How Much To Charge For SEO Services – Why You Must Charge More
As an SEO company, you understand the need to find the right balance between charging a client enough so that you can turn a profit, but also not break them financially.
Especially when it comes to small businesses, they don’t usually have in their budget to pay thousands of dollars a month for SEO.
The worst thing you can do is take companies hard earned money knowing it won’t be enough to get them where they need to be.
For example, I was recently consulting with a company and they had me get on the phone with the SEO guy they had been using.
As I started asking him what exactly he had been doing to promote their website he gave me a list of very shallow surface stuff that wasn’t going to do anything for this company.
When asked why he wasn’t doing A, B, or C he simply said, due to the limited budget of the campaign there is only so much we can do.
What I didn’t ask (but should have) was “well did you ever ask for more money?”
You see, the company I was representing had an almost unlimited budget to spend on SEO. If you could convince them it was a good long term tactic they would do it.
But here the SEO consultant was doing the least amount he could get away with (things that were pushing black hat) because that’s all the budget would allow.
And the worst part is he is the one that gave THEM the price in the first place. It was his job to know how to price SEO, not the clients.
So to recap, the client asked him for an SEO quote. Fearing the price might be too high he gave them a low bid. Then because the amount was too low, he did crappy SEO for them.
He probably thought he was doing them a favor by giving them a good price. But in the end, he did them a huge disservice.
Do you see how this was a problem?
We had to undo a lot of the work he had done. And of course, we had to fire him. Not because we are cold hearted, but because we couldn’t trust that he had our best interest at heart.
When giving a price quote for SEO, you need to look at what it is going to take to get the job done properly. And then of course include payment for your time and expertise in the quote as well.
You should look at the top competitors (by competitors I mean the websites that are ranked in the top 3 for your clients key phrases) and see exactly what they are doing.
What does their link profile look like? What kind of content do they have?
Then compare that to your client and you will 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 will tell you there is a fixed price that you can charge for certain search engine optimization tasks.
It has been my experience after optimizing over 400 websites over a 15 year span, that every single company is different.
There isn’t one fixed price that covers an audit, or link building, or content creation.
And let’s be honest, what you are trying to do is cultivate a long lasting client customer relationship.
So it is your obligation to charge the customer exactly what it will take to get the job done properly and no more than that.
How Much To Charge For SEO – An Example
I’ll give you a hypothetical situation.
Let’s say you have a real estate agent in Phoenix, AZ that wants to rank for the big terms in Phoenix. He or she comes to you with no real SEO presence to speak of. You do your research and see what those real estate websites at the top of Google in Phoenix are doing and you get a good idea of what it will take.
Let’s say the top guy has a really good natural link profile with 150 links pointing to his site. Your client has 20 links so far. The top guy has 100 pages of awesome content and your client has 8. You can figure out that it will take a lot of work and time to catch his competitors.
You decide to charge him $2500/mo which will have an allotted budget for link building and content creation.
Then you have another real estate agent in Atlanta approach to rank in Atlanta. He is in the top 20 for most of his key phrases. When you look at his competition you notice that the top guy has only 30 more links than your client. The content is pretty much equal.
You understand it won’t be as difficult to get him to rank but will still take work so you charge him $1500/mo to work on his website.
The exact same industry, but 2 totally different prices. This is why you must charge on a case by case basis.
Now 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 do quotes for potential clients, you need to make it individual to each person.
The Hard Cost Of SEO
What most companies have a hard time understanding is that SEO is not simply a matter of typing a few phrases onto a page on a website a you magically jump to the top. There is a real time commitment to do SEO the right way. And as an SEO consultant or company, you need to rewarded for your time.
But the real issue of pricing out a job is that unless you have unlimited hours, there are going to be real hard costs to doing SEO for a client.
For example, hiring a writer to create killer content is going to cost money. If the writer is really good then it will probably cost you $50-$100 for every 1000 words of content.
