Ever wonder why search engine optimization (SEO) prices can range from hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars per month? The quality of the service is certainly a factor, but SEO fees also depend greatly on the type of business you’re in.

In this article, I’ll break down SEO pricing into the 4 major factors so you can see where your business falls on the spectrum of fees.


1. Local vs. National SEO

As you can probably guess, it tends to be easier to rank in Google for local searches than to rank nationally or even globally.  Therefore, SEO services are cheaper for businesses focused on a local market.

For many local searches, Google now displays Google+ Local business listings, along with a map in the upper right corner of the search results.  So instead of trying to get your business website to rank in Google, you need to focus on your Google+ Local business listing.  This is called “Local SEO” and it requires different tactics than traditional SEO.

Not only is local SEO cheaper, but you also tend to get faster results compared to traditional SEO.  For these reasons, I recommend most businesses start investing in local SEO first.

In our experience providing these services, and from discussions with many other SEO providers, we’ve found that most local SEO services range from $500 to $1,000 per month, and most national SEO services start at around $2,000 per month and go up from there, based on some of the factors listed below.


2. Number of Products/Services

The next factor is the number of products or services you want to target with SEO.  If you have 50 different products and you want them all to be #1 when prospects are searching in Google, then you need to optimize all 50 product webpages.  Clearly, that requires more work than optimizing just one product or service.

Some SEO companies’ fees are based on the number of keywords, which is essentially the same as charging by the number of products or services you want to promote.  So if you’re on a tight budget, it’s important to focus on the best SEO opportunities based on keyword search volume, SEO competition, and the profit margin of your product or service.


3. Strength of Competition

The third factor is the strength of your competition.  I’m not talking about your direct competitors that usually pop into your head.  I’m talking about SEO competitors who are already ranking in Google for the keywords you want to target.

We recently worked with a client that literally had no competition in an entire state.  So when we asked about competitors for SEO, they laughed.  In their mind, they had no competitors.  However, when we searched for the keywords they wanted to rank for, then sure enough, they DID have competitors. There were plenty of other websites ranking above them in the search results.

With SEO, you always have competitors and they may not even be in the same industry as you.  The stronger the competition, the more work (i.e. higher fees) it’s going to take to overtake them in the search results.


4. Existing Google Penalties

Another factor is whether or not your website has existing Google penalties.  A lot of businesses were hit hard by Google updates like Panda, Penguin, or the dreaded “unnatural link penalty.”  Unfortunately, I’ve talked to several business owners who have not yet fixed the penalties because of the fees involved.

If you have an existing penalty, then I recommend you first focus on fixing the root cause.  Until the penalty is removed, SEO is going to be like fighting with one or two arms tied behind your back.

Related article: 10-minute Google penalty checker



As you can see, there are a lot of factors that determine search engine optimization prices. And one additional factor is whether you’re investing in a one-time SEO project (such as an audit or on-page SEO clean-up), or whether you’re investing in on-going SEO (including content development and link-building).

The first step is always an audit to assess the situation, understand the business goals, and lay out a plan of attack.  Then based on the 4 factors above, the exact SEO fee can be determined.


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What do you think?

If you’re a business owner, what questions do you have about SEO pricing?

If you’re an SEO consultant, what factors do you consider when pricing your services?