I would like to propose a change in the way you think of SEO; think of it not as a service and cost but as a value and investment. While these two phrases may sound the really similar, they are inherently different.

If you are looking for numbers I promise I’ll give you some at the end, just hang on for a bit.


You can compare the vast majority of services on price as most services with the same label provide the same general output. Think of a haircut, plumber, or house cleaning service. You can fairly easily compare service providers  – the end result and how you get there is the same for all of these. Getting a haircut, un-clogging a pipe, or cleaning your house all have established and standard processes. As such it is easy to compare vendors on price.

With SEO, this is extremely difficult. There is no standard process and every business has a different website and different goals. On top of that every SEO has a different approach to a project. Even within Distilled, you could ask a group of SEOs what they would do on a project and while the answers would most likely be similar, they would all be different.

As such, you can’t go comparing and eliminating SEO providers based on price.

Even with link building, this is true. I have spoken with a lot of people who want a cost per link metric when scouting out SEO providers. You can’t do this either. Links are so complex that this view is flawed on almost every level.


While you have a budget, the cost of an SEO shouldn’t be the primary factor when deciding on an SEO provider. Focus on value, not cost. Instead of comparing SEO providers to see how much their service should cost, look at how much value and ROI they can provide you.

If you have never done SEO before, odds are good that you will get an extremely high amount of value and ROI from working with an SEO.

Below are a couple examples that illustrate how you should be looking at how much SEO costs

Local Business Example

To make this simple, let’s use a local business as an example. Let’s say that right now, they get 500 visits a month to their website. Of those people 80% end up coming into their store. Then a quarter of the people who come in end up buying  something. We’ll say the average order value is $30.

Ok, now this company starts works with an SEO for 6 months and is able to increase their traffic so at the end of 6 months they have an additional 500 website visitors (assume linear growth). Below is a spreadsheet showing the value added per month.

As you can see, the total value added over the course of six months was just over $12,000 and this was using pretty conservative numbers. If the company was charging you $2,000 per month, you would be coming out a head. If they were charging you $3,000 or $4,000 a month, in the long term you would probably come out ahead as well – SEO is very much a long term strategy where significant gains are often seen even after you stop working with an SEO company.

This brings us to the question “How much should I be spending on SEO?” Unfortunately, there is no formula or easy answer, but it is a balance of:

  • Your need for online exposure
  • Size of your market
  • Your business’ dependency on online visitors
  • How much extra value can be brought in

Local Business

If you’re a local business and think you can benefit from SEO, you probably want to spend a minimum of $1,000 per month. The range here is probably $1k – $5k per month. If you are in a smaller city and not too many similar businesses, $1,000 to $2,000 per month is probably reasonable. In a bigger city, you are probably looking at $2,500 to $5,000 per month as their will be more competition, meaning more SEO work and more value provided by SEO. Further, you should plan on working with an SEO for somewhere between 6 – 12 months.

How Much Does SEO Cost

To try to summarize how much SEO costs and how much businesses should pay for SEO, I have developed the graphic below reflecting how much I think businesses should be willing to spend on SEO – keep in mind this is a really complex topic and these are guidelines:

How Much Does SEO Cost - How Much Should I Pay For SEO

Share this image on your site:
<center><p><a href=”http://geoffkenyon.com/how-much-does-seo-cost/”><img src=”http://geoffkenyon.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/How-Much-Does-SEO-Cost-600.png” alt=”how much does SEO cost” title=”click to view larger version”></a><br /> Image by <a href=”http://geoffkenyon.com”>Geoff Kenyon</a></p></center>
If you are interested in finding out how much SEO’s charge, you can check out this post on SEOmoz, but again, I think this is the wrong way to find out how much you should be spending on SEO.

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