As Brian Dean explained in this blog post, the average word count for the pages that ranked on page 1 of Google was 1800 words. So one article that you create for you client (if done properly) is going to cost you a minimum of $100-$200. Now if you are doing one of those awesome content pieces per week that can run you up to $800/mo. Just for content on the website.
Pricing Out Link Building
And what about links? There are many ways to go about building links, but I like methods that I have more control over. Blogger outreach is one of my preferred methods of not just link building but website promotion in general.
There are basically two approaches to blogger outreach. You find blogs that accept guest posts and write a guest post for them. You would either have to write the content yourself of hire it out.
The other approach is to hire a company to do the blogger outreach for you.
Either way, your looking at more costs. I’ve seen companies charge anywhere from $70-$1100 for a single link. I would be very careful about getting a link from anyone who charges less than that (unless of course it’s free from a guest post).
If you are going to use a guest posting service to build links for your clients then you need to factor that into what you are charging for SEO. For local businesses I wouldn’t let them start SEO unless they allotted at least $500/mo for links. That’s right I said I wouldn’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. I digress.
For non-local websites a monthly link budget of $1000 to $5000 depending on how competitive the industry is will be the range you’ll want to be in.
As you can see, depending on how much content or links a client needs, building a natural backlink profile for your client can add up very quickly.
There are ways to cut down on hard costs, if you write the content or go out and get the links yourself you can save money. But that just means you will be spending a lot more of your personal time on the project.
Again, I can’t reiterate this enough, this is why you must not underbid for SEO. If you charge too little, you will quickly lose motivation to get the job done properly and your client will suffer.
Real World Example
Of the many clients I have done SEO for since 2002, one of the most high profile clients was Marcus Lemonis, star of the tv show “The Profit” on CNBC.
How I landed him as a client is a long story that I won’t get into in this post, but it was definitely unconventional.
When I sent him his custom SEO proposal there were a few factors that I kept in mind when coming up with a price.
First, I had seen his show and knew that if I was doing SEO for any of his companies featured on the show I would have built in link popularity. This would save me a ton of time and money trying to build backlinks that he could get just because people loved the show and linked to his businesses.
This didn’t mean that I wouldn’t be doing any link building, but because his companies websites already had great natural links I would only have to focus on more targeted links.
This would mean less money out of pocket for me.
I then looked at the number of big pages on the site that would need to be optimized, along with what I thought he would expect to pay.
I asked him what his goals were and knew he wanted to rank nationally for some very competitive phrases.
I didn’t want to be the most expensive, but I also didn’t want to look like I didn’t value my services.
I gave him a bit of a discount knowing he owned over 50 businesses and I wanted to get more from him than just the small handful he was letting me work on.
So I bid $3000/mo for this site.
Ultimately I won his business.
Shameless plug: I eventually stopped doing SEO for Marcus Lemonis and have been building SEOJet, the link management software I used to help him and many other sites get to page 1 for some super competitive phrases with very few links.
The software uses data from thousands of links to #1 ranked web pages and builds out link maps for each of your pages. All you have to do is go get the links. Then watch as your client’s rankings rise to the top of Google.
What To Do When A Business Can’t Afford SEO
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, but 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 and you know that they are extremely budget conscious.
You should have ready at anytime three SEO packages that you can pitch a company depending on what they can realistically afford.
Each package should provide the client with a measurable success that will drive more revenue. The lower end package will obviously target fewer key phrases or areas with a natural expansion with each package.
This way you don’t have to turn away business if you really want or need it, but can also provide a valuable service to your client.
Sometimes it just won’t make sense for you and you should absolutely turn a potential client 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. And this of course will make you unhappy.
The other option here is to help a smaller client get creative in the things they can do themselves to save money. For example, you can have them write their own guest posts and then have you to the outreach for them. Because the bulk of the cost comes in the link building phase this will help dramatically bring down costs for them.
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.