Quality SEO is not cheap.
If you’re in the market for search engine optimization (SEO) services, you might be surprised at the quotes you receive.
Thousands of dollars a month (or more) to get your site to rank higher in Google search results?
It might seem excessive, but there are some important reasons why SEO is so expensive.
Once you learn them, you’ll understand exactly what it is you’re paying for.
Table of Contents
Cheap SEO vs. Expensive SEO
First, let’s openly acknowledge that there are cheap SEO agencies out there—but be warned.
When SEO agencies offer unbelievably low prices, it’s probably for a reason. They might outsource content to non-native speakers, reducing the fluidity and value of the finished work. They might engage in link schemes meant for fast, but unsustainable results.
Or they might not have much experience or resources to back their work.
In other words, they’re low quality.
When SEO is expensive, it’s usually because of the time and effort necessary to achieve high-quality work.
Time and Effort
What do we mean by that?
SEO involves many separate components, including:
- Keyword research.
- Site analysis.
- Onsite optimization and technical SEO.
- Onsite content writing.
- Offsite content writing and link building.
- Measurement and analysis.
Some of these steps only take a few hours, and represent a one-time effort to improve your site, but most of these efforts require ongoing, time-intensive work.
Take, for example, onsite content. For a blog post to be effective for SEO, it needs to be sufficiently detailed (at least 1,000 words, if not several thousand). It should be well-researched and provide original thoughts. It needs to be structured and formatted efficiently, with plenty of internal and external links, and it should include just the right amount of relevant keywords and phrases. Even for an experienced writer, this could take hours of work per post, and if you’re outsourcing multiple posts per month (or per week for a more intensive campaign), that can add up quickly. Good content creators demand an understandably high hourly rate—and you’ll also need to account for the work in editing, publishing, and distributing that post.
Link building with offsite content is even more time intensive. The best way to build links (which are practically necessary to rank in search engines) is with the help of high-quality, audience-centric external guest posts. Not only will you need to consider the time and effort needed to develop the content necessary for the guest posts, you’ll also need to consider the effort it takes to initiate and maintain relationships with top publishers. Some link building agencies’ relationships with top publishers have taken years to blossom.
Any experienced SEO will tell you that the on-going cost of link building is the single biggest expense in any SEO campaign.
If you want to take advantage of an SEO campaign, your choices are either to work with a specialist agency and pay the high rates, or try to do everything yourself. And if you do everything yourself, it will take you years to fully ramp up—and countless (likely inefficient) hours to keep your strategy going.
SEO campaigns are tricky. If you’re going your own way, you’ll likely discover dozens of tactics that don’t work (or actively work against you) before you settle on the right combination. This can cost you tons of time and money.
By contrast, if you’re working with a reputable agency, they’ll go out of their way to make sure you get your money’s worth. If a guest post gets rejected by a publisher (as is common for discerning, high-authority outlets), they’ll replace it. If you’re not seeing results in line with expectations, they’ll build extra links or improve your onsite optimization to make up for it. These are a form of expected losses, and they’re typically “built into” SEO pricing.
The Changing Landscape
It’s a bit of a cliché to say that SEO is both an art and a science, but it is. There’s no simple mathematical formula you can apply to every site and get it to rank higher; if there were, everyone would be learning and using it. You can’t learn SEO the same way you learn to change a tire, because every site is different and the landscape is always changing.
A true SEO expert understands the fleeting and diverse nature of the industry. Each client will require a different combination of tactics, and some trial and error to figure things out. And if Google comes out with a major algorithm change in the middle of a campaign, they’ll need to react quickly and appropriately to accommodate it.
Again, these needs increase the time and expertise demands for SEO agencies. Only experienced SEO strategists can manage campaigns successfully, and that experience comes with a price tag. Additionally, you’ll need lots of tweaking before you get results; this is all built into the price.
ROI and Short-Term Bias
We also need to consider the return on investment (ROI) of SEO, and how it distorts our vision of what counts as “reasonable” SEO prices.
SEO is a long-term strategy whose ROI increases noticeably over time. Almost every asset you create for SEO, including blogs, onsite changes, and links, is permanent, and will continue returning value to you indefinitely. If you pay for only a month of SEO services, at $5,000, you’ll gain infrastructure and assets that could continue rewarding you for the entire lifespan of your business.
Additionally, as your online reputation grows, you’ll gain access to bigger and better gains. For example, blog posts with effective calls-to-action (CTAs) are 10 times more effective when you’re generating 10 times as much traffic. If you pay $300 for a post and it yields 1 conversion that nets you $300, you’re barely breaking even. With 10 conversions, you’ll net $3,000—even though the blog post still costs $300.
The real value of SEO is in its long-term potential, so initially, SEO prices seem unnaturally high. Your ROI in the first two or three months of your strategy could leave you in the red; but if you stick with it, and continue growing, those monthly expenses will begin to return their value many times over.
Additional Factors to Consider
There are other variables that could influence your costs as well:
- Competition. SEO agencies tend to price their services based on client goals. If you’re trying to compete on a national level for high-volume head keywords, you’re going to need far more services and more effort than a similar client trying to target long-tail keywords at a local level. There’s nothing wrong with being competitive, but if you want to hang with the nationally dominant competitors, you’ll have to do more to succeed.
- Starting from scratch. You may also need more effort if you’re starting a campaign from scratch. The monthly rate for a company with an established website will be different than one for one that still needs its core content built out, or one that hasn’t been coded or optimized efficiently. This puts a disproportionate cost burden on the beginning of a campaign, when your returns will be lowest. It’s an unfortunate reality.
- High expectations. Costs can also seem unfairly high if you have exceptionally high expectations. If you expect 30 blog posts a month for $150, or if you think rankings are easy to achieve, you’re going to be shocked when you get a quote from an agency worth their salt.
Is It Worth It?
This is your most important consideration, and probably why you’re reading this article. It doesn’t matter how expensive SEO is if it has the potential to return more to your company than you spent on it. The question is, will it?
We’re an SEO agency that provides a professional level SEO service, so of course our simple answer is going to be yes. But it’s “yes” with one caveat: you have to stick with it.
Assuming you’re able to find a high-quality SEO agency, you can bet on your efforts generating enough traffic to compensate for almost any amount you spend on it. However, you won’t see these results in the first week, in the first month, or even in the first few months if you’re competing on a national level. It’s going to take months of consistent effort before your SEO ROI inches high enough to make up for your high initial costs. Once you get to that point, the monthly fees for maintaining and improving your visibility will seem like nothing.
A Note on Egregious Examples
Of course, it would be inaccurate, unproductive, and arguably irresponsible to suggest that all expensive SEO agencies are worth their high fees. Some agencies, as with any industry, will charge too much—their services will not match up to their prices. Others won’t provide you with the resources or support you need to succeed. It’s important to do your due diligence, and choose an SEO partner you trust to handle your brand reputation.
If you’re interested in finding a high-quality, reasonably priced white label SEO partner to boost your site’s visibility in search engines, consider working with SEO.co. Contact us today for a free quote (or a free consultation), and learn more about what we can do for your brand!