SEO: What should it cost?

How Much is Search Engine Optimization?

If I had a nickel for every time I talked SEO pricing with a client, we probably wouldn’t need to charge for our services any longer. As a business owner, local search engine optimization is beyond essential, it’s imperative. The question of how much should you be paying for SEO has been looming for several years, and it is definitely not going away. As the web continues to be the vehicle for local businesses to intensify their traffic, growth and profitability, SEO will continue to be the engine.

If you have been asking yourself what you should be paying for SEO, listen up. It is my hope that this post will allow you to wrap your mind around what your business should be allocating as an SEO budget. Bust out those pens and take some notes, because this will be a fantastic primer as to working with a company like Buhv Designs.


How to Pay for SEO?

Just like life insurance premiums, there are several ways that most companies will bill for SEO services. Most companies will offer several methods or payment plans, but it is important to understand each approach.


Hourly SEO:

This approach is one that most local business owners will relate to. If you need to hire an electrician, typically you will receive an invoice for the hours of services provided. While this approach seems welcoming, this may not be the best way to pay for SEO services. A typical hourly rate ranges between $150 and $300. Search Engine Optimization campaigns can require over 40 hours a month; that can add up quickly.

The issue with this is that not all SEO work is created equal. Backlink work can be completed by most junior-level digital marketers with the right strategy and audit information. However, high-quality on-page work, conversion rate optimization, and schema should be left to the professionals.

Project-Based SEO:

This approach is one that many web marketing agencies offer. This option allows a local business owner to define the “terms” of the campaign. Your campaign has a finite life cycle and once the project is complete your SEO efforts follow in tow. In my opinion, this is not the best approach, as SEO is not a turn-key service. Organic campaigns require time to climb the ranks; once on top, you must continue your efforts to preserve your rankings.

Ideal for most websites after a comprehensive technical SEO audit, from our experience, there is typically heavy-lifting needed upfront to get it back on the right track.

The Monthly Retainer:

This is the most commonly employed method for SEO campaigns. This option essentially allows you to hire a marketing team without paying to house them. A retainer allows you to maximize your web marketing and SEO efforts and will typically include monthly reporting and multiple touchpoints for your local marketing efforts. In my professional opinion, this approach is the most advantageous way to pay for an SEO campaign, as a monthly retainer will typically yield the highest return on investment for the local business owner.

At Buhv Designs, we do offer all three methods, however, the monthly retainer is employed by approximately 95% of our clients. We offer all three options as a means to ensure flexibility for our clients. Giving options is always a great way to do so.

Need a quick refresher on what makes up quality SEO and figuring out what you need? Learn more about an SEO audit and how we build a campaign from it.

SEO Cost Infographic - Buhv Designs

What to Avoid in an SEO Agency

We’ve all fallen victim to the mantra of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The same is true with SEO. When deciding which company to hire, there are a few reflags you need to be aware of during your decision-making process.


Let’s go ahead and get the Tommy Boy references out of our system. If a company guarantees rankings increases, top placement within the local 3 pack, or spot #1 on Google, you should proceed with caution. There are no guarantees in the marketing world. If there were, all of us who own a business would be LOADED.

Instant Results:

This is just not feasible. Organic search engine optimization takes time. There are so many variables that are taken into consideration when Google decides who ranks and for what search terms. If a company claims that they can increase your rankings to spot 1 instantly, run away.

Low Ball Pricing:

If a web marketing agency quotes you less than $500 a month for local search engine optimization, I would be very leery as to what they will actually be completing for you.  Your typical SEO campaign runs anywhere within the neighborhood of $750 a month up to $20,000 a month, depending upon several variables.  We’ve all heard “you get what you pay for.” This resonates within the SEO realm as well. Many companies outsource certain facets of their SEO efforts and that typically leads to abysmal results and low ROI.

Be sure to also vet your SEO agency for flexibility and creativity. I can probably list 30 different tactics that SEO campaigns can use to get results but that is for another day. If you are 9 months into your 12-month campaign are all you have heard is new backlinks and one basic blog a month, your work is likely out-sourced overseas or being managed by an intern at best. Put them to the test and see how quickly they can provide you these top 3 Marketing KPIs. If they can’t provide it immediately, might be time to reconsider your partner.

Any SEO company subscribing to white hat and ethical practices will definitely be straying from these spammy sales tactics. It is imperative that, as a business owner, you are on the lookout for these approaches.

Be sure to avoid these common black-hat techniques offered as results by some agencies.

SEO-Pricing-Infographic - Buhv Designs

Takeaways for your next SEO Partner

It is important to remember a few things when considering your budget for a local search engine optimization campaign. First, SEO is a needed practice for your business. It’s not an option anymore. Sure, you have the option to choose which company you employ, but as technology continues to revolutionize the way consumers find you and transact business, you must be willing to evolve as well.

Second, SEO is a long term investment. There is not a mythical “SEO Button.” A massive amount of work needs to be completed for your business on a monthly basis for your company to climb the rankings online. Typically it can take six to twelve months to really feel the benefits of an organic SEO campaign. AdWords is a great way to supplement traffic during the climb, however, organic results will show you the highest, long-term ROI. Setting your paid ad budget is easier than you think, check out this helpful PPC Budget Guide.

Finally, ensure that while you are vetting a prospective SEO or web marketing agency that you are able to feel a high level of synergy. For a company to have the opportunity to greatly improve your rankings and presence online, they must work closely with your team and establish a deep understanding of your organization and how you differentiate yourself from the competition. It’s a collaborative effort to build content relaying these stories to your website, blog, and social media outlet. In addition, your online reputation is another essential element to your online visibility – engage your customers and incentivize them to write a review or testimonial. At the end of the day, you will need to make the decision as to whom you hire. However, understanding the world of SEO is essential to increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of your campaign.

Our marketing and SEO team at BUHV Designs would love the opportunity to chat with you as to how we can help you with your online marketing efforts.

BUHV = Better Understanding. Honest Value.

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