of a new brand requires a particular strategy when it comes to search engine optimization, digital marketing, social media and PPC management. This strategy will be inherently different from that of a company that already has brand awareness within that product category.
Whether you’re looking to get started with search engine optimization or planning on overhauling your current plan by scoping out the costs of a new SEO platform, a toolkit, or agency, our guide to SEO costs can help make sense of the different price points.
Be aware that when it comes to shopping for SEO, you get what you pay for.
Pricing models vary: Most services are priced according to an agency’s monthly retainer, single project free, fixed-price contract or an hourly fee for agreed-upon work. Depending on the size of your organization and whether you have an in-house SEO team, you may save money by opting directly for the tools or technology that align with your goals and training your own team to use them effectively. For example, you might need a tool that helps streamline content creation with what your target audience is searching for, a tool for auditing the health of your company’s backlinks when launching a link building campaign, or even a keyword tool that helps you survey competitors for keyword opportunities in advance of changes to your company’s products and services. The specific services and tools you choose should depend on what will add the most ROI for your organization.
Potential customers are searching for your services. If you aren’t at the top of your SEO game, they will find a competitor to answer their queries and sell them products and services instead.
Optimizing for keywords that prospective customers are searching for helps capture market share and expand your target audience. In order to reach these prospective customers through organic search, you need to align this demand with an investment into SEO strategy, content, and an overall approach to create the best search experience.
The way you think about SEO matters, too.
But how can you determine which services are essential for your organization and also fit within your budget? Read on to discover the tools you should be looking for as well as an overview of the different SEO companies that offer them and the typical pricing for all external SEO services and internal resources.
When comparing services, begin by conducting market research and opportunity analysis around audience demand. Use search volume along with a formula to calculate the potential for increased traffic, conversion and anticipated revenue. Then, weigh that anticipated revenue with the cost of the service to determine if the plan adds value to your organization.If you’re just starting your journey to see what SEO services are right for your company, it’s important to carefully weigh the cost and value of the SEO pricing plan you’re considering in order to determine ROI.
Recommended Reading: What Marketing Metrics Help You Track ROI of SEO
This is the most important investment because you need to know if the tactics you are employing are going to make an impact. Rankings demonstrate the success of your SEO campaigns and also show the first indication of problems with search visibility.
Price: Essentially free, if you don't need to scale – just Google and start manually counting, or leverage Google’s Search Console’s average position data. There are even free ranking tools out there as well. But, if you need scalable, reliable rank tracking, you should expect to pay. For example, 5,000 keyword queries, rank checked weekly is around $1,250 - $1,800 per month.
Tools that integrate paid and organic search campaigns funnel keyword pricing and conversion data into organic search, making use of both data sets. Another benefit: by targeting high-performing keywords with ads and through organic search, your page has the chance to show up more than once within the same search results.
Price: Google AdWords data can easily be extracted to compare to your top ranking keywords in organic. It takes time to collect that data and integrate with your organic search data to discover the opportunities and gaps. seoClarity (of course we do!) integrates your Google AdWords account so you can easily compare and find opportunities for integration between the two channels.
When you want to determine the current SEO health of your website, specialists use a tool capable of accelerating their output. These reports highlight high-performing pages as well as pain points to adjust. They also keep an eye on how competitors are performing in search. A dashboard brings this wealth of information into one convenient control panel for easy monitoring.
Price: Either an agency is supporting you, or you are using different tools and pulling this reporting together. There is usually a resource that includes time spent. There are tools that offer (ahem, enter seoClarity!) that you build it once for each team or executive and then it’s sent automagically at the frequency of your choice.
Determine if you are reaching your target audience on all platforms by collecting data on content engagement. These tools track content performance and perform tests to increase engagement. Creating content for engagement helps your business reach a larger audience, resulting in more backlinks and higher conversion rates.
Price: Time investment to posting and monitoring your social media. At an enterprise level, this isn't typically in the SEO budget, but rather a team that you should integrate with to optimize your content for both SEO and social.
Technical SEO analyzes how search engines’ robots crawl and index your site. This tool performs an SEO audit to uncover any potential problems and gives you a chance to course-correct before errors impact your site’s ranking.
Price: A year’s subscription to Screaming Frog, an SEO crawler, costs about $200 a year. An agency may crawl a site regularly to identify new issues and determine fixes in a retainer setup for minimum of $500 - $750 per month.
