How Much Does SEO Cost? – Average Cost of SEO Services

How Much Does SEO Cost?

How Much Do SEO Services Cost? A typical SEO campaign costs between $3,500 and $10,000 monthly at Stellar SEO. For clients in highly competitive industries, this number can jump up significantly.

Here are the typical ranges we have uncovered during our SEO pricing research.

  • Monthly Retainer SEO Costs $2,501 to $5,000 Per Month.
  • Hourly SEO Costs $175-$300 Per Hour.
  • Fixed Priced Projects Range from $10,000 to $45,000.

The cost of your SEO campaign will vary based on the agency you choose, your competition, and their pricing model.

If you look at SEO from an ROI perspective, even a substantial investment can be worthwhile, with one study, which we revisit below, finding an astounding 748% ROI after 36 months.

This guide will take you through the standard pricing models and SEO cost structures while providing some valuable insights to help you avoid common pitfalls when looking for an SEO agency.

At a minimum, your SEO provider should focus on content development, site optimization, user experience, and technical elements. 

Although link building is incredibly important, many agencies do not offer link building in their SEO campaign cost overview. Be sure to compare each offering and SEO package wisely.

Explore Our Updated Link Building Pricing Guide To Discover Link Pricing Models and Average Costs

Now, let’s see what other SEO cost surveys have concluded.

And The SEO Pricing Survey Says…

According to an Ahrefs survey, recently updated on 7th March 2024, the most popular average monthly retainer cost for SEO agencies in the United States is $2,501 to $5,000.

Way back in 2014, we covered average SEO costs, and it’s clear that pricing has evolved significantly over the years – to the tune of roughly a 500% increase.

The advancements made by search engines like Google have forced SEO professionals to adapt and improve. This means an experienced SEO agency is more important now than ever. 

The demand for content-rich strategies and advanced web development has risen, pushing out low-cost shortcut methods that once offered quick results.

To gain a better understanding of the significant increase in the average SEO costs, let’s examine some of the additional roles that now fall under the scope of “search engine optimization”:

  • Technical website audits
  • Site speed audits and optimization
  • Keyword research
  • Competitor analysis
  • SEO strategy development
  • Content audits and content creation
  • On-page optimization
  • Link building & PR outreach
  • Local SEO 

But before delving into their evolving role, let’s examine the average cost of SEO associated with other popular marketing channels and answer the question: is SEO expensive?

Television advertising is a widely recognized and frequently utilized medium for businesses of all sizes. A 30-second television ad on a national network in the United States costs $105,000.

Additionally, average TV ad production costs range from $1,000 to $50,000.

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Business owners often turn to radio as a reliable marketing strategy, so we also wanted to examine the costs associated with radio advertising in a mid-sized market.

seo costs vs radio advertising

As demonstrated above, a streaming radio advertising campaign can cost upwards of $10,000 per week for national coverage on a service like Sirius XM.

Considering this, the monthly cost of SEO services from $2,501 to $5,000 appears much more enticing.

At Stellar SEO, our pricing ranges from $3,500-$10k per month for typical campaigns, with $2,500 being on the low end. Competitive industries can require much more aggressive SEO, further increasing that range.

We take a unique approach to building a customized SEO roadmap as the first step. This lets you know upfront what to expect regarding costs, timelines, and expected results. 

Our SEO audit and roadmap services start at $2,500 and are nothing like the free boilerplate junk many agencies will offer you. 

Do you want your marketing budget for the next 12 months to be based on a free audit by a junior-level SEO? Probably not, especially if ROI is important.

That being said, there are plenty of SEO pricing structures; here are some of the more common ones.

SEO Costs Structure

The pricing structure for these services varies depending on your chosen service type.

Outlined below are three different SEO pricing models.

SEO Pricing Per Hour

When searching for the right SEO service to help you reach your business goals, you will undoubtedly encounter the per-hour pricing model. Independent SEO specialists and freelance SEO experts most commonly use this SEO cost structure. They charge based on the number of hours dedicated to your project.

