SEO is one of the best opportunities to get repeatable and scale-able growth.

But how much will SEO cost your startup?

Or, maybe you are on the other side of the table as a contractor. You’ve wowed a prospect with some impressive case studies. You’ve fleshed out an entire SEO content strategy tailored to their business goals. They’re happy with the opportunity to work with you. But only after they drop the big, haunting question:

“By the way, how much will this cost?”

Ahhh… pricing. With so many factors affecting SEO pricing, the topic is as murky as a sewer stream. So naturally, it depends on what service the contractor provides. This article will show what it depends on.

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media shares his thoughts on why there is so much confusion in the pricing process:

“Companies often don’t want to understand what SEO is. They just want to rank. They want traffic. They want to delegate, abdicate, and hire someone else to do the whole thing… It’s some kind of dark art. It’s complicated. ‘Please just help me. Here’s a check.’

So how does the service provider come up with the numbers, justify it to the client, and close the deal? Especially when the client is so uninterested in the mechanics of the work?

Welcome to the crazy world of SEO pricing.”

To give clarity into what SEO services cost, Growth Ramp surveyed 242 agencies, freelancers, consultants, and contractors who provide these services.

Although the study didn’t reach statistical significance, this doesn’t mean you can’t find valuable insights from the survey data. Additionally, there’s comparison to Credo’s 2015 survey, and Moz’s 2012 survey to help give more context.

Top Takeaways

The study is a comprehensive one. I’ll include the top takeaways (below) and a few additional interesting stat pieces. For all the rest of the details, see the full article (the link at the bottom).

  1. 62% of respondents price their services between $76 and $150 an hour. 75.6% charge less than $150 per hour. The majority of contractors may be underpricing themselves. Marie Haynes will share why she believes someone good at SEO should charge at least $150 per hour.
  2. 24.6% of respondents indicated that they charge between $1,000-2,000/month. About a third (30.6%) charge less than $1,000/month. But nearly a quarter (23%) surveyed charge $4,000/month or more.
  3. Pricing is challenging to master. 81% of respondents change their rates based on the service they offer.
  4. It may surprise you that of those surveyed, 6% of respondents are traditional marketing agencies and 11% are web design or development firms. Yes, even traditional marketing agencies are in the SEO and digital game.
  5. The top three most popular services offered are on-page SEO (82%), keyword research (81.2%), and content creation (76.8%), yet only 2% identify themselves as part of a content agency.
  6. Only 34.4% of SEO contractors and agencies offer infographic or visual design services. Perhaps infographics are a dying trend. Or maybe this is an untapped opportunity.

Interesting pieces of info

SEO monthly retainer rates


SEO payment models


Why is SEO expensive?

SEO is expensive because it involves a lot of channels, effort applied over time, and a skillset honed over years of experience to really see results.

A good audit can make clients thousands of dollars (or more) per month, every month for as long as your business exists. This means that if you are paying for value, then it should cost good money.

When you look at what a client might pay per month in ad spend (many spend 5-figures a month without batting an eye), SEO is comparatively cheap.

SEO service offerings



Now you know the big picture of the industry.

You are now much better informed and better equipped to look for good SEO service providers while not overpaying. Or to offer SEO services and earn what you are worth.

SEO is a long game, but it’s worth it.

SEO Pricing is Ugly. Here are the Prices to Expect for SEO Packages (New Research, 2018)