On-page optimization involves optimizing the parts of your own website that you can control, from web design and coding to page titles and on-page copy. This might include alt-tags, page metas and even the URL’s structure. Off-page optimization refers to factors that may impact ranking that occur off your website. For instance, having backlinks from another website impacts your site authority on a keyword it may be ranking for.
Price: The cost for this isn't incremental, but rather the time you invest to complete the tasks and updates. Technology can make this faster to identify and implement. Creating a scalable and consistent outreach process for backlinks takes investment in the strategy, time investment for trial and error within your industry, and investment for content to create link-worthy pages. More detail below within the next tactic for costs related to link building.
Analyzing the links that lead to your site as well as those that link to multiple competitors can help determine additional opportunities that benefit your own site’s authority. Likewise, a link building analysis can help you disavow incoming links from websites that may harm your business’s reputation.
Price: Like a tech audit (or a content audit), a link audit and strategy can be done as a one-off project for $1k+ with freelancer help or as part of an agency offering. From those results, there may be several link building tactics to take on. If the tactic involves outreach, additional tools like hunter.io to find contact info (starting at $200 plus extracts for email address), and mail merge tools can help. If you're looking to get in front of traditional journalists access to the network, HelpAReporterOut is useful at $50 for the middle package. To pay a freelancer or agency to do the work for you, expect to pay around $50 for a quality link after a sound tactical approach and targets are established.
Keyword research helps focus content creation on topics that your target audience and customers are looking for, capturing their attention at different points in the search funnel.
Price: A keyword research tool on its own costs about $200 - $500 per month, depending on the number of queries you need. Then, the cost is in the time of doing the analysis and prioritizing keywords/topics to create SEO campaigns for. We are estimating this task as around 8-12 hours every month.
An SEO campaign involves identifying a topic that your target audience will find valuable and creating content on landing pages or pillar pages that support that topic. SEO tools help strategists optimize pages for short- and long-tail keywords that drive traffic, while a sound content marketing strategy ensures the content reaches your audience.
Price: It’s hard to put an exact cost to this as many parts of prepping your campaign (keyword research, content writing, etc.) lead up to launching and testing your SEO campaign.
As SEO and content go hand in hand, it’s important to allocate budget for the creation and promotion of original writing that targets your searchers’ demand.
Paying for quality writing is an aspect of the SEO budget that is often overlooked. However, all traffic-driving pages require content to support your customer’s journey and inform search engines about your page. Modern crawlers and robots are adept at uncovering the semantic meanings of the text provided and using that information to determine its value to searchers. Additionally, when it comes to articles and blog posts also shared on social media, the quality and relevancy of the content affects the user’s experience and the likelihood that they will engage with it and share it.
If your team works with an in-house content marketing team, content creation and management may not fall within the SEO budget. However, if you plan on outsourcing SEO to an agency, be sure to ask if content creation is part of the package, and moreover, who will be responsible for creating your website’s content and managing it in your CMS or though WordPress.
Naturally, different expertise levels, commitments, and where you are in the world based on cost of living result in different expected salaries.
Entry-level content writer: $35,000 - $50,000 annual salary
Content Strategist with at least 5 years of experience: $55,000 - $75,000 annual salary
Director of Content or Direction of Communications: $90,000+ annual salary dependent on experience.
Freelance writers: $0.20-$0.30/word for basic blog posts, but up to $1.25 per word depending on the expertise level and the depth of experience and type of content creation that’s needed.
Writing Services: Often these services require a minimum content package or monthly fee. A content package might include a commitment to 10 commissioned pieces per month at a set rate. Monthly fees work to retain their services and are typically added in addition to a specific price per piece. For example, WriterAccess charges a subscription of $39 per month and then members can get content written for $100-$200 on topics that most writers have some level of knowledge of. If you opt for writing services, you still need someone in-house to manage and provide a steady stream of content briefs and content ideas.
After that content has been created, a content marketing plan gets it in front of prospective customers. This is above and beyond the general responsibility of SEOs, but may help increase visibility. Think of this as a bucket of investments. To invest in this area, expect to pay between $500 and $1,500+ per month. This is supportive and additional to bring even more visibility to your organic search efforts. This investment gets you started so you can test your way into what drives the best results for your company.
Outbrain: A platform that adds boxes containing links to sponsored content on existing web pages. The allocation of these links are based on content relevance and the target audience.
Social Media: Sharing content across your social media channels or through paid social advertising helps you reach existing and prospective customers with products and information.
Email Newsletter/Promotion: Sharing a digest of your new content that links back to your site directly with subscribers increases page views.
