How much does search engine optimization (SEO) cost and which measures make sense? Does performance-based compensation make sense? These and other questions are answered in the following article.
Search engine optimization is one of the most important channels for companies today to present their brand and to be found by potential new customers as well as existing customers. Unfortunately, many webmasters/business owners think SEO is a one-time action rather than a long-term strategy.
According to a study, almost 87% of the search engine marketing (SEM) budget is spent on ads, i.e. search engine advertising such as Google Ads or Bing Ads. Compared to search engine advertising (SEA), SEO has up to 20 times the traffic potential and should therefore be an integral part of the mix of any online marketing strategy. The big advantage of SEO compared to SEA is particularly visible in the longer term (several months).
With constant expenditure in SEA, you only get the traffic (apart from minimal fluctuations) that you can buy for the capital or advertising budget you have invested. With SEO, on the other hand, their visibility and thus the traffic grows continuously over time, since there is a kind of snowball effect.
The amount of traffic via SEA and SEO depends on the budget and competition.
If you have covered all the important keywords that are relevant to you with pages tailored to the respective search intention of the user, demonstrating expert knowledge, offering solutions, and automatically building trust and authority. Backlinks are also much easier to acquire in this way since useful content is linked to much more frequently than advertising.
In some industries, SEO is not really worthwhile because the possible turnover is too low, the budget is too limited or the competition is too strong. Since SEO is to be viewed in the long term, it requires a higher investment, which, however, only yields the first returns after 6-12 months.
This does not make sense for every company if, for example, sales are generated in the short term, an inventory is sold off or other acute circumstances prevail. Depending on the objective and the initial situation, it can be worth investing in SEA, i.e. Google Adwords campaigns, especially for short-term goals. Since top positions in the Google search results can be purchased via Adwords, the time it takes for conversions to be generated is significantly shorter than with search engine optimization.
But you should also keep in mind that as soon as you end the Adwords campaign, your traffic will immediately drop again.
Based on the data obtained, it is then easier to decide whether you want to invest in the costs of SEO.
The prices for SEO are made up of many different factors, with the starting position of a company or the website having an extremely high influence. As a professional SEO agency, we only create individual offers after a competitor analysis and keyword research.
You can take a look at our prices for our SEO services.
In the next step, a keyword set is defined with the potential customer, from which the most important competitors emerge. Based on this competition and the strength of the competition, a monthly budget is calculated over a period of at least 6-12 months in order to bring the rankings to new positions.
The budget is an estimate since the competition itself usually also does SEO and the Google algorithm also plays a major role in the ranking.
Has SEO already been done in the past? What does a customer expect from an SEO campaign? Is the company already known? The following list provides an overview of the questions that must be answered before an order is placed and pricing is made:
How much can and does your company want to invest in ongoing SEO support or one-off SEO optimization?
What are the marketing and business goals? What specific goal are you pursuing with your website? In what period of time should the visibility be increased and the goals be achieved?
Was the website recently launched, or does it already have a good link profile, branded searches, analytics, and quality & user-centric content? Has on-page SEO and link building been done in the past?
What is the size of the website – how many pages need to be optimized / newly created?
Do you have internal resources available that can work for the SEO service provider of your choice?
For how many keywords should your website rank – and which search terms should it be? What topics should your website inform about?
Is your website technically optimized and error-free? A technically error-free website is very important so that further SEO measures can be successful.
Are you in an industry where the competition is already incredibly strong or is it more of a niche market with little competition? How well are the competitor’s sites optimized and how strong are their authority and backlink profiles?
Is there sufficient demand for your product or service to generate a positive ROI from SEO? Is it worth investing over months, or should the budget flow into other marketing activities?
Tip: If you have already implemented SEO measures and your website follows best practices, it is much easier for your SEO service provider to improve rankings and increase visibility.
However, if your website is in a downward trend, it may take a little longer for the SEO professional’s measures to take effect. An SEO audit can help you identify the potential for improvement on your site.
To assess when search engine optimization is worthwhile in terms of ROI, make the following calculation for yourself:
How many additional customers/sales/bookings via the Internet do you need so that the investment in SEO pays off for your company?
Keep in mind that SEO is not a short-term activity, but the first fruits of the work can only be reaped after a few months. In extremely competitive industries, it can take even more than 12 months for truly significant results.
However, your website will benefit from the optimizations carried out for a very long time.
Search engine optimization is not only worthwhile in the B2C area. SEO is also ideal for acquiring new B2B customers.
To the dismay of many business owners, SEO doesn’t come cheap, and the results don’t come overnight. But companies willing to invest in the long-term game can see huge gains over time.
SEO services can be structured differently depending on your budget, goals, time frame, and the level of direct collaboration you desire. In most cases, you will be presented with various options to choose from.
In general, one can of course say that the higher the monthly budget for search engine optimization, the more can be optimized, or the more high-quality content can be generated.
Due to the complex nature of SEO and what needs to be done to get the best results, it often makes sense for a business to work with an SEO agency on a month-to-month basis. This model allows you to communicate your expectations with the contractor and set goals as you move forward. It is best suited for companies that need a partner to cover all their SEO needs at once.
This is currently the most popular payment model as it tends to result in the greatest ROI for customers. SEO is not a quick fix that will snap your fingers to optimize your business for growth, despite what many “experts” claim. A correct SEO strategy with on-page and off-page measures usually takes 6-12 months to be implemented and bear fruit.
The typical investment range for monthly SEO support is from $1000 to +$15,000 per month. What you pay depends on the size of your business, the nature of the work, the expertise required, and the scope of the services provided by the optimization experts. If you own a small business and are on the lower end of this spectrum, it may be worth starting with a fixed-price contract.
If you’re looking to test SEO services or don’t need all-inclusive optimization, you’ll probably start here. Fixed-price contracts allow customers to contract with an agency and pay a fixed fee for incidental services, rather than a recurring monthly service.
If you already have an SEO copywriter and a team of people to implement your marketing efforts but need an SEO expert to take care of the technical and strategic side, you can hire a contractor for a fixed price. Fixed price contracts are often project-based and the rate you pay will vary depending on the services you require.
Pricing models could look like this:
Flat rates and hourly or daily rates are very common in the SEO industry. A model that is used by relatively few providers is billing based on performance. Billing for such a payment model can look like this:
The SEO service provider is remunerated with a fixed amount for each additional visitor (calculated on the basis of the Ø traffic up to the start of optimization) – e.g. $1-10 per visitor.
For each sale, deal, or lead (inquiry), the SEO partner is remunerated with an individual amount, which is determined before the contract is concluded.
Depending on the ranking position for a specific keyword, a flat rate is set, which the SEO service provider receives. These flat rates are usually only applicable to the first page of the search results, i.e. better than 11th place.
This model provides for participation in the profits of the client’s sales/deals. This billing model is chosen most rarely because it involves a risk for the service provider – he has no insight into the client’s finances.
From what budget or size of a website or online shop does it make sense to invest in SEO? We would like to go into this question a little more deeply in this section.
Real SEO doesn’t come cheap. If you hire a quality SEO company that offers comprehensive SEO services, be prepared to invest at least $2,000 to $5,000 per month.
Many companies spend tens of thousands of dollars per month on SEO. We do not recommend hiring a company that offers professional and comprehensive SEO services for less than $1,000 per month unless it is a subset of SEO, such as local SEO for small towns, or SEO content on a small scale Extent.
The reason for this is relatively simple – to increase visibility and rankings on Google, a one-off optimization and subsequent monitoring are not enough. Measures such as content creation and link building must be carried out continuously in order to secure rankings. This work takes a lot of time. The creation of high-quality content that complies with the latest Google guidelines and is of benefit to the user is very time-consuming.
We look after both small and large customers with a wide variety of budgets and objectives – both small, regionally active customers and customers with larger budgets. We work with customers worldwide. If you would like to learn more about SEO, then take a look at our SEO service page, where you will find further details about our services.
To give you a better understanding of how SEO is priced, here are a few examples of SEO cost factors for both on-page and off-page measures:
There are also black sheep in the SEO industry. Many business owners have been ripped off by SEO agencies for marketing services and have been left jaded and burned. Particularly often such providers can be found on platforms like Fiverr or UpWork, which offer a very cheap price, but which basically do not help or is even harmful.
