Are you an SEO consultant or someone who wants to start a business offering your SEO services to others?
One of the most important decisions you’ll make is about pricing. There must be a balance between charging a client enough so that you can turn a profit, but also not breaking them financially so they continue working with you.
Your pricing needs to be fair but economical for all parties involved.
This is especially true if you’re working with small businesses because they have limited budgets and can’t pay thousands of dollars a month for SEO like major companies.
On top of that, the worst thing you can do is to take a company’s hard-earned money knowing it won’t be enough to get them where they need to be.
Imagine that you’re asked to consult for a medium-sized business. After all of the introductions, you get on the phone with their SEO person.
You start asking them what SEO work they’ve been doing for the business, and you realize everything they’ve listed is too shallow to make a difference in the company’s online presence.
Probing even further, you inquire why they hadn’t started doing A, B, or C? They shrug their shoulders and say there is only so much they can do with a limited budget.
Chances are every SEO professional has been in one of these positions before. But, here’s an easy way to overcome it.
Simply ask “is it possible to get more money for SEO?”
It seems like a quick and easy solution, but it has the potential of harming your professional relationship with a client if not done right.
As an SEO professional, you need to convince the client that X amount of money is an effective long-term tactic to improve their traffic and ranking.
It’s impossible to always find companies with unlimited budgets but with the right argument, it’s possible to get some wiggle room.
The problem with the situation described above is that the SEO consultant was doing the least amount possible (techniques almost amounting to black hat SEO) because that’s all the budget would allow.
And the worst part is they were the ones setting the price in the first place. It’s their job to know how to price SEO services, not the clients.
So to recap, the client asked for an SEO proposal. Fearing the price might be too high they gave a low bid. Then because the amount was too low, they did crappy SEO work.
The consultant probably thought they were doing them a favor by giving a good price. But in the end, it was a huge disservice.
Do you see how this was a problem?
We had to undo a lot of the work the consultant had done, which cost extra money.
When giving a price quote for SEO, you need to look at what it’ll take to get the job done right. And then, of course, include payment for your time and expertise.
Look at the top competitors (websites ranked in the top 3 for your client’s key phrases) and see exactly what they’re doing.
What does their link profile look like? What kind of content do they have?
Then compare that to your client and you’ll have a realistic idea of what it will take to get them to the top of Google.
Then and only then will you have a solid idea of how much to charge for your SEO work.
Some websites charge a fixed price but the truth is every company is different.
Plus, there isn’t one fixed price that covers audits, link building, and content creation. Most businesses will end up paying more for additional services.
And let’s be honest, you’re trying to cultivate a long-lasting relationship with the customer.
So, it is your obligation to charge exactly what it’ll take to get the job done right. No more, no less. Keep reading below to learn some tips on setting your price.
There is no mythical one-size-fits-all approach to SEO.
How Much To Charge For SEO Services
For this section, we’ll go back to a hypothetical situation as we did above.
Imagine you’re an SEO consultant and a real estate agent in Phoenix, Arizona wants to rank for big terms in Phoenix. They come to you with no SEO presence.
Your first step is doing research and seeing what the top-ranking real estate websites are doing in Phoenix.
Let’s say the top-ranking site has a really good natural link profile with 150 links pointing to the site. Your client has 20 links so far. The top site has 100 pages of awesome content and your client has 8.
You can see how it’ll take a lot of work and time to catch up with the competitors.
After looking over all the research and having some conversations with the real estate agent, you decide to charge $2,500 per month, including an allotted budget for link building and content creation.
Then, you have a separate real estate agent in Atlanta ask you to help them rank higher. Their site is in the top 20 for most key phrases. When you look at the competition, you notice that the top site has only 30 more links than your client. The content is pretty much equal.
Clearly, this job won’t require as much work as your first client in Arizona. It won’t be as difficult to get them to rank so you only have to charge $1,500 per month.
This is the exact same industry and the SEO strategies are very similar, but you quote two very different prices.
This is why you must charge on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, companies will pay too much or too little for services they may or may not need.
Keep in mind that these prices and situations are totally hypothetical but I wanted to point out that as you run your SEO business and compile quotes for potential clients, you need to make it individualized.