Zemanta: A platform that uses real-time bidding to help content marketers reach their target audience through paid advertising.
HARO: A website where experts in a field can share their expertise with reporters working on related stories. In exchange, selected experts may ask to have information about their websites shared as part of the story, earning a backlink and increasing their authority on the topic.
“Content creation is the key to SEO. Without a partnership with your content writers and strategists, you should not be investing in the rest of SEO.”
Maybe you already have a dedicated SEO team who need tools that can inform their work—fine-tuning your strategy so your practices run more efficiently. Or, you might be looking to add SEO tracking and reporting into your workflow. Either way, bringing your SEO tools in-house allows your business a customized approach to search engine optimization.
By opting for SEO software rather than an external consultant or team, data can be accessed as needed and used to advise more than the launch of a new product, but also support continual content creation, adjusting and testing of new optimizations, and collecting insights about your competitors’ search data.
An SEO platform provides a solution that covers the entire SEO lifecycle, while SEO tools allow your team to focus on the individual reporting and data pieces they need. SEO platform costs depend on the size and needs of your business.
Most SEO package prices begin around $2,500-$3,000 per month. However, the price depends on your number of domains, as well as the quantity and frequency of tracked keywords you will need to rank check. Adding domains is an additional cost, while SEO keyword rank checks typically cost $0.10/each to $0.30/each for with weekly ranking updates.
Often times, SEO software providers offer SEO pricing packages with established minimums for keywords and domains, so you can choose the one that best fits your organization’s needs. These offerings also differ based on the included features, which take the size of the company into consideration and base the included features off those that would typically suit a business of that size. However, these standard packages may be added on or customized to fit an organization’s needs, goals or upcoming strategy. And now for the shameless plug: at seoClarity, we offer a robust SEO platform designed for enterprise businesses. Get more details on specific SEO platform packages that meets your organization’s needs.
Additionally, SEO tools may be chosen and paid for individually. Commonly referred to as point solutions, these tools specialize in one specific part of the SEO life-cycle. They can be helpful when working on a specific area that is contributing negatively to your search visibility.
Usually companies begin their SEO journey here. They use the basics like SEMrush or Moz to get started with rank tracking and/or keyword research. Then, they usually add-on a site audit tool like Screaming Frog.
If you're just starting to create an SEO strategy, these point solutions may be more aligned with your price range. But even these point solutions will cost something, of course. The good news is that there are many free SEO tools on the market that can still offer things like analytics and some site performance data that a full SEO audit would offer.
You can read more about specialized SEO tools here.
Tool kits often (but not always) include online training and call center support for those team members who need to use them. That way, your team grows to use the tools to their full capacity in a way that’s fine-tuned to suit the company’s SEO goals. Tool kits usually don’t offer hands-on support. That's what you get from an SEO platform.
Another point: when you invest in SEO software, you also receive the benefit of frequent updates, additional offerings and beta access to new features.
Price: Basic rank tracking tools, SEO audit tools and keyword research tools can start at as little as $99 per month each, but this includes limitations in queries, reporting and analysis capabilities. With this approach, collecting, connecting and downloading data is a common practice. We typically see companies invest anywhere between $500 - $2,500 across these different point solutions.
(Warning: Depending on the number of keyword queries need for rank tracking, it can make this cost skyrocket out of this range.)
Whether you’re debating between funding an in-house team or are opting for an SEO agency or consultant, know that the costs associated with these different options vary widely. SEO companies have widely-varying pricing models, which makes the cost of SEO change based on the vendor(s) you choose and your own company's specific needs. Keep reading to learn what you can expect to pay, as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages of each SEO resource.
Price: Varies depending on team makeup.
An in-house SEO team has some clear advantages over an external agency. Namely, they work full-time with your organization’s interests in mind. With the time spent on-site, they gain important industry knowledge that helps them make the best decisions for your organization. Expect to pay a $40,000 - $85,000 salary for an SEO analyst, depending on their experience level. A SEO specialist costs a salary between $57,000 and $70,000. An SEO manager typically earns a salary of $60,000 - $150,000, while a director of search and acquisition, responsible for both paid and natural search, earns $120,000 - $190,000 annually.
Price: Project-based cost structure, typically with monthly retainers ranging from $500-$3,000; hourly rates range from $50-$350.
If your enterprise business doesn’t have an in-house SEO team yet, consultants offer their expertise on a project-by-project basis. This option also works well for an organization with a small SEO team who is working on a large-scale project and may require extra help to complete it before a looming deadline. Consultants work on projects with your on-site SEOs, bringing their years of experience into the workflow.
