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Calculating Marketing Cost

How Much Does SEO Cost?

SEO is not as easy to nail down as, say, sending out a direct mail campaign to 100 recipients. In some ways, it is not always as easy to measure, as many marketing activities may impact organic search traffic.

Ranking nationally for a highly prized keyword that may be $5 per click in AdWords will have far more costs associated with it than ranking for a locally oriented keyword. But even on a local level, there can be huge variability — and whether you want to rank in a state, county, city, town or micro-area like a borough or village will influence how difficult this will be. This, of course, influences the price of SEO for your unique situation. 

  • Situation. Where are you listed currently?
  • Objectives. Where do you want to be?
  • Timeline. How fast do you want to improve?

Only by looking at these three elements can any agency calculate how much SEO should cost for your business.

Let’s consider the following example:

  • A local business site currently ranks in the 10th position for their main target keyword (and variations thereof).
  • Competitors on first page have more links and higher authority metrics.
  • Competitors have invested more in local SEO.

With this information, some metrics can be determined:

  • An approximate amount of links
  • An idea of how much work is needed on the local SEO front
  • A rough timeline to achieve this
  • By analyzing your current situation, understanding your objectives and determining the required timeline, we can calculate a price. There are lots of variables here, and we don’t always know what your competitors are doing, but an attempt will be made to calculate the level of work required and subsequent price.

And of course, the industry will in part determine costs. If you make $75 from a new customer, you can expect to pay less than if a customer is worth several thousand dollars. The marketplace, to some extent, regulates price (assuming the work is done properly). It is all about return on investment.

The last variable is maintenance and keeping your flag flying once visibility has been achieved. SEO is a moving target. You step up your game, and the competition does the same. It’s tough, and the best approaches need to be tailored to the unique situation and goals of the business.

This is why simple SEO KPIs like keyword rankings are not enough, and a more considered approach to measuring SEO success is almost always required to track progress. SEO Metrics and KPIs are values used by marketing teams to measure the performance of their website for organic search results. Search engine optimization is a core function for any marketing team

 

High-quality SEO vs. cheap and nasty


For example, a local PPC(pay per click) client called and detailed a sales call they had received from a local SEO firm. This firm was trying to sell them SEO and detailed the process that they would use to build backlinks. The gist of this process was to find relevant websites that had expired, buy those sites, and then place content on them that links to the target site.

This is essentially a PBN (Private Blog Network), a network of sites that is under the control of a single entity (in this case, the SEO company) and used to artificially build links. This approach has many names: link farm, link network, blog network and so on. This is what Google would classify as a link scheme, and it’s something they have been targeting with manual penalties and algorithmic adjustments since 2014.

Thing is, this client was sold. They wanted it. After all, it sounded too good to be true. But when things sound too good to be true, they often are. Really, alarm bells should have been ringing when this supposed SEO company was doing speculative telesales. But that is a whole other story.

The point here is that there are services in the US that offer SEO for ($150) per quarter. Or $50 a month. Realistically, what kind of marketing can be done for $50 a month? These services are either doing nothing or utilizing owned networks of sites to add links.

At best, they are largely ineffective. At worst, you could end up with a penalty or some form of negative equity. Cheap, yes. Nasty, most definitely. If you are building a long-term business, you don’t want to focus on these bottom-of-the-barrel strategies.

The takeaway here is that you are responsible for what is done in your name. If you employ a cheap SEO company and don’t do the research, then this will be very much your problem when things don’t work (or you are penalized).

If you are building a business, you need to play by the rules of the biggest marketing platform out there. And the rules are not always terribly clear. But think in terms of value and common sense, and you won’t fall foul of the thousands of frankly unethical, back-street SEO companies out there.

It is not all bad news, though. There are around 30 million small businesses in the US, and the majority of these have really poor SEO. So, the barrier to entry here is often not terribly steep. Just remember the four variables of situation, objectives, speed and quality

SEO prices in the US

Moz published the results of a survey on SEO providers that included pricing, and it showed a huge range of monthly pricing. These prices are not specific to small businesses, but still, they give you an idea.

What is the average monthly marketing billing? Our rates are definetly in the 10% range.

  • 10% — less than $500
  • 41% — $500-1,000
  • 29% — $1,000-2,500
  • 20% — $2,500-5,000

There is a lot of variation out there, but the majority of businesses are spending less than $5,000 per month on SEO in the US based on this survey. Remember, these prices likely map to the level of difficulty and scope of the project. Those paying less than $500 per month are probably local businesses! 

What should you be spending?

The prices above are all relative, though. If you are a small but national business in a competitive space, then you are going to need to pay more for SEO than a small business in a local space. Think e-commerce online store versus a local plumber. The size of your market and potential profit will to some extent dictate what you should be spending to be in the running.

So, what should you pay? How do you determine the value of SEO? The only true answer to this question lies in your business and current situation. If profits are big, expect more competition. If profit is low, then typically, there will be less competition. If you have a long way to go, expect to pay more than if you just need a final push into the top three. 

ROI: Why ‘How much does SEO cost?’ is not the right question

At the end of the day, return on investment (ROI) is what matters. If a lead costs you $20 from paid search, $15 from social ads or $5 from organic search, then organic is a highly valuable channel which offers the best overall return on investment. Our initial anaylysis will determine your estimate rate.

Measuring these factors is not always easy but is absolutely essential to understanding what the return is on all your digital marketing activities. And for the many customers we serve at netpromotions, SEO and organic search still tend to deliver the best overall ROI. This is true when we look at brand awareness, engagement and across the full spectrum of conversions from lead generation to sales.

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