Most businesses know that using proper SEO techniques will increase traffic to their websites and increase leads. SEO professionals use keywords to create website content that will show up in search engines when your ideal clients are looking for your product or service. When people look for relevant information on search engines, your business website appears in the results. A good SEO company knows how to use keywords to increase sales, revenue, profits, and leads. When more prospective clients click on your website, the chances of selling your product skyrocket.
It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to hiring an SEO or content marketing service. The first question anyone asks is: does the cost of the SEO service outweigh the increase in profits I'll make? Fortunately, there are a few easy guidelines to follow.
First, keep in mind the size of your business. A business with four hundred employees and two factories is going to have a different SEO model than a small business being run by a family. Companies with more than fifty employees tend to hire content marketing writers and designers in-house. Small to mid-sized businesses with 50 employees or less usually hire an outside SEO agency to handle their organic traffic for them.
So what's the difference? What should you expect for pricing?
When you hire content marketers in-house, you put them on your company's salary. This means you have to budget space for new full-time employees to be introduced to the company. Because you're paying an entire salary (or several salaries, depending on the number of people you hire), this option is better for mid- to large-sized companies.
The SEO professional should be capable of project planning, organization, and analytics. They should have a background in SEO and a concrete plan of action for your company's content marketing. Salaries for content marketing managers tend to start around the $70,000 range, and most high-quality content marketing managers will expect more. If you aren't prepared to pay this much for a full-time employee to take care of your SEO, it's better to look at hiring an outside company.
Hiring An Outside Company
The cost of an outside company varies depending on a wide range of factors. Different businesses will have different business needs.
The first question to answer: Is this a one-time project, or will it be ongoing? Examples of one-time projects are specific SEO related tasks with concrete end goals, like needing a website to accumulate a certain number of hits; or projects that require a certain quota of content be met, like wanting fifteen relevant blog posts written and posted to your company website. Ongoing projects are projects which have no defined quota or end date. An example of an ongoing project is to have an ongoing content marketing and link building strategy, indefinitely.
An ongoing project will cost more than a one-time project, and it will allow your business to foster a relationship with the SEO company. Because you will be working closely with them, it's important to find an SEO company that you like and trust. For as long as you continue the relationship with this company, you will pay them a monthly retainer to continue using their services.
A one-time project is easier to price. Most companies will gauge a price based on how intensive the work is. Updating six social media accounts and revamping a website is different than writing a few blog posts, for example. Since companies base price on the specifics of what you're looking for, it's difficult to give an expected price range.
Like buying car insurance, you should shop around before you settle with one SEO company. While the cheapest option may be the most tempting, you need to be sure they truly are the right fit for your business. Get quotes and project plans from a few companies and decide which one is most qualified to take on your business, and who will do the best job.
How To Know If It's Working
You've gone through all of this, decided who you're going to hire, and now you need to know if they're doing their job. How do you know if the price is worth it? How do you know if you need to find a different company or employee to handle the task?
First, make sure you understand how they're managing your website. It's important that you sign off on project plans and know what content is being associated with your business. A good SEO professional should have no problem explaining their plans to you. They should be able to show you exactly what they're doing. If they can't show you what they're doing for your website, there's a good chance they aren't doing a great job.
There are a few other signs to watch out for. If your website traffic suddenly drops or your traffic is coming from the wrong keywords, your SEO professional might not be doing their job.
Conversely, there are signs that your SEO professional is doing a good job. If they can show you concrete projects that they've done to help your website, they're on the right track. A good SEO professional will also note places your website and social media presences need improvement. If your website ranking improves or your revenue increases, that's a sign your SEO professional is doing exactly what they're meant to.
Hiring an SEO specialist can be a daunting task, but it's becoming increasingly necessary in today's financial market. Fortunately, there are easy ways to know what to expect. Shop around and find a fit that works for you. And always remember - the cheapest option is usually not the best option!
Detailed Numbers From Recent Surveys
When online marketing first started, SEO consisted of directory and article submissions as well as keyword generation, but that was about it. These days, however, you will want an SEO professional who can develop a comprehensive online marketing strategy, develop unique and keyword rich content, optimize your website for speed and include links to relevant articles on your site and to industry websites. This will give you somewhat of a guideline when comparing agencies.