This model is particularly suitable for small businesses that cannot afford monthly retainers or enterprise-level fees. 

While many SEO services do not offer this option, willing agencies expand the possibilities for clients with varying budgets.

Do note that if you opt for any of the per-hour SEO pricing models, it is essential to understand how the allocated time will be utilized.

On average, this SEO cost structure amounts to $175-300 per hour.

SEO Agency Pricing Monthly Retainer

Most SEO services and digital marketing firms use the monthly retainer model when invoicing clients.

By opting for this model, you gain monthly access to continuous services, which cover a variety of pre-planned activities each month. 

The downside of this model is that you are often unclear about what is being provided and how that aligns with your strategic goals.

The average range for monthly retainers is between $2,500 and $5,000.

However, it’s important to note that agencies charging $2,500 are considered on the lower end of the spectrum for quality services.

At Stellar SEO, we do not do retainer-based work. We provide custom SEO services based on your website’s specific goals. 

This means we develop a plan to help you achieve your desired results. By estimating the total cost of reaching your goals and understanding your monthly budget limitations, we can create a timeline that accommodates both – and empowers you to make a well-informed decision.

With this approach, you are not charged arbitrarily for general search engine optimization but rather for your website’s specific requirements, so opting for the tailored option is the obvious choice here.

We take this step to help you build a solid foundation with proper direction and clarity for your campaign. 

This ensures accurate pricing without additional charges and makes you feel more comfortable deciding upon an ongoing journey.

The good news is that our audit and roadmap come at a fixed one-time cost starting from $2,500, which may vary depending on the size of your site and the intricacies of your campaign strategy.

At Stellar, we believe tailored pricing plans are the true recipe for success.

Local SEO Campaigns

Local SEO helps your business to become more visible in Google’s local search engine results. If you operate in-store as much as online, you must accommodate this strategy with your agency’s contract.

While some local SEO services start at around $1,500 per month, a more typical investment would begin in the $2,500 per month range.

When SEO services are priced below $2,500, it raises concerns about the quality of their work.

In local SEO, you can still take shortcuts, producing temporary gains. This type of local seo campaign is cheaper but comes with higher risks. 

Beware of Discount Local SEO Services

Some local seo agencies operate a “churn and burn” business model, which means they don’t intend to keep you around for more than 3-6 months, so they make simple packages that are easy to sell, so they can replace you as soon as you go. 

While this works out OK for them, it is terrible for you.

Ecommerce SEO Pricing 

Ecommerce SEO services typically start from $3,500 monthly and can be customized based on a specific store’s needs.

Since an online store can be very large, requiring substantially more work to optimize and maintain, it should come as no surprise that ecommerce SEO costs can vary significantly.

Depending on the products you are selling, you may face fierce competition, requiring a more aggressive strategy to yield meaningful results.

The good news about ecommerce is that you can accurately tie an SEO campaign to sales, quickly measuring your ROI. 

One-Off SEO Pricing

Some agencies offer the option of working on individual tactics and charging clients a one-time fee for this kind of SEO project. 

In this scenario, you would communicate your objectives and requirements to the SEO agency and they would put forward a price tailored to those specific needs.

Based on 2021 data, one-off SEO projects generally range from $5,000 to $30,000 in terms of costs. Accounting for inflation, $10,000 to $45,000 is a more accurate current representation.

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How Much Do Quality SEO Services Cost?

The quality of SEO services depends on various factors, with agencies taking a number of elements into account when determining SEO pricing.

For instance, when offering custom pricing options, they aim to assess your unique business goals, target audience, current website optimization, and other relevant factors.

However, beyond the scope of the project itself, SEO costs heavily rely on the expertise of the agency finishing the actual work. This is why a low-priced service often reveals much about the agency’s skills and capabilities.

Now, let’s look into the correlation between an agency’s SEO pricing and its quality:

Low-Quality SEO Services

You should always beware of SEO services that appear excessively cheap, as they often prove too good to be true. While we understand it can be tempting for startups to opt for the most affordable option, we must recognize that search optimization requires significant time and effort.

