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How Much Does SEO Cost In 2024? Understanding The True Cost

How Much Does SEO Cost Header
How Much Does SEO Cost Header

SEO pricing can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands per month.

In return, you get more visibility, more organic traffic, and more potential customers visiting your website.

So how much should you pay for SEO?

Having a specific figure that slots nicely into your marketing budget would be great.

But the reality is a bit more complicated.

You need to break down a few factors to get an accurate estimate.

That’s what we’re going to explore in this guide.

We’ll cover:

  • Factors that influence SEO costs
  • Different SEO pricing models
  • Average costs for businesses of different sizes
  • How to determine the right SEO budget
  • Choosing between DIY SEO and an agency

Factors That Influence The Cost Of SEO

The cost of search engine optimization (SEO) depends on a bunch of different factors.

You need to consider your goals, business size, competition, and potential return on investment. The experience and expertise of an SEO company will also impact pricing.

Here are the key elements that determine the cost of SEO:

Size And Complexity Of The Website

A larger, more complex website requires more resources to optimize effectively.

More time is needed to perform keyword research, on-page optimization, and other SEO tasks, leading to higher costs.

For example, SEO will cost more for a large ecommerce store with hundreds of product pages than for a small service-based website.

Competitiveness Of The Industry

Industries with fierce competition demand more intensive SEO efforts. You’ll need serious investment to challenge established brands in search engine results pages (SERPs).

If you’re competing with a few local businesses, you can expect to spend less.

Goals And Objectives Of The Business

More ambitious goals need more comprehensive SEO strategies. That typically means higher costs.

Attracting more customers to a physical store with local SEO doesn’t typically require an extensive SEO strategy.

Ranking for an ultra-competitive keyword and driving traffic to a landing page is much more demanding.

Geographic Targeting

Targeting multiple locations or global audiences makes the optimization process more complex.

For example, different regions may have distinct search terms that people use to find products and services. This requires location-specific keyword research and content creation.

Naturally, that impacts the overall cost.

Existing Website Infrastructure And Content

The existing state of a website and its content determines the scale of required improvements.

Websites with quality content and a solid SEO foundation might require less initial work. A site that needs extensive optimization from the ground up will need a larger investment.

Different Pricing Models for SEO Services

If you’re seeking SEO services, you’ll have likely noticed that agencies use different pricing models.


Each model comes with advantages and considerations.

Monthly Retainer

A monthly retainer model involves a fixed fee each month to retain the services of an SEO agency. In return, the agency provides ongoing optimization efforts, regular monitoring, and periodic reports.

This SEO pricing model is suitable for ongoing campaigns. You get predictable costs and continuous support.

Hourly Rate

Some SEO agencies charge an hourly rate for their services. This model is ideal for specific, one-time optimization needs.

The most popular hourly rate for SEOs is $75 to $100 per hour:

Ahrefs SEO charge graphic

For occasional consulting and guidance, hourly SEO pricing is a good option.

Project-Based Pricing

With project-based SEO packages, you pay a one-time fee for a particular SEO project. This could be a website audit, on-page optimization, or link building.

Over a quarter of businesses pay agencies for project-based SEO:

WebFX graph

Image Source

This is a good option if you have defined objectives and a clear scope of work. It’s also the best pricing model for agencies looking to outsource specific SEO projects.

Performance-Based Pricing

Performance-based pricing ties SEO cost to the actual results achieved.

Payment is based on specific SEO KPIs being met. That could be improved rankings or increased organic traffic.

SEO outcomes can be unpredictable, so it’s unusual to see this type of pricing.

Some new agencies use performance-based pricing to land their first SEO clients. It lowers the commitment required from the client and allows the agency to gain a case study or testimonial.

Average Cost Of SEO Services

Choosing SEO services on price alone is a bad idea.

A recent Backlinko study found that businesses spending less than $500 monthly on SEO were 75% more likely to be dissatisfied than those investing $500+:

Backlinko study graph

And SEO costs will depend on factors that are unique to your business.

But it can still be helpful to see the typical expenses associated with SEO.

Here’s an overview of the average SEO costs for different types of businesses:

FATJOE graphic for the average cost of SEO for different businesses

Small Businesses

The seo cost for small businesses with relatively simple websites tends to be relatively modest.

For small businesses the average costs of SEO services range from $500 to $1,500 per month.

These packages typically include keyword research, on-page optimization, and basic link building efforts.

