Many freelancers and agencies find ourselves trying to answer this question with alarming frequency, so to clear up any doubt, we have decided to offer a complete breakdown of what SEO could cost your business. This is for basic, entry-level SEO with no bells and whistles attached. So, how much does SEO cost?
Before we get started
SEO is like anything else, you get what you pay for. If you outsource it for next to nothing, you’re going to find yourself getting a shoddy service. Hire a high-end agency in the centre of London and you are likely to get a better service, but you’ll also be paying for their slick offices and wall of Voss water that greets you in the conference room.
Instead of looking at the different costs from different agencies, we’re instead going to look at the breakdown of what is required in the first year of an SEO campaign.
SEO takes time
SEO isn’t hard work, but it is hard work. What do we mean by this? Well, it’s something that takes a lot of time and man hours to get it right. At the moment, there isn’t really any automated system which can replicate or improve on the work done by SEO experts.
It’s not uncommon for people to ask if “SEO” can be tacked on to the end of a package like web design or web hosting. It’s a common misconception that SEO is a thing that can be “done” once and then it’s “complete”. In reality, there are a lot of ongoing steps which need to be completed. So the chances of getting your SEO rolled in with your web hosting package for £400 a year is very unlikely.
Here is a breakdown of the SEO process and what it takes to get a website in good stead with Google.
Phase One: Background Research
You’ve paid for a shiny new website, but no one is landing on it from organic search. Your developers were more focussed on finding that exact shade of teal for the menu and now you need to think about how you’re actually going to attract customers and generate leads.
You can start with tools like SEM Rush to see where you currently stand and how your competitors are doing in comparison. This is where you narrow down a large list of keywords into a smaller list of targets.
You also need to look at developing buyer personas so that you know who you are trying to target. If you lose your way in the future and need to refine your marketing strategy, it’s helpful to be able to go back to your buyer personas and refocus your aims.
This phase of the work is essential as it allows the SEO specialist to get a true understanding of your business and industry. This can take anywhere from a week to 10 days, but we’ll call it 7 days of work.
Time for this phase: 7 days
Total amount of time: 7 days
Phase Two: Building a Strategy
Knowing who your customers are is only one part of the puzzle, next you have to figure out how to reach them. Once you have a short list of keywords and areas you want to target, next you can figure out how to shape this into a strategy. This starts by looking at your existing content and identifying the gaps. Content should be at the heart of all your SEO focus. Creating a content plan that addresses how to reach each buying persona at every stage of the purchasing journey is essential.
Time for this phase: 3 days
Total amount of time: 10 days
Phase Three: On-site Work
Improving your website from a technical standpoint isn’t guaranteed to improve your rankings. But when combined with a content strategy, evidence shows that a faster and more streamlined website will perform better in search. Technical fixes aren’t something that you can do once and then forget about. Technical fixes are something that should be looked at every month in order to make sure your site is running smoothly. There are also elements which may need to be altered as a result of user testing insight, such as optimising contact forms or changing CTAs.
The on-site portion of the work can take a long time to get right. For a large site, you could be looking at a month. With a smaller site with fewer pages to optimise, this could be reduced to 5 days, we’ll call it 10 days as an average.
Time for this phase: 10 days
Total amount of time: 20 days
The First Six Months
With a strategy in place, the real work can finally begin. This is when the new content is created, optimised and shared. Link building efforts can begin and a social media strategy can be put in place to push the content further.
At this stage, the client can decide how much effort they want to put in on an ongoing basis. Some want to go full steam ahead while others will prefer to see the impact of the on-site changes and take a more cautious approach.
Time for this phase: 4 days per month for 6 months (24 days)
Total amount of time: 44 days
Okay, so how much does this cost?
This all depends on who you hire to do the work. If we agree that 44 days is around 352 hours, then the breakdown of costs for 6 months of SEO work would be as follows:
352 x £10/ hr = £3,520 (outsourced to a low cost freelancer)
352 x £30/ hr = £10,560 (a decent priced freelancer in the UK/USA)
352 x £70/ hr = £24.640 (a mid-priced agency in the UK/USA)
352 x £120/ hr = £42,240 (a high-end agency in the UK/USA)
You can use this tool to convert this to your local currency.
It’s important to remember that this is the best case scenario for a low-competition industry. If you’re operating in a high competition field, these numbers could easily be doubled.
So, what are your options for SEO?
There is always the option to build your own in-house team, but this could cost between £100K and £150K to cover salaries and training. If you don’t have anyone in-house with the expertise to manage this department, then this option could easily become more expensive when hiring management-level staff.
At the lower end of the scale, outsourcing your SEO to a low-cost freelancer sounds like a tempting option. However, very few people end up satisfied by the work these individuals do. In many cases, we end up correcting the mistakes made by unqualified freelancers.
Freelancers are a great option, but you have to get past the idea that you are working with just one person. If they are sick, on holiday, or working on another client, they will be completely unavailable to you.
The final option is to hire an SEO agency or find a good freelance SEO expert with the knowledge and expertise to drive your business forward.