So, a suspiciously low price could indicate that the agency uses harmful techniques (such as black hat SEO) that can have damaging consequences.

The SEO pricing for this low-quality service typically ranges from $500 to $1,500.

That said, always consider the following: If an agency charges an unusually low fee for a service that involves in-depth keyword research, manual outreach to secure quality backlinks, and the creation of original and valuable content (not spun or recycled articles), you should be suspicious of their practices and overall quality.

These SEO agencies charge low prices because they have not invested in the necessary resources and time to deliver quality results. Instead, they resort to cutting corners and using substandard SEO practices.

However, you should consider that this approach will be highly detrimental to your website in the long term and may even undermine any previous SEO efforts and results you’ve achieved.

By opting for cheap services, you would be paying to jeopardize your rankings, waste valuable time, and ultimately damage your brand image.

Search engines are continuously evolving and have become adept at identifying and penalizing websites involved in blackhat techniques, swiftly detecting these practices and leaving no room for long-term success.

Remember, if the price seems too good to be true, there is likely a good reason behind it – a clear sign that you should steer clear of it.

Typical Quality SEO

Investing in high-quality SEO services is worth considering if you have specific goals and a budget that allows you to do this.

Reputable SEO agencies typically have transparent pricing structures that align with the services they provide. Some even offer custom services and SEO pricing tailored to the client’s business objectives.

These agencies primarily cater to mid-to-large-scale businesses, considering the level of expertise and dedication required for their work. 

Plans with established pricing and set goals are the way to go.

Having established a proven track record over the years, most agencies that provide SEO services at this level have earned a reputation for trustworthiness. 

They are very transparent regarding pricing and willing to share a breakdown of all SEO costs involved. This is especially important as it helps show the value of your purchase.

Exorbitant SEO Pricing

In addition to being cautious of cheap services, it’s also important to watch out for overpriced agencies. Some SEO agencies tend to charge clients significantly higher fees than the value of their service, and their SEO pricing is well above the industry average without any substantially added benefits or unique offerings.

You end up paying more for services you could receive from a trusted and reputable agency at a lower cost, with no justifiable reason for the inflated prices.

Thorough market research and an estimate of what good SEO services will cost in 2024 should help you avoid making hefty investments.

Remember that appearing popular or hyped-up does not necessarily mean you have landed on the perfect agency. Sometimes the loudest agencies on social media and Youtube are the worst at delivering meaningful client results.

What Does an Average SEO Campaign Entail?

Based on what we covered earlier, the role of your SEO provider now requires various areas of expertise, including web development, content marketing, technical SEO, link building, as well as general online marketing, so even a fundamental SEO campaign should incorporate the following components:

Considering the average hourly rates we mentioned earlier – $175 to $300 per hour – think about what you can expect to receive from an agency charging only $500 per month. 

Even if your agency has an unclear retainer model, when you look at the breakdown of SEO work, it’s clear that $500 doesn’t typically provide a significant amount of work or, more importantly, high-quality work. You’re likely to receive subpar results.

Now you might wonder, “Why not handle SEO in-house to save costs without compromising quality?

This is a valid question, and the answer is below.

Hiring In-House for SEO vs. Hiring an Agency

Based on data from Glassdoor, the median annual salary for a skilled copywriter in 2024 is $63,598, with an hourly rate of $30.50.

Similarly, the median annual salary for an SEO specialist was $62,850, equivalent to an hourly rate of $30.20.

If you hire a skilled copywriter or an SEO specialist for your in-house marketing team, the cost would range between $5,299 and $5,238 monthly.

However, it’s important to note that even with their expertise, they may not have all the necessary skills to execute a comprehensive SEO campaign.

By comparison, an agency that offers a wide range of services, including those mentioned earlier and more for $2,500 to $5,000 per month, is much more valuable when compared to the expenses associated with hiring in-house employees.

Additionally, having an SEO account with an agency eliminates the need for sick leaves, benefits, or the additional time and cost required to onboard and train new employees.

