*Updated August 31, 2022

Why is it so difficult to find a simple, straightforward answer to the question, “How much does SEO cost?”

I’ll tell you why: SEO is not a simple prepackaged product that can be sold at a fixed price. The cost of this complex service varies greatly according to a number of different factors that range from your goals to your competitors.

While I can’t give you a set figure, I can do my best to give you an idea as to how much you may need to pay for SEO to actually see a return on your investment (Because that’s what this service is really all about, right? Growing your business and making you more money.)

The fastest and easiest way to get the estimate you’re looking for would be to call one of our specialists and ask for a quote. We’ll send you a simple questionnaire, investigate your competition, complete a free site audit, and get back to you with a set number.

We also have this incredible tool. It’s our Digital Marketing Budget Calculator and it’s FREE! Take a look and crunch the numbers!

Now let’s get into it!

Read more about SEO cost:

What Determines SEO Pricing?

SEO pricing first takes into account three primary considerations:

  1. Your Current Situation – Where does your business and SEO currently stand?
  2. Your Objectives – What are your goals and where do you want to be?
  3. Your Competitors – How saturated is your market? Do your competitors have a strong SEO foundation that would make it difficult for you to rise above them in the ranks?

In short, the more dire your current situation, the bigger your objectives, and the faster you want to get there, the more it will cost.

To get a better idea, here are some common factors that directly affect cost:

  • How competitive your targeted keywords are. If you have big-name competitors with high domain authority, outranking them in search results will be more difficult and take more time.
  • Whether you have local or national ranking aspirations.
  • How much research is needed to determine keyword strategy, understand the industry, and design an effective content strategy.
  • The quantity and type of content writing. Longer, more involved content requires more time.
  • Your website’s existing SEO. New sites with little or no SEO take more work.
  • The costs of establishing a brand and presence online.

It’s also important to understand that SEO is a lengthy process, especially when done right. White hat SEO that provides quality, long-term results often involves time-consuming and tedious work that requires research and expertise. After all, Google’s search algorithm uses more than 200 factors to rank websites — this isn’t a quick patch job.

Pure, high-quality SEO can take months to see results. Beware anyone who tells you that they can give you great results right away.

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How Much Should You Spend on SEO?

No matter what you decide to budget, SEO costs should be viewed as an investment for your business. Compare the costs of traditional marketing (newspaper/magazine ads, billboards, trade shows, signs, radio/TV commercials, etc.) vs. a professional SEO campaign that will continue to produce results for years. Even with regard to different marketing channels in the digital space, studies show that 70% of marketers see SEO as more effective than PPC.

When you want to incorporate SEO into your business and marketing strategy, you can either hire an internal SEO specialist or team, use content marketing agencies that offer SEO as an add-on, or retain the services of a dedicated SEO firm.

If you want to do your SEO in-house, then chances are you will need more than a single specialist to perform the amount of work required. Most specialists are paid between $50,000 to $120,000 per year. Content marketing agencies are often a less expensive option, but you may not get the results you hope for with teams who aren’t focused on staying up to date with the constantly changing SEO landscape.

It’s no surprise that many businesses partner with dedicated SEO agencies in order to achieve the best SEO results.

Types of SEO Pricing and What to Expect

When using an SEO agency, there are three standard types of pricing:

  1. Project-Based – This pricing model is often a one-time fixed price according to the project scope. This model doesn’t fit ongoing SEO, but it may be applied to a certain content creation or web audit project.
  2. Hourly Rates – While most agencies adhere to a monthly retainer pricing model, that retainer is usually based on their hourly rates and the scope of your account. Hourly rates are far more common among freelance SEO strategists.
  3. Monthly Retainers – While monthly retainers are usually tied to a contract and a recurring charge, this payment model offers the most flexibility in services rendered.


Project-based SEO services are popular. This pricing model is generally best for businesses that need temporary and specific help. With project-based services, you typically agree to a contract that will clearly outline what you get, when it will be delivered, and how much it will cost. This makes budgeting simple. However, because the cost will be dependent on the scope of the project, there is a huge range of potential prices—anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000.