In the following we will show you a few points on which all alarm bells should ring when these are said by a provider:
While SEO is the best way to find your business online, no SEO agency should ever give any ranking or placement guarantees. This is mainly because the industry is very volatile, changing every few weeks/months as search algorithms are constantly evolving. Rankings are not permanent. For highly competitive search terms, rankings fluctuate over the course of a month.
A reputable SEO service provider can make statements about the competition and the approximate effort required to catch up with the competition, but they will NEVER promise you rankings – because that is absolutely dubious.
SEO success is not achieved overnight. Although some tactics can “trick” the system in the short term and produce results relatively quickly, this is not always the case. Trying to trick the system will harm your website in the long run. In 2011, Google began releasing algorithm updates and imposing penalties on websites that didn’t follow their recommendations.
SEO takes time. Local search terms (e.g. “recruitment agency in XYZ”) for small towns with weak competition can certainly produce results quickly – but this is not the rule.
Another red flag for SEO agencies is when they offer significantly lower prices than other agencies. SEO, when done well, takes time, energy, and effort. Strategy meetings and analyses are time-consuming. Creating quality content and developing relationships with external sources to build authority takes time.
So if an agency is only charging a few hundred dollars a month, they may be taking shortcuts that could penalize you later, or they simply lack the experience to provide you with real ROI.
Of course, the goal of all agencies is to be number one for certain search terms, but guaranteeing that for competitive search terms is naïve, to say the least. If an agency readily promises that you will appear #1 in search results, they may not be lying, but they probably haven’t done all the necessary research (or the keyword they want has absolutely no competition).
That could mean appearing at number one for your own brand or for an obscure keyword that you might like but has little commercial value. Even if they say they can get you on the first page of search results for certain keywords, until a competitive analysis or page audit has been conducted, that promise holds little value.
We see again and again that backlinks are sold very cheaply and promise a high DR (Domain Rating) or DA (Domain Authority). It is also promised that these backlinks are of very high quality and generate a traffic boost or authority boost.
However, these backlinks are almost always of very poor quality or come from spam sites. Backlinks from bad sites or spam sites can actually be very damaging to a website. If Google notices that your website is getting backlinks from spam sites, in the worst case it can cause a penalty. In the best case, however, Google ignores these backlinks and you have spent the money for nothing.
Professional backlink building is very complex and takes a lot of time. Outreach campaigns must be started in order to generate industry-specific backlinks.
Many entrepreneurs are amazed at the high prices of content marketing and search engine optimization – they often lack the reference to where the costs come from and how they arise.
Below we will go into some cost factors that play into the prices for SEO.
A lot of research and planning work is necessary for search engine optimization. Because every industry, every company is individual and therefore requires an individual strategy and an approach tailored to the brand.
In order to deliver really good performance in SEO, paid tools are indispensable. Because without them, no data-based decisions can be made and no meaningful SEO analyzes can be created. SEO tools are used by agencies and freelancers to research, audit, and monitor websites and SEO campaigns. They provide deep insights into the technical data and enable a direct comparison with the competition.
The most popular SEO tools:
Depending on the number of tools and users per tool, there are monthly fixed costs for the agency. Several hundred dollars per tool are absolutely normal, with several users several thousand dollars.
When optimizing a project for search engines, the effort is not only on the part of the client – the competition must also be analyzed and monitored in order to evaluate and redesign measures. Although this work is supported by the tools just mentioned, it is by far not completely accepted. SEO is a craft that requires hard work to deliver quality results.
It is essential for a holistic online marketing strategy that other channels, such as social media, are analyzed and coordinated with the SEO measures.
High-quality backlinks cost money – and not too little. Every SEO agency buys backlinks in one way or another (reputable – no link directories or PBNs). Because producing high-quality content alone has an incredible effect – but this is also capped at some point if the website’s authority is not sufficient to rank under a keyword or the entire niche.
Some companies are not interested in employing their own in-house SEO department and therefore outsource these activities to an external service provider. Others, on the other hand, work with an agency as a strategic and operational partner over a longer period of time in order to then build up the processes and competencies in their own company.
A professional SEO consultant can help companies through training and SEO consulting to train their staff accordingly and provide them with the right strategies and tools. However, since this means for the service provider that he can no longer work operationally, but at most with a smaller consulting mandate, consulting services in the SEO industry are often significantly more expensive than ‘normal’ hourly rates.