The Hard Cost Of SEO
In this section, we’re going to discuss the hard costs behind SEO, which include things like hiring writers, paying for guest posts, or fees related to SEO software.
SEO services aren’t simply typing a few phrases onto your web pages and watching as your site magically jumps to the top.
There’s a heavy commitment of time and expertise to do SEO properly.
One of the biggest challenges facing SEO consultants is that there’s only 24 hours in a day. Eventually, you’ll need to subcontract content creation out to freelance writers because there is only so much you can handle yourself.
Hiring a writer to create killer content is going to cost money. If the writer is really good then it will probably cost you $100-$300 for every 1,000 words of content.
In one of his blog posts, Brian Dean explained how the average word count for the pages that ranked on page 1 of Google was 1,800 words.
Therefore, one article for a client (if done properly) is going to cost a minimum of $100-$200. If you’re doing one or two of those awesome content pieces per month that can cost you up to $400.
And that’s at least $400 only on content, nothing else.
Pricing Out Link Building
And what about links?
Backlinks are a top-ranking factor so you need to work on getting some in order to boost a client’s SEO.
There are many ways to go about building links,
Blogger outreach is effective because it can earn you links but also promotes your website.
There are two approaches to blogger outreach. First, you find blogs that accept guest posts and write a guest post for them. Either you write it yourself or hire someone to do it.
The other approach is to hire an SEO company to do the blogger outreach for you.
SEO costs will increase for link building, regardless of what you choose to do. There is also a big price range. Guest posts can cost anywhere between $65 to $1,100 each.
Ideally, you want to earn a free guest post but if you’re paying for one don’t accept an offer from any companies charging less than $65.
Always remember to factor in the price of a guest posting service if your goal is to build links for your clients.
Link building is serious business so don’t let local stores start outreach unless they have budgeted at least $500 per month for links.
That’s right: don’t let them!
Too often we are so concerned with closing the deal that we let the client set the terms.
Stop doing that.
You’re the professional, you tell them what it will take.
For non-local websites, the monthly link budget should fall between $1,000 to $10,000 per month, depending on industry competitiveness. Much of it also depends on how much content or backlinks a client will need to start ranking naturally.
Once again, there is no one-size-fits-all option.
There are ways to cut down on hard costs. You can write content yourself or personally reach out for guest posts, but that means your time commitment will increase. Jobs may start creeping into your personal time.
This is why it’s so important to never underbid for SEO services. If you charge too little, you’ll quickly lose motivation to get the job done properly and your client will suffer.
Real-World SEO Price Breakdown
Discussing the hypothetical is fine when you’re learning a new concept but how does this apply in the real world? After all, we’re all competing for real clients with real budgets.
The team at SEOJet once had the privilege of working with Marcus Lemonis, star of the television show “The Profit” on CNBC. He approached the company in an unconventional way but he was one of our high-profile clients.
When sending him a custom SEO proposal, our team knew there were several factors when setting a price.
First of all, any client with a popular cable show has a built-in link popularity. That would save our team a ton of time and money trying to pay for backlinks when we could get them for free from fans.
This didn’t mean we wouldn’t be doing any link building, but his websites already had excellent natural links so our team would only need to focus on targeted links.
We next examined his big pages to see what to optimize and spoke with him about his goals. He wanted to rank nationally for some very competitive phrases.
Taking all of this into account, we started thinking about price. We didn’t want to be the most expensive on the market but at the same time we had to show value in our services.
Our team decided to give him a discount since he owned over 50 businesses. The idea was to build a relationship with him so we would have opportunities to assist with other ventures in the future.
The moment of truth arrived and we bid $3,000 per month.
And guess what? We won his business!
Doing SEO work for clients is what helped us build SEOJet in the first place. Our team got frustrated everytime we worked with a client and had to guess which links to build or which anchor text to use for every backlinks.
After a ton of research, we figured out what Google wanted to see and started doing it for our SEO clients. It worked so well we built SEOJet from scratch and shared this new system with the SEO community.
SEOJet is the link management software I used to help Marcus Lemonis and many other clients get to page 1 for competitive phrases with very few links.
