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How Much Does SEO Cost?

In a digital world, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential part of your marketing toolbox. The problem for anyone running a small business is it takes time and expertise to optimize your site.

It’s no secret that SEO plays an essential role in driving organic traffic to your website. That need to drive business is exactly why many businesses outsource their SEO to an outside partner. Of course, that search sparks an important question – how much does SEO cost?

It depends! It’s just about impossible to provide an exact answer without some key specifics, but we can give you a rough idea of what you can expect to pay. Let’s break down the average cost of SEO and what impacts your expected price.

What Are the Different Pricing Options for SEO Services?

One reason that the average cost of SEO can change is because there are plenty of SEO professionals out there, and they don’t all charge businesses the same way.

Each SEO agency, freelancer, or consultant can offer different pricing models depending on what you need and how they operate. In general, there are three main types of SEO pricing models to consider.

Per hour

This pricing model is typically used by freelance SEO specialists or SEO consultants to provide ongoing assistance for a small business. Hourly engagements will typically focus on one specific service area at a time, such as updating meta titles and descriptions, optimizing Google My Business listings, or other individual tasks.

Per month

SEO agencies and other marketing companies are much more likely to charge a monthly fee for their services. A Sparktoro survey found that 87% of agencies utilize monthly retainers, although they can also opt for hourly and project-based payments as well.

A typical monthly retainer allows business owners to invest in an ongoing campaign that allows SEO companies to utilize a variety of SEO services over time. The specific tactics used can be customized each month to help businesses prioritize certain needs while receiving ongoing optimization for their site.

Per project

Don’t want to focus on anything beyond a specific SEO need? Some specialists or agencies can charge one-off fees for a set amount of SEO work. The exact amount of work can vary drastically, but this approach will help you invest in a one-time SEO package to address an identified need.

What Services Are Included in the Cost of SEO?

That answer depends on your goals, your budget, and what opportunities you want to pursue. Your desired SEO campaign can include any SEO strategies that you want to pay for. For specific projects or freelance jobs, you may focus on one or two different SEO tactics. Monthly retainers or other ongoing engagements will open you up to a world of pure search engine optimization.

Regardless of which pricing model you choose, there are a whole bunch of options available to you. Those services include the following investments.


Information plays a pivotal role in SEO. Whether you just want to identify certain opportunities or see where your business stands, research helps inform your SEO strategy and the changes you make on and off your website. As such, research time can be baked into your ongoing SEO campaigns. There are also some research-heavy projects and audits that can be billed as separate projects.

Technical SEO

In a way, technical SEO is similar to all the work it takes to keep your building in good condition. You may not know all the technical SEO practices that can go hand-in-hand with web development and user experience, but that doesn’t make them any less important (and Google very much agrees).

  • Page speed
  • Image optimization
  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • URL structure
  • Breadcrumb navigation
  • Structured data (schema)
  • Sitemaps
  • User experience
  • Accessibility
  • Duplicate content
  • Canonical tags
  • Hreflang

On-page SEO

If we dip back into that building analogy – and we certainly will – you’ll need to address more than the plumbing and electrical wires. On-page SEO focuses on optimizing elements on your website that people can that your audience and see, read, and use. These SEO practices often align with good content marketing efforts to help you improve search results and drive more traffic to relevant pages.

Off-page optimization

Sometimes you need to head outside your own building to draw people to visit your business. When it comes to your website, there are plenty of off-site practices that can help you improve your search results and drive additional traffic.

  • Link building
  • Brand building
  • Forums
  • Reviews
  • Guest posting
  • Press releases

Local SEO

It’s important not to forget where you came from (or more importantly, where your business is right now). Whether you have a single location or multiple businesses, it’s important to make your business look as good as possible for local searchers. There are a variety of ways that you can optimize your Google My Business listings so that your company looks and performs better within Google’s search engine.

  • Create accurate, complete business profiles
  • Add a thorough business description
  • Upload relevant photos
  • Add a updated business logo
  • Include cover photos that represent your business
  • Choose relevant business categories
  • Set additional attributes
  • List out your business services
  • Publish Google posts
  • Respond to review
  • Address comments and questions

Analytics and reporting

Remember how we said information is important? It’s good to know how your SEO investments have helped and what those measures mean for your future. The amount of information you get can vary on the pricing model – freelancers may just provide work while fixed pricing models may include monthly reporting that includes the following information:

  • Performance overviews
  • KPI review
  • Opportunities for the future

What is the Average Cost of SEO for a Small Business?

There are a variety of factors that dictate exactly how much you’ll pay for SEO services. People or agencies with more overall skill and experience will likely charge more. You may also need to pay a premium for experts located in major cities – somebody has to pay the rent, after all. There’s also the time factor where some jobs can and will take longer than others.

All these factors can come into play for your estimated SEO costs, resulting in a pretty wide range of potential outcomes.

How much does SEO cost per hour?

If you opt for an hourly approach, you can generally expect to pay somewhere between $50 to $300 per hour depending on who you hire, where they’re located, how big they are, and what you’re asking them to do.

In terms of freelancers, you can generally expect their hourly SEO rates to skew toward the bottom half of that range. While there are some nationally-known SEO experts or consultants who may charge notably high amounts, the average small business is much more likely to work with someone asking for $50 to $150 an hour for their services.

And of course, you can always find some extended family member who took a class once on SEO and is happy to work for $20 an hour – we just wouldn’t recommend that if you want to take optimization seriously.

Agencies will typically skew on the higher end of the hourly range because they usually have more resources. $150 to $300 is a pretty standard range until you start encountering the major SEO companies that deal with mega brands and host major conferences across the country. Those companies may ask for a lot more – and that’s if they take hourly work at all.

How much does SEO cost per month?

As with hourly pricing models, businesses can expect to encounter a range of estimated costs for monthly SEO engagements. According to that previously mentioned Sparktoro survey, 70% of agencies’ monthly rates ranged between $1,000 and $10,000.

Of course, there’s quite a disparity between a $1,000 monthly retainer and a $10,000 campaign. While a sizable number of the agencies involved in the survey were primarily SEO companies, other provided a range of services in addition to optimization efforts.

Realistically, your business wouldn’t pay for $10,000 of SEO work each month – it would be one component of a comprehensive campaign. A common range for SEO-specific monthly spend is closer to $500 to $5,000 to make a meaningful impact for your small business.

How much does SEO cost per project?

This estimate all comes down to how much work you’re having done and what your freelancer, consultant, or agency of choice needs to do for your project. It’s hard to predict exactly what you can expect to spend without knowing what you want done.

For example, a freelancer knocking out new meta titles for your website could cost you a few hundred dollars and be done in a few days. A fully detailed, comprehensive SEO audit with detailed next steps could take weeks and cost you thousands of dollars. A massive project can even scale up to $15,000 or more depending on the size of your site and its SEO needs.

Is SEO Really Worth It?

If you want your business to succeed online, then yes, it’s absolutely worth it. Organic traffic still makes up more than half of all site traffic, yet only 49% of small businesses invest in SEO (even though an additional 31% recognize that it’s important and plan to invest in SEO at some point). Simply put, SEO is good for business if people are searching for you or what you sell.

Ready to start showing up in your customers’ Google searches? Aztek can help. Give us a call today to talk about your SEO needs and how we can help support your digital marketing efforts.