The costs are generally lower for most businesses targeting local audiences or niche markets.

Medium-Sized Businesses

Medium-sized businesses typically have more extensive websites and increased industry competition.

Monthly retainers usually range from $2,000 to $5,000. Packages typically include in-depth keyword targeting, content optimization, link building, and technical SEO improvements.

Large Enterprises

These companies face the most competition and technical challenges. So they require more advanced SEO strategies.

Monthly retainers for large enterprises range from $5,000 to $20,000+. The cost depends on the scale of the SEO efforts and the desired outcomes.

Additional Costs To Consider

A monthly retainer will usually include a package of services. What’s included will depend on the agency.

There are lots of SEO tasks that contribute to total monthly costs.

You’ll need to consider the following services when determining your SEO budget.

Keyword Research And Analysis

Finding the right keywords to target is crucial for effective SEO. This involves in-depth keyword research and analysis to identify relevant, high-traffic search queries.

SEO experts use tools and techniques to find competitive head terms and more achievable long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords have a lower search volume but can be highly specific and valuable to the business.

Content Creation And Optimization

High-quality content is the backbone of successful SEO. You’ll need to allocate resources for content creation and optimization.

Churning out lots of mediocre content won’t help you achieve your SEO goals.

Quality and relevance are key.

You need to focus on providing value and solving problems for your target audience.

Content marketing isn’t a one-time task. It’s important to regularly audit, update, and refresh your content to remain relevant and competitive.

Technical SEO Audits And Fixes

Technical SEO is about making sure your website is search engine-friendly and performs well for users.

A technical expert will conduct an SEO audit of your website. They’ll look to improve the structure, identify broken links, resolve duplicate content, and perform other tasks.

Resolving technical issues is an important aspect of SEO.

Google wants to show users the best results. If your website is buggy or slow to load, it’s not going to provide users with a good experience.

Link Building And Outreach

Link building involves acquiring authoritative and relevant backlinks from other websites.

Backlinks are one of the most influential ranking factors. They signal to search engines that your website is credible and trustworthy.

Link building can have a direct impact on organic search traffic.

Search engines view websites with lots of quality backlinks as trustworthy sources of information. And they reward them with higher rankings.

You can use blogger outreach, expert quote links, and digital PR tactics to attract backlinks.

All of these tactics require investment and add to your SEO costs.

Ongoing Monitoring And Reporting

Your SEO partner will track website traffic, keyword rankings, conversion rates, and user engagement metrics.

They use this data to figure out what’s working, what’s not, and spot new opportunities.

Most providers will give you monthly reports on key SEO metrics.

These reports keep you in the loop. You can see where to put your resources and which SEO strategies give you the best bang for your buck.

DIY vs. Hiring An SEO Agency

This is one of the most significant decisions you have to make when budgeting for SEO costs.

Should you hire an agency or go the DIY route?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:

Advantages Of DIY SEO

Lower Costs

If you have a limited budget, handling SEO in-house can help you to keep costs down.

You’ll need to pay for your own SEO tools and dedicate time. But it’s still more cost-effective than using an SEO agency in most cases.

Direct Control

Managing SEO in-house gives you complete control over your optimization strategies.

You can respond quickly to trends and opportunities without waiting to communicate with an external partner. That gives you extra flexibility you don’t get with an agency.

Learning Opportunity

Going the DIY route will give you hands-on experience in SEO.

You’ll get a deeper understanding of website performance and optimization techniques.

This knowledge will remain valuable for your small business, even if you decide to hire an agency later.

Disadvantages Of DIY SEO

Learning Curve

SEO is a time-consuming and complicated process. It requires dedication to become competent at on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.

This learning curve can result in slower progress and potentially poor results in the short term.

SEO is also constantly evolving. Keeping up with best practices can be challenging when you’re trying to balance other business priorities.

Limited Resources

If you have limited in-house resources, you’ll struggle to implement a comprehensive SEO strategy that gets results.

Professional SEO agencies use premium tools that streamline and enhance the optimization process. This expertise and access to resources can result in more effective strategies and better results.

Risk Of Mistakes

A lack of SEO knowledge can lead to costly mistakes.

From low-quality backlinks to keyword cannibalization, there are a bunch of tactics that, if implemented incorrectly, could actively harm your website’s ranking and reputation.

Working with an SEO company can help you avoid pitfalls that could derail your strategy.

Advantages Of Hiring An SEO Agency

Expertise And Experience

Working with an agency gives you access to SEO knowledge and experience. You can enlist seasoned pros with a proven track record of delivering results.