Some restrictions to the project-based system include a lack of flexibility and there is the risk of being overcharged. Since a detailed contract of all deliverables is drawn up at the beginning, if your needs change or you need to modify your campaign, you will likely have to pay additional fees. And if you don’t have prior experience or knowledge working with SEO companies, it’s possible to be overcharged.

Hourly Rates

SEO services or consulting typically cost $125-$200 per hour. This may be the best option for those who plan to manage SEO themselves and just need a little help. When using this pricing model you know exactly what you will pay for and can accurately estimate your bill. The catch is that SEO projects can take longer than expected, and the rates can get high for reputable SEO experts. Avoid anyone advertising super cheap rates; they might very well use black-hat techniques that can result in Google penalties.

The limitations of hourly rates include slower progress because you’re hiring an individual rather than a team—and SEO takes months to gain traction, to begin with. Another risk is that the person you hire could end up punching the clock rather than focusing on results.

Monthly Retainers

Monthly SEO services foster long-term partnerships over one-time projects. This is the best pricing model for companies who want to outsource their SEO completely or are looking for close collaboration and integrated teams. An agency or company manages your SEO campaign from end to end, and working with a company on an ongoing basis usually leads to a stronger partnership, better communication, and improved trust.

Furthermore, instead of trying to squeeze one project into a certain number of hours, or accomplishing one objective in a set timeframe, the monthly retainer gives your SEO specialists the freedom to tweak and improve your strategy according to the results they achieve every month.

Monthly retainers usually require a long-term commitment (six months is a common time frame) which means that you are stuck if you’re unhappy, so before you sign the dotted line, make absolutely sure that you have chosen the right SEO agency for your company. You can use this list of questions to ask before signing a new agency to make sure you’ve found a solid, trustworthy team.

The costs for monthly services on average range from $5,000 to $50,000 a month. This amount completely depends on size,  industry, competition, goals, etc. But a good benchmark for the price it will take to actually see some movement and results is around $5,000-6,000/month. It will take much longer to move the needle if you pay less than that, simply because of the time and work required to make progress. Choosing a cheap option and not realizing how that affects results is one of the reasons many businesses are unsatisfied with SEO results.

You Get What You Pay For

The saying “you get what you pay for” is especially true when it comes to SEO management. Effective SEO is not just listing keywords on a website; It’s more of an art form that combines branding, IT, content creation, and content promotion. And the more you spend on SEO, the more you get. Cost is primarily tied to 1) the quantity of work required to achieve your goals 2) the speed at which it gets completed.

A low-cost option may appear to be a good value at first, but unfortunately, it is generally an indication that the specialist or agency is lacking experience or a track record of proven results. It may also be a red flag that the agency uses black-hat or lower-quality tactics, rather than SEO best practices.

Not only does the cost often impact the maximum results achieved within a given timeframe, but there is also a strong correlation between higher spending and higher client satisfaction, proving that you really do get what you pay for with SEO. In a survey conducted by Backlinko, clients that spent more than the average rates were two times more likely to be extremely satisfied compared to the lower spenders.

The Cost of Quality

We are a trust-focused SEO agency backed by years of experience and glowing testimonials and awards. Needless to say, we’ve learned what price point is most likely to deliver a worthy ROI.

Of the nearly 700 clients that we’ve serviced, those that spend at least $5,000-6,000 a month see the best results. This figure gives us the time and resources we need to craft and execute a strategy, continue to test and fine-tune that strategy, and monitor the website’s performance with constant diligence.

Please keep in mind that Big Leap serves as an enterprise-level SEO agency, so if you’re a new business just starting out, you may want to start with a smaller budget at a smaller agency.

The SEO experts at Big Leap create a customized plan for each client and are dedicated to creating custom SEO strategies to produce organic growth and lasting results. Contact us today to see how we can help you achieve your greatest business goals.