tight budget

How Much Should You Pay for SEO?

Responsive website, technical SEO, keyword research, link building, content creation, competitor research all makeup the major responsibilities of SEO agencies. But how much should businesses pay for these services and how should this money be calculated?

The importance of SEO to any business in 2020 cannot be overemphasized. Virtually all serious-minded and up-to-date businesses know that by now. However, SEO is quite challenging and can get really overwhelming. Hence, the need to outsource it to an SEO expert or agency.

Considering how highly technical the industry is, getting the right agency at a good price can be an arduous task. A good business would want the best service at the most affordable price. To put it simply, the best deal. So how can one ascertain that an SEO agency is offering the best deal?

Famous SEO expert, Neil Patel is believed to charge as much as $5,000 for an hour-long initial consultation. Too high? Well, Neil Patel has made his mark as far as digital marketing is concerned and deserves to charge that much and more. But for average businesses that can’t afford a Neil Patel, how much should be budgeted for SEO services?

An understanding of the various services SEO agencies provide will help in answering this. With this understanding, you can place a value to each of the services and then estimate the overall price for the entire SEO package.

So, what services do SEO agencies provide?

  1. Competitor Research

The internet is a highly competitive space and the earlier any business understands that, the better. Whatever product or service a company offers, there is most likely another company somewhere offering similar product or service. As a result, there is competition for patronage.

Knowing what the competitors are doing is key to marketing. Therefore, competitor research is an integral part of SEO.

Whatever works for a competitor is most likely going to work for a business. This is because SEO is mostly based on preset algorithms which if adhered to, works for everybody. And the only way to find out what is working for competitors is through competitors research and analysis.

Among others, competitors research involves monitoring the backlink profile of competitors with the aim of identifying link opportunities. Also, researching on contents and web pages outranking the business on search engines with the aim creating better contents that would outrank them.

  1. Content Creation

The saying by “Content is King” by Bill Gates has probably become cliché among digital marketers due to overuse. This, however, does not change the fact that content is indeed king.

There is no SEO without content. It therefore automatically becomes the responsibility of SEO companies to create contents for their clients. What is important here is creating highly useful and quality contents that others would gladly reference. Or better still, create good contents still, but build backlinks through blogger outreach.

Creating appealing copy that are SEO optimized is not always easy. The contents have to factor in the buyer personas, phases of buyer’s journey and still optimize for search engines. This can only be achieved by amazing content writers, which SEO agencies usually have.

  1. Link Building

One of the major factors that determine ranking on search engines is backlinks. Google and other search engines consider a content relevant if it is referenced by other similar sites. In other words, the more backlinks a web page has, the higher its possibility of ranking high on search engines.

There are number of strategies SEO agencies adopt for backlink building, they include:

  • Writing high quality contents and pitching to relevant sites
  • Listing websites in reputable local and international directories
  • Creating great contents that gets naturally linked to

Link building require some level of expertise as Google frowns at “unnatural link profiles”. And because SEO agencies usually have existing relationships with blogs, they are in the right position to perfectly execute it.

  1. Responsive Website

According to Statista, the number of mobile internet users in Canada as of January 2019 stood at 28 million. This implies that a high number of people now access the internet using their mobile devices. Google and other search engines place high priority on responsive website as a factor for ranking. Google made an announcement to that effect in 2018.

A responsive website is one that, well, responds and displays appropriately fitting the device it is viewed with. The 2018 announcement by Google hinted that a number of things would change. And this emphasizes the importance of a responsive website.

Most organizations these days have developers who can handle this. However, the SEO agencies will still have to make recommendations to the developers from an SEO expert point of view.

  1. Keyword Research

This may be considered part of Content Writing already discussed earlier. Yes, most times. However, considering the fact that there is more to content on a website than just the regular articles, then it’s okay to discuss this independently.

Keyword research involves the process of trying to find the popular search terms, words and phrases people enter into search engines, especially for a particular industry or niche. The aim is to create contents that would rank for those keywords.

This seems straightforward but it’s actually not as proper keyword research require some work. To determine how good a keyword is, one has to consider its search volume, competition, user intent among others.

Other Services Provided By SEO Agencies

  • Content Strategy
  • PR
  • Social Strategy
  • SEO Audit
  • On-page Optimisation
  • Off-page Optimisation
  • Blogging Services
  • Measurement and Analytics
  • Monthly Reports

The Place of Goals in SEO Pricing

Aside from the services an SEO agency provides, one important factor that also influences its pricing is the business goals and expectations.

There are different types of goals in digital marketing and SEO may change based on the goal a business is chasing per time. Since each goal may require different approaches, the pricing would also be different.

A good SEO is always hinged to a goal – it cannot be done in a vacuum. The SEO goals depend on business goals, needs of the customer support and sales team and knowledge of the competitive landscape of the business.

Some of the common SEO goals for businesses include:

  1. Generation of lead and direct marketing
  2. Boost traffic to the site
  3. Boost e-commerce sales
  4. Branding of the business
  5. Management of the business reputation
  6. Customer service

These various specific SEO goals require different strategies and approaches. And as a result, SEO agencies charge for them differently.

Types of SEO Pricing

There are four recognized standards of SEO pricing – Project Based, Performance Based, Monthly Retainers and Hourly Rate. This pricing will serve as a standard SEO cost calculator.

  1. Project Based

According to a study conducted by Moz, this is the most common pricing model among SEO agencies.

Despite its popularity, it still tends to have range of prices as the cost also depends on the goals of the business.

The price range is between $1,300 CAD – $9,700 CAD. It could also be priced hourly and costs between $20 to $100 CAD per Hour.

The margin in the price range is quite wide. The reason is not unconnected to the fact that there are several that go into place in SEO pricing.

This approach is even more recommended for businesses that have good knowledge of SEO, but only have specific need.

  1. Performance Based

This pricing model is relatively new so there is not yet a popular price range for it. Also, small business owners don’t get to see many performance-based SEO options.

The major selling point of this approach is “no rank, no pay”. This takes the majority of the risks away from the client and place it on the agency.

This model is best for local/small business owners who do not have a huge SEO budget. Also recommended for Ecommerce websites.


  1. Monthly Retainers

This is usually for long-term relationship. Most companies settle for this option when they want to completely outsource SEO. Many businesses attested to this as one of the most promising approaches to build reasonable results through SEO.

This model is for businesses that need close collaborations with an SEO company that would be able to integrate with other departments in the business. The price for this in Canada ranges between $970 CAD – $6,500 CAD per month.

  1. Hourly Rate

Hourly rate doesn’t seem like a bad idea too. At least, businesses know exactly what they are going to pay for i.e the hourly rate agreed from when work commenced is what would be maintained paid.

The only challenge with this model is that SEO projects sometimes take longer than expected. Also, if the SEO agency is a highly respectable one, then the hourly rate may be quite high.

For quality SEO project execution, the hourly rate ranges between $97 CAD – $195 CAD. It’s important to note that cheap SEO companies with great promises may not be a good idea because in most cases they end using black-hat SEO techniques that may eventually hurt the business website.


In the words of online marketing expert, Josh Steimle in an article for Forbes: asking the question “how much does SEO cost?” is similar to going to a car shop and asking the attendant “how much for a new car?” The expected response would be “It depends. What kind of car do you want?” Same can be said of SEO pricing – it always depends.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *