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Our potential clients are often interested in the cost of SEO. In this article we present you the aspects that can have an effect on the total cost of a specific SEO project.

At the outset, SEO projects usually require several analyses and the creation of a strategy. While parts of the analysis are based on outputs from automated tools, it usually requires several days of work to complete the initial audit, as well as to come up with a custom strategy.
This is particularly true for projects in highly competitive sectors (in areas where there is no or minimal competition, an experienced SEO consultant may be able to develop a strategy to successfully go after the “low-hanging fruit” within 2-3 hours).

The implementation of the results from a SEO audit, such as the updating of on-page content or off-page activities such as link-building, may take only a few month within a segment of low competition. However, if you are active in a highly competitive market segment, SEO activities should be undertaken on an ongoing and regular basis over a longer time horizon. In such segments, the pay-off from increased organic traffic can be significant, which causes most of the companies in such segments to pursue SEO activities with great intensity and usually with external help in form of consultants or agencies.

The ongoing cost of SEO then depends on the amount of activities that need to be realized. Additional factors that can affect the costs are the initial state of your website as well as competitor activities.

Work may include gradual improvements that are undertaken directly on the website such as:

  • Content
  • Settings
  • User Interface

Further activities may be:

  • Content creation on or off-page
  • Backlink acquisition
  • Editing existing mentions from other sites

A more complex SEO project may also require several hours for coordination and project-management, as the planned activities may require inputs from various different specialists such as technical SEO, code (programmers), UX, content, etc..

If we add up all the hours, we are talking about time spans ranging from 10 hours all the way to a few dozen hours per month depending on the project’s requirements. In Pizza SEO the exact cost of the project depends on the complexity of the project as well as on the specialist that will be working on the project (Junior SEO specialist / Senior SEO specialist / SEO consultant).
The hourly rate of a SEO specialist within our agency is 40€, while the rate for a SEO consultant is 80€ for projects within Slovakia & Slovak language (international projects in German & English: 50€/hr specialist, 100€ consultant)

A recent poll of agencies that was undertaken by Truniversity, indicates that these sums for SEO activities are similar to the overall market:

*The hourly rate of SEO specialists according to the poll of Truniversity (Blog Truniversity, 23.1.2017)

*The hourly rate of SEO specialists according to the poll of Truniversity (Blog Truniversity, 23.1.2017)

For the most part, SEO strategies also require an additional budget for external (media) expenses. These expenses are related to the creation and placement of content on third party websites and / or for the acquisition of backlinks. They can take various forms, but typically are payments for bloggers, webmasters, catalogues for the creation or publishing of content on specific websites. While in some cases these are one-time payments, the recent trends have shown that most website owners these days have switched to a “time-based rental” system, in which you can for example place a link or a content on a given website as long as you keep providing monthly fees. The resulting monthly media expenses can range anywhere from a few hundred euros Slovak projects, all the way up to 500€-2,000€ for international projects in the German or English language.

If you are pressed for time and would like to achieve results quickly, it is possible to increase the intensity of the SEO activities (do 2-3 months of typical SEO activities in one month). This kind of approach is usually required in times when a firm is facing a reputational crisis, or when it has launched a multi-channel integrated marketing campaign that relies to a certain extend on SEO performance. In some cases it is not advised to speed up the SEO activities, as the algorithms of Google may interpret such an uptick in activity as spammy or artificial behavior and penalize your website with worse instead of better rankings. On the other hand there are several activities that can be implemented all at once to improve the a website’s state and user experience. As activities such as updating /expanding the website’s content or improvements to the conversion rate benefit the user’s experience, they can be quickly implemented with no worries.

If the proposed SEO strategy requires technical changes to a website, you should also consider the costs of the web developer or programmer (internally or externally).

Overall, the SEO costs can range anywhere from a few hundred euros a month per month to several thousands of euros per month when employing an external partner or dozens of hours of work from an experienced SEO specialist that you may have in-house.

What other cost models exist?

One-off analysis – a SEO audit or a broader online marketing audit as we do it at Pizza SEO, is usually priced at a fixed sum after a quick analysis of the website’s current state. The sum depends on the kind of problems and questions that the SEO audit should solve. The cost of such audits ranges anywhere from 500€ – 1000€ for domestic projects in the Slovak languages, and slightly higher costs for international projects in English or German.

When conducting a specific analysis, such as analyzing the backlink portfolio of a competitor or troubleshooting indexing problems, we usually charge clients on a hourly rate for our SEO specialists. The scope of the work is estimated and approved beforehand, to avoid bad surprises on the client’s side after the work has been realized.

Sometimes SEO specialists also offer success based payments that are tied to achieved positions within the search engine results page. Such a model from our point-of-view has many pitfals and we do not recommend it. Positions are difficult to measure objectively and are only a partial metric. A client generally does not care which position on Google he or she occupies, as this does not earn him or her any return on investment per se. The client earns revenue based on conversions that are realized by traffic that comes to his or her website.

In some segments where the organic traffic to the website is the source of conversions, it is possible to apply a performance-based compensation model, which ties the payment to a percentage of revenue achieved from the number conversions from non-branded organic traffic. As Slovakia is a fairly small market this type of model is usually only feasible on the insurance or banking sector.

SEO for free or at a low cost:

Website operators are sometimes looking for a free SEO solution. The closest that one can get to “free” SEO solutions are various online tools or “SEO analyzers” that check some general standardized parameters and give generic recommendations on how to improve the SEO performance.

The outputs of these tools are rarely usable for professional SEO purposes. Considering and implementing such recommendations comes with a huge risk. If you are active in a segment, in which various competitors are regularly working on SEO activities, you can rest assured that it is impossible to catch up to them or overtake them on a long-term basis with the help of free-to use SEO toolkits.

Such tools can and only should be used if you have a lot of time on your hands and are able to study up on professional SEO techniques. This way you would actually be able to interpret the recommendations of such SEO tools and make an informed decisions whether such implementations would have a positive or negative effect for your website’s rankings.

An even greater risk is to make use of incredibly cheap SEO offers from self-proclaimed experts. If the offer for the monthly cost of SEO activities for a website that has active competitors seems too low even after adjusting for aspects such as geography or experience level of the practitioner, it is likely that you are faced with an agency or individual that makes use of automated or black-hat SEO activities that come with a great risk. In the best case scenario these types of “SEO specialists” will deliver short-term results, which will decline as time moves on. In worst case they will create long term damage to your website’s reputation and cause your website to be penalized by Google’s algorithm.

A cheap SEO partner can be an appropriate solution for websites that do not have a lot of active competitors in the online environment. The SEO specialist in such cases would simply set all basic SEO elements up in a way that ensures visibility for your products or services, and if you do not have many competitors this may be enough.

For websites, that have active competitors and function in segments that can bring in a significant amount of business in terms of online sales or leads, a professional approach to SEO as well as a detailed strategy is needed to ensure the achievement of aspired results over time.

Is SEO worth it after all?

The most important question of them all, which can result in various different answers. Sometimes it is worth it. SEO projects can have various goals such as increasing the direct sales, awareness building and or reputation management of a person or a business.

In the so-called transactional searches, those where the searcher is very close to a purchase, the organic results are competing with paid results more and more. The search engine results page is usually dominated by paid listings as these take up the top spaces within the results. While these are prominent on the desktop, they in most cases take up the whole screen on mobile devices.

The further the search query is from the transaction, the less paid results will compete with organic results, leading to higher traffic numbers stemming from organic searches.
While there may not be as many advertisements or none at all on such queries you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that such searches are worthless to your business. Ensuring the visibility for your business on such queries that are representing the early stages of the buying process, you can create a familiarity or a so called top of mind awareness within your target audience. This top-of-mind awareness can then increase the chances of selling to those customers down the line when they are ready to buy the kind of products or services that you offer, as you will be among the first that comes to their mind.

Still, it should be clear to all people who are thinking of investing into SEO activities that this is a long-term process that should be ongoing. If you build your SEO results professionally and achieve high traffic numbers from organic searches, you can retain high positions within the search engine for a long period even after stopping to invest into SEO activities, as these only decline gradually over time if they have been achieved in a sustainable and professional manner.

All in all, a professional SEO is not cheap, which should not mean that it is not worth it. You should compare the expenses for a planned SEO project to the expected return and compare it to the ROI that you achieve from other marketing channels. If the ROI of the planned SEO project seems to make economical sense to your business, you would be wise to invest into SEO and hire a professional agency with a proven track record.

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