That wealth of expertise isn’t something many businesses can access in-house. Some agencies also offer additional digital marketing services that can complement your existing SEO strategy.

Comprehensive Strategies

SEO companies usually employ a range of specialists. That could include content writers, technical whizzes, on-page SEOs, and outreach experts.

These specialists have established processes and workflows. They know what works and how to achieve optimal results.

As a client, you can get a comprehensive approach that maximizes visibility and ranking potential.


Outsourcing SEO to a dedicated agency frees up valuable time.

You don’t have to struggle with keyword research or the intricacies of link building. Instead, you can focus on your core competencies – what your customers pay you for.

Disadvantages Of Hiring An SEO Agency


The initial cost of hiring an SEO agency is usually higher.

We’ve already covered the different factors that influence pricing. Generally, you’ll pay more for agencies with proven experience and expertise.

You’ll need to weigh the potential ROI of SEO against the upfront cost.

Outsourced Control

Hiring an SEO agency means handing over some direct control over strategy and implementation.

That isn’t always a bad thing.

But you will need effective communication with the SEO agency. Make sure everyone is aligned on goals and strategies.

If there are any misunderstandings, it could affect the overall success of the SEO campaign.

Choosing The Right Agency

Not all SEO agencies provide the same level of expertise and quality of service.

Some agencies use black hat SEO tactics to get quick results. These techniques could potentially lead to penalties from search engines.

You need to carefully evaluate potential partners. Pay close attention to their track record and client testimonials to make an informed choice.

They also might not have direct experience in your particular niche. While many aspects of SEO are transferable, expert knowledge still goes a long way.

Factors To Consider When Making A Decision

So should you handle SEO in-house or hire an SEO agency?

Here are the essential factors to consider:


Having a solid SEO strategy and a top-notch SEO agency partner is great. But if your budget doesn’t align, it’s not sustainable.

A small budget will limit the scope and effectiveness of your SEO strategy.

A DIY approach might be more effective if you have a limited budget. You can invest more in your core business activities.

For businesses with more substantial budgets, an agency can provide more value.

While an agency’s services come with a cost, the potential benefits can outweigh the initial expense.

An alternative solution is to outsource specific aspects of SEO. It can be a strategic way to leverage the skills of experts.

For example, you can outsource content writing, link building, or other tasks you struggle to handle in-house.

And you can scale outsourcing up or down as needed.

The Complexity Of SEO Goals

If you have relatively straightforward objectives, in-house SEO could be practical.

You might be able to perform simple website optimizations, local SEO, and minimal technical improvements without an external partner.

But an SEO agency is better equipped to handle more complex and ambitious goals.

You need specialized expertise to overcome challenges like high competition, technical problems, and international SEO targeting. Using an SEO agency is more cost-effective than developing those skills in-house.

Available In-House Expertise

The level of SEO expertise in your organization is a key consideration.

If you’ve got an in-house team with some SEO know-how, managing SEO internally could be doable.

But, if your team is a bit green or already swamped with other marketing tasks, hiring an agency can bridge the expertise gap.

You can tap into specialized skills without diverting in-house resources.

Time Dedication

SEO can take up a lot of time. It requires consistent attention and ongoing effort.

In 2015, Search Engine Watch estimated the amount of time spent on SEO for small to mid-sized businesses at 12-104 hours per week. And if you’re at the lower end of that estimate, don’t expect to claim any top rankings for a long time.

Partnering with an agency can be invaluable for businesses with limited time resources. They can take on the responsibility of planning, executing, and monitoring SEO strategies.

That frees up time you can dedicate to other aspects of your business.

A DIY approach can work. But you must be willing to invest time in learning and implementing SEO strategies. And it will generally take a bit longer to see results.

Determining The Right SEO Budget For Your Business

SEO is an investment, not just a business expense.

Consider your objectives and the potential return when setting an SEO budget. With the right strategy, you can increase online visibility and drive targeted traffic to your website.

Whether you choose the DIY approach, work with an agency, or outsource specific tasks, make sure your decision aligns with your long-term objectives.

At FATJOE we’ll always recommend that you insource your strategy and outsource your SEO deliverables. This keeps you in the driving seat for decision making while saving money on expensive consultations. Your team knows what’s best for your specific needs and you can outsource for the specific deliverables needed to achieve those goals.

Daniel Trick
Daniel Trick

Head of Content

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