The cost structure for SEO consulting is based on the project. For instance, if you’re looking for a site audit, expect to pay between $500-$2,000. If you need link building instead, you can expect to pay about $1,000 per month or per link acquired.
Looking for something smaller scale? Consider booking based on hourly rates. For example, if you’re working on a website relaunch and need new page optimizations, an hourly rate of $50-$350 may work better with your budget. However, it’s important to remember that with SEO, you get what you pay for. Those consultants who charge higher rates often have proven results and valuable years of experience or an area of specialty that will make an impact on your site.
Price: Ranges from $12,000 to $1 million per year.
An SEO agency is an off-site team that handles your SEO needs on a monthly or by-project basis. Companies without a dedicated SEO team often rely on agencies to fill this gap in their own expertise. An agency team often contains a variety of specialists in analytics, link-building, optimization, and content creation. They can also work alongside an in-house team and even provide training to full-time employees while handling some of the SEO workflow as you build a new team from the ground up.
Are you considering hiring an SEO agency to handle a new project, train a new in-house team, produce quality content, or acquire links to your website? An agency can provide SEO help for a site or product launch. Agencies, especially large ones, are process-driven and deliver consistent results. Expect to pay around the full-time equivalent of building out an in-house team. With most agencies, a monthly retainer is required to maintain the contract.
SEO agency pricing is often shared though blended hourly rates; however, the amount of individual expertise each member of the team brings to your project can vary greatly depending on the agency’s composition. You may overpay for some services included within the package deal while others, such as content creation, may require an additional cost.
The price of an agency varies according to their experience level, reputation and positioning as specialists in your field. The cost is further determined by the scope of the work, based on the size of your organization and particular SEO needs.
Look for combination technology and services as an option for those enterprise businesses that want access to their SEO data and reporting, or for those companies who are building a dedicated organic search team with agency support. SEO platforms offer short-term or advanced services in addition to the technology–from onboarding and training that teaches you to use the platform to more personalized support designed to identify the SEO game plan with the quickest results.
An SEO platform offers a dedicated client success team member to make sure you get the most from the technology. Unlike most tools providers, seoClarity provides tailored support through Client Success and SEO professional services, ensuring users get the most ROI from the platform. In contrast, pay-as-you-go SEO tools might only offer online resources and call center or online chat support.
In general, SEO costs between $750-$2,000/month based on the scope of the project. For enterprise level companies, SEO costs start at $2,000/month. SEO software for keyword rank tracking costs between $500 - $4,500/month (depending on the number of keywords tracked), and rates for SEO consultants fall between $500-$3,000 for a monthly retainer.
A successful SEO plan can achieve a higher ROI than other earned media channels. A general understanding of ROI is that a product should earn more than it costs. However, due to the ever-changing nature of the search landscape and the long-term game of search engine optimization, it’s sometimes harder to understand what a return on investment looks like for SEO.
Proper SEO requires tools, talent, and training. All of these assets combine to give you a strong organic search presence. Different companies may find that they have different needs, and the SEO services they need will impact the amount they spend on SEO.
“In more than a decade of my career, I think I've seen it all. You can decide to invest nothing in SEO or a million dollars. What is the compound growth in SEO worth to you? Pricing for SEO varies so widely whether it's an in-house team or external resources. The point? Just invest something."
Focusing on national SEO for both broader terms and long-tail keywords provides a return on revenue and rank position. Aiming for a national audience requires frequent rank tracking, monitoring and research to improve or maintain first-page position, in addition to content creation, optimization and SEO marketing so your content reaches its audience. Lastly, technical SEO provides an easy user experience for both prospective customers and search engine crawlers.
If your business operates a brick-and-mortar location where foot traffic matters, gains in local SEO can have a big impact on your revenue. Remember when location pages on a site were the only place you could find details about a business? Now, Google My Business has taken over (though those location pages are still an important source of traffic).
However, having your location and business hours available on many websites increases the margin for error. Investing in location management software (such as Yext) that lets you sync your large or small business’s information across local directories and search engines can result in a $100,000 investment. A local SEO tool like Local Clarity helps automate these processes, increasing traffic, providing for a better user experience and getting customers in your door.
Most platforms charge per location so it’s important to find a technology partner that offers a comprehensive set of forward-looking services with an emphasis on customer engagement (customer reviews & response, Q&A, posts, images, videos, categories, attributes, sentiment analysis, etc.) and less of a focus on static data (location name, address, phone number, and web address).