This past summer, HubSpot surveyed 750 SEO agencies, revealing the following average monthly retainer amounts:
Most of the agencies surveyed revealed that they charge between $2,500 and $5,000, while the second most common price range is $1,001 to $2,500. In general terms, you will be looking at least $750 per month for SEO or $100 per hour as an agency minimum hourly price.
What Does an Average SEO Campaign Include?
The role of your SEO professional now requires knowledge of web development, content marketing, technical SEO, link building and general digital marketing strategies. Even the most basic SEO campaign should include the following:
- Content Research, Creation, and Optimization
- Keyword Research and Mapping
- Technical SEO Audit
- Technical SEO Corrections
- Website Speed Optimization
- Website Hierarchy (Architecture) Review
- Analytics Implementation & Setup
- Link Building & Link Outreach
- Campaign Tracking & Reporting
SEO is a long-term strategy. It takes a good amount of time to develop and implement an onsite/offsite SEO plan. Most good SEO firms can cost $1000-$5000 a month; even more in some cases depending on the complexity of the business. The important thing to remember with SEO is that contrary to popular belief, it is not free. It takes time and resources and should be a key part of your marketing plan.
A monthly retainer is the most common payment model because it provides the greatest ROI. Monthly retainer arrangements usually include regular analytics reports, on-site content improvements, press releases, PR, link building, keyword research, and optimization.
A report from Forrester Research shows the estimated allocation of marketing funds offline vs. online and across digital channels.
Here are some conclusions from that report:
- The average firm was expected to allocate 30% of their marketing budget to online, this rate is expected to grow to 35% by 2019
- Social media investments will continue to grow as an overall share of online spend, but will only represent about 15% of the total online spend
- Mobile marketing has grown to a point that it’s no longer tracked in the forecast and it’s presumed to be considered across all channels
Understanding How Your Budget is Being Used
The retainer pricing model is much more popular since it combines value for the customer with the internal ability to accurately budget for expenses.
Here is what the average breakdown can look like for a $2,500/month retainer.
Content Research: 2 hours to review the top 5-10 search results for a particular topic, identifying areas that could be improved and developing a strategy for your content.
Content Creation: $300 – $500 per 1,000 words of first-rate content.
Link Prospecting: 3 hours per month to identify resources and even guest post opportunities.
Link Outreach: 10 hours per month of outreach link building comes to $1,260 per month.
Additionally, an agency usually covers analytics setup and tracking, on-page optimization, technical site audit and revision, page speed optimization, client reporting and 2-4 hours per month on the phone with a client.
When you're ready to make an ongoing commitment to SEO you should focus on quality services. The amount of money you spend is going to closely resemble the quality of product with small variables. Buying a cheap option can be worse than buying nothing at all.
For mid-sized companies with 50 or more employees, you can begin looking for hiring someone in-house. It might be wise to hire someone with experience that can completely take over organic search optimization for your company and will become your SEO manager with a small team underneath them in the near future. The minimum cost of an in-house SEO team is $70,000 per year for an SEO manager, $54,000 for a web developer, $42,000 for a writer, and $35,000 for a link builder.
For startups and small companies that are growing fast, with over 10 employees including a director of marketing, you should expect that your competition is paying somewhere near $5,000 per month for content marketing & SEO. This is the pricing you should also be budgeting for quality SEO services for a fast-growing company.
For companies that are starting to hit their stride with 5-9 employees somewhere near a $3,500 retainer is the industry average for the best SEO services.
For small business and startups with a small team of 1-4 employees or for companies that only need Local SEO services, $1500 seems to be the minimum amount you should budget for quality SEO services. Anything lower is a red flag and could be a complete waste of your time and money.
At 21st Renaissance, We Help Our Clients With Creating A Brand Name To Truly Separate Your Business From Your Competition
To truly create a powerful domain presence you need to have a strategy revolving around the fundamental techniques of SEO while also using PR to create powerful branding.
21st Renaissance is the digital marketing bridge between SEO & PR creating a powerful brand name for your ideal clients in the process.