Our software uses backlink data from thousands of #1 ranked web pages and builds out link maps for each web page. All SEOJet users have to do is get the links outlined in the program and watch as rankings begin to go through the roof.
SEOJet makes writing anchor text and earning links easy!
It’ll take any web page and compare it to whoever ranks in the top 10. Then, it tells you the quickest path to get there.
When you have a potential SEO client that you are getting ready to send an estimate to, you can use the data from SEOJet to know how many links the potential client needs to get to page 1.
For example, let’s say you are creating an SEO proposal for the site PuppyJoy.net.
The client tells you they really want to rank for “golden retriever puppies” and “german shepherd puppies.”
First, you enter PuppyJoy into SEOJet:
Then enter the two pages targeting “golden retriever puppies” and “german shepherd puppies” into SEOJet:
And then you click on each one to see backlink data for each:
As you can see from the data, your SEO client currently has 29 homepage links and will need around 43 homepage links to compete for “golden retriever puppies.” That is your starting point for the current SEO proposal: 14 links to the homepage.
For the German Shepherd page, SEOJet recommends you get at least 16 backlinks to that page (the page already has 5 links) so you need 11 more.
And the Golden Retriever page needs about 20 more links.
If your client really wants to get to page 1 for those key phrases, at a minimum they’re going to need:
14 homepage links
11 links to the German Shepherds page
20 links to the Golden Retriever page
That is 45 backlinks.
If you are doing a 6-month agreement, you can spread the cost of those 45 backlinks over the 6 months, so about 7-8 links per month.
If you consider the average cost of a guest post to be $125, this client needs a link-building budget of about $1,000 per month.
When you secure them as a client, simply go into their SEOJet link map and get the links they need for the month:
Can you see how this takes guessing out of the process?
All you have to do is get the top 3-5 main key phrases they can realistically target over the next 6 months and then use SEOJet to know what it’ll take to get there.
Then charge accordingly.
What Is SEOJet?
SEOJet is a real guide for building links.
Links are the most important piece of SEO but no one could ever say how best to get them, including how to write anchor text for a natural backlink profile.
SEOJet literally tells you what anchor text to use for every backlink you get. It uses backlink data from #1 ranked pages in Google to help you build a backlink profile that matches other #1 ranked page.
Wondering how the software works? It looks at your existing backlink profile, or the lack thereof, and automatically creates what we call a link map for each page.
A link map is a road map for your backlink strategy. It’s where we show you what your current backlink profile looks like and which anchor text you need.
How To Beat Your Competitors
One of the coolest features of SEOJet is the Competitor Lock feature.
This report looks at your top-ranked competitor and shows you what you need to beat them.
There are some other really cool things the software does. To learn more, check out one of our demonstrations in the link below.
In an ideal world, every phone call you ever get will be from a company that truly understands the value of SEO and has an unlimited budget. The reality is those phone calls are very few and far between.
So you have to get creative when you speak with a small business who you know is extremely budget-conscious.
Prepare three SEO packages to have ready at any time. You pick which one to pitch based on what you think a company can realistically afford.
Each package should provide the client with measurable success that will drive more revenue. The lower-end package will obviously target fewer key phrases or areas with a natural expansion. Those near the top can offer more phrases or advanced services.
You shouldn’t need to turn away business. The packages also demonstrate the value of your services to clients. Any additional services are added as you speak individually with them.
Of course, not every person knocking on your door will work out.
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense for you and in that case you should turn someone away. Not every client is a good fit for your SEO company.
When you take on a client who really isn’t a good fit, they start to eat away your time because they are unhappy.
Not to mention they won’t have a good experience and will not recommend you as a company, or worse, leave bad reviews.
Another option is to help smaller clients get creative with how they can get SEO services on a limited budget.
For example, you can have them write their own guest posts, and then you do the outreach. That would save money because the bulk of link building costs come from writing the content.
There are a ton of other ways to work with these types of clients. Figuring out how to do it is the exciting part of your job!
When you are deciding how much to charge an SEO client, be sure to charge them enough so that you can do the job they deserve and get paid what you deserve.
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