Many industry players operate in the $20-$30 per location range, even businesses with 1,000+ locations. This is often the case when a platform designed for sole-proprietors is being tasked with handling scale. Enterprise grade platforms, like LocalClarity, start at $8 per location and provide volume pricing starting at 200 locations.
Your local SEO shopping list should include the following to make sure your large or small businesses are accessible to your local customers:
If you’re running an eCommerce site, you want your product pages to rank for incremental long-tail keywords so potential customers can easily discover your brand through organic search. Ranking for long-tail keywords targets users closer to the buying phase of the search funnel, which means a greater percentage of sales result from those site visits. If you want visibility in the competitive eCommerce search landscape, you need a tool that helps target those specific keywords phrases most relevant to your products. That way, you capture that search traffic and revenue directly.
Multi-faceted navigation lets Google index filtered pages so the searcher lands directly on the spot closest to the funnel leading to conversion and allows you to gain traffic directly to your product category pages. An SEO platform helps you discover which keywords have search volume, optimize those pages and offer them to Google for indexing while avoiding duplicates. Products such as Bloomreach, YourAmigo and Searchdex specifically target long-tail keywords for your SEO business.
The price ranges depending on the size of the site’s inventory. Providers charge on a cost-per-click or a percent of sales that originate from pages created by the software. Startup costs can be between $1,000 - $3,000. Then, continued monthly costs depend on how much traffic and sales result.
A general understanding of ROI is that a product should earn more than it costs. However, due to the ever-changing nature of the search landscape and the long-term game of search engine optimization, it’s sometimes harder to understand what a return on investment looks like for SEO.
While better SEO is correlated with increased revenue, the effects of optimizing a website, receiving new backlinks, or creating new and valuable content are not immediate. Instead, these ventures lead first to rank improvements within the SERP. This increased visibility then drives more traffic to the website, which in turn increases revenue. For more on proving ROI in SEO, read about the short- and long-term gains focusing on search engine optimization can bring.
For better ROI, you need to identify tactics that make efficient use of time and resources. If you don't invest in SEO from the get-go or aren't investing the right amount, you might only be creating more trouble for yourself at a later date. It’s always easier to make SEO part of your initial plan or design than it is to alter parts of your website to optimize for better SEO later. Additionally, if you don't consider user demand upfront, you might miss an opportunity to own the SERP from the beginning. These decisions make a huge difference especially when it comes to new product launches and search visibility.
For a relaunch or redesign, prioritizing for the best technical site experience up front also makes valuable use of a developer’s time. Otherwise, having your IT team make the necessary changes afterward causes only more headaches. This includes providing the necessary specifications as early as possible in the process. It minimizes the added time cost of making last-minute changes or reworking a completed project.
The same applies to content creation. Providing content creators with targeted keywords before they start writing allows the content to be tailored specifically to those search queries. Having all of the necessary information as early as possible in an SEO project helps ensure that projects are completed efficiently and on schedule.
Your investment into SEO returns both short-term and long-term impact. In the immediate, auditing and cleaning up your website delivers a clearer user experience while keeping search engine crawlers happy. Removing or reallocating duplicate content as well as creating new content helps avoid content gaps while ensuring your audience reaches your most accurate and helpful articles. These improvements increase your position in the SERP and help bring more users to your site (while eliminating frustrations they may have found from broken redirects and links).
Long-term SEO impacts result from building out new content through traffic-driving keywords, and then constantly monitoring your website’s performance. By identifying gaps, you can focus on the full funnel, from informational to transactional content, which allows you to meet your audience where they are in their buying journey.
When debating the different price points and determining your focus, it’s important to measure for ROI to understand the potential gains that come from your investment of time and money.
First, determine your traffic potential. You can identify your traffic potential through SEO forecasting manually or by using a tool. Your traffic potential allows you to identify keywords with the highest earning potential based on current and forecasted traffic.
SEO plans and pricing vary widely between organizations and are largely dependent on the particular goals of that organization.
Those with an in-house SEO team may only require a suite of SEO tools to better improve their presence in organic search. Other organizations may prefer to work with an SEO agency or consultant to achieve their goals while lending support and expertise. However, the strategies and tools needed also differ according to the particular vertical targeted, whether national, local or ecommerce SEO. Whichever way you go, the cost for SEO should be supported through keyword research and analysis of your current website in order to bring a return on your investment.