How Much Should My Business Spend on SEO?

SEO for Small Businesses

Hourly Fees for SEO Services

It’s a tough world out there. Small business owners work long hours, compete aggressively against other businesses, and often do not have much to show for it. This makes it very important to hire the right people to fill vital roles, but whether we are talking about employees or contractors, this can be a challenge. It can particularly be a challenge when it involves the purchase of services that are beyond the scope of what you as a small business owner normally deal with. Not only that, but it is hard to determine what you should pay and what you should be getting in return.

This is particularly applicable to SEO.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the act of optimizing online content - both on the given website and elsewhere - in order to help a website rank better in search engines for relevant terms. Since the search engines themselves (Google, Bing, etc.) are resistant to SEO and frequently updating their algorithms to make the practice difficult, it is hard for a business owner to gauge the quality or professionalism of what an SEO professional is doing, as the best practices are constantly in flux.

This last point should tell you one thing about SEO, though: it is a skilled trade. SEO professionals not only need to learn a variety of specialized skills and methods to employ to optimize your website, but they also have to constantly stay updated on developments in search engine algorithms. That being the case, it is quite normal for SEO professionals to make over $100 per hour for their services. In fact, according to one study conducted in 2015, the average hourly fee for an SEO agency is $203.08, while the average hourly fee for an SEO consultant is $138.25.

Total Spend for SEO

And here is the inevitable next question: “Okay, how much should I spend on SEO in total?”

This varies widely from business to business. To answer this question, there are a few factors that we need to consider:

  1. Is this a local or national business? If you are trying to compete on a national scale, you will need to spend more money.

  2. Is this a general or niche business? More general businesses will need to spend more money because they have more competitors. Niche businesses can often get highly ranked for targeted keywords with relatively little effort.

  3. Are your competitors investing in SEO? This can actually make a big difference. A small business in Seattle may have four local competitors, and a small business in San Francisco may also have four local competitors, but if the competitors in Seattle are spending on SEO and the competitors in San Francisco are not, the business in San Francisco will see more effect from its SEO investment than the one in Seattle.

In general, a local business can usually rank well by spending between $700 and $1,500 per month on SEO. However, if there is any competition at all, you will need to go toward the high end of that, and in highly competitive cases, you may actually need to spend more. As for national businesses, they will often need to spend at least $3,000 per month even if they have a niche offering. For more competitive nationally-targeted keywords, some businesses spend over $10,000 per month.

Bargain SEO Schemes

Realizing the value of SEO to local businesses, some SEO professionals peddle low-end solutions that are meant to attract the attention of business owners by competing in price. These solutions, in many cases, range from $100 to $300 per month.

It is not advisable to spend money on SEO like this, however. Even if the things they do are legitimate and beneficial (which is not a guarantee), those things probably will not be sufficient to have any real impact on your business. How much would you pay someone to paint half of your house? How much would you pay to get your old tire removed without getting a new tire? Bargain SEO schemes are a nice way for some SEO professionals to increase their income by undercutting competition, but they provide little actual value for clients.

Consult With a Professional

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for SEO. Different businesses will have different needs, and legitimate SEO professionals will be able to consult with you to determine what those needs are. In general, though, expect to spend between $700 and $3,000 per month, and do not pay more than $200 per hour.

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