On average, quality SEO should cost $3,000+/month, at an average hourly rate of $150+. SEO campaigns can cost anywhere from $5,000/mo to $100,000+/month depending on the vertical. Local SEO can be slightly lower.
All this said, you shouldn’t care about what the average cost is. You should care about what SEO package will actually get you ROI, and also how long that should take.
Siege Media is an SEO-focused content marketing agency with 115+ people, 60+ clients, and dozens of great case studies. We know how to generate positive ROI for our clients, so much so that we will only take on clients with the possibility of 400%+ ROI.
With that in mind, we need intimate knowledge of what it takes to generate rankings in order to have confidence in that ROI equation. In this post, we’ll walk you through how to think about the cost of SEO in your vertical before moving forward with an engagement.
SEO Pricing: What to Look Out For
As a general guideline, if you see someone who is charging less than $1,000/mo for SEO, you should run.
These companies are often charging you for automated services, which at best do nothing, and at worst put your site traffic at risk.
We do not do local SEO at Siege, but know that quality services should still cost at least a few thousand per month to have manual, quality work being done.
Otherwise you are most likely getting an automated SEO audit and traffic report from a tool, and that does not do anything to actually move the needle for your business.
As a next guideline, we suggest working with a vendor who can communicate in terms of ROI.
Guaranteed rankings are something you also should run and hide from, but if the SEO has confidence in the expected return and time to return, and they also speak in terms of dollars and cents, that’s a strong signal they will actually deliver on it.
How to Estimate SEO Campaign Costs
As a general benchmark on the national level, look at winning competitors in your vertical and assess how many linking root domains they have. Compare this number to your number of linking root domains currently.
It’s important to note that we mean linking root domains, not total links since this will dramatically inflate the cost investment needed.
Assume optimistically you will need to spend $1,000 towards activities that generate a link, even if not link building directly.
This will give you a rough estimate of the cost of SEO in your space. So if your competitor has 500 links and you have 100 links, you need 400. Multiply that 400 by $1,000 per link, and you should expect the cost of SEO for you to be $400,000.
You can compare that to the “traffic value” of your expected return in Ahrefs. This number includes the estimated value of your SEO traffic per month, should you spend the $400,000 to generate the 400 quality links needed to rank.
If the value of your potential traffic is $140,525/mo, that doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly realize that once you generate 400 links.
You will start seeing momentum on the way up, but the further away that link number is from your competitor, the longer it will take to see that momentum.
This can help set a general benchmark for what might be required in order to see that ROI. If you need to spend $400,000 to catch competitors, you may decide to try to do that in one year ($33,333/mo) or two years ($16,666/mo) depending on your budget.
It’s also worth noting that the 400 number is not static. If your competitor continues to generate links, and they probably will, you may need 450 or 500 total links two years from now to catch them.
The Cost of Content and Links
To be clear, we’re not saying you should just spend $1,000 per link. What we’re saying is that lots of positive SEO-driven activity should generate links that contributes to ranking.
Whether it’s creating content or simply doing manual outreach, it’s a reasonable calculation to call it $1,000 for net contribution to the effort. This is super simplified and varies significantly by vertical, but is a decent starting benchmark for people wondering how much SEO costs.
We go into a lot more micro detail on an industry level in our posts on how much content you need in your vertical, and also how much links are worth.
This will help you take this analysis to a next level in terms of understanding where you should invest in SEO, since you can take this process in several directions.
Prefer to hand it off or get a free proposal breaking down the ROI for your unique business? Check out our premium SEO consulting services.