Moreover, here are three additional advantages of hiring an SEO agency:

SEO Companies Offer Scalability

Business owners focused on growth are usually well aware of the challenges and expenses associated with an in-house team. 

They know employees have limitations on how much work they can handle within a given timeframe.

By partnering with SEO companies, you gain the flexibility to use the exact number of SEO professionals you need to fuel your business growth. 

And, when you acquire their services on a retainer basis, you establish an explicit agreement on SEO pricing, eliminating any unexpected costs that might catch you off guard.

The best part is that you do not need to worry about employees leaving or acting unprofessionally, and you do not need to accommodate them on your office premises.

Overall, this saves time, energy, and resources that can be spent on other valuable business tasks.

SEO Firms Offer Creativity

When your in-house team repeatedly works on the same brand and tasks, they can fall into a creative rut due to the familiar routine.

On the contrary, an SEO company provides specialized professionals who work with a diverse range of clients. 

Their exposure to various projects keeps their creative juices flowing while keeping them up to date with the latest developments in the SEO field.

As outsiders looking in, SEO agencies maintain an objective perspective while understanding your company. This unique position allows them to bring fresh ideas and keep their creative edge.

Agencies Offer Increased Capabilities

An SEO company brings a unique skill set that surpasses what in-house employees can offer, especially for midsize and small businesses.

These capabilities include expertise in analyzing data for effective SEO strategies and access to beta features of specific technologies.

For instance, if your business needs a specialized link-building strategy that relies on data from an expensive tool you can’t currently afford, hiring an SEO agency grants you access to that solution.

What to Consider Concerning SEO Service Pricing

When picking the right SEO agency, thorough research is especially important to ensure that you partner with a service provider capable of delivering results.

As you navigate the market and narrow down your options, you should consider the following key factors affecting SEO pricing:

Incredibly Impossible Guarantees

Even the most skilled expert, agency, or SEO consultant should not promise overnight results or an instant increase in organic traffic, as they know genuine optimization takes time and can take several months to impact your SEO campaigns significantly.

When you inquire about their approach to achieving your goals, reputable SEO providers typically explain the steps and stages involved.

It indicates poor service if their pitch includes a suspiciously low price and promises extraordinary results without outlining meaningful and actionable steps. In this case, it’s best to steer clear and move forward with a more reliable option.

Questionable Link-building Strategies

Many low-quality agencies employ SEO strategies that can significantly damage your website’s reputation. Link building, in particular, is a powerful SEO ranking factor that, when done incorrectly, can have adverse effects.

When determining SEO cost in 2024, a considerable portion of your marketing budget should be allocated to quality custom link outreach.

Reputable SEO services prioritize ethical practices to ensure long-term results for your website. Adopting a quality-first approach to link building is essential.

Below Average Market Pricing Options

Choosing a low-cost SEO service may initially seem tempting, but it often indicates a lack of proven results and experience from the agency’s end.

As we’ve already discussed, an SEO agency offering a monthly retainer significantly below the average of $2,500 to $5,000 raises concerns about the quality of their service.

However, there are some instances where a start-up SEO company is looking to establish its clientele and reputation, and that’s why it offers services at a lower price. 

While this can lead to finding decent services at below-average SEO costs, it’s important to inquire directly or indirectly about why their SEO pricing is lower than the acceptable average before making any purchases.

High Costs with No Experience

This should certainly be considered a ‘red flag’. While it’s understandable that certain agencies may have higher costs than others, the price difference should still fall within a reasonable range.

When you encounter a service with above-average SEO pricing, you must ask them to explain what sets their offering apart and why they feel it’s more valuable than their competitors.

For instance, at Stellar SEO, we have vast experience handling penalty recovery for clients of various sizes. This grants us distinctive insights and a validated framework to address complex SEO challenges, instilling confidence in our process with the evidence to support it.

Other agencies may excel in different areas, so it’s vital to determine whether their strengths align with your specific needs before considering paying outrageous prices for expertise that might not be immediately necessary for you.

Previous Clientele

It’s essential to avoid assuming that a specific SEO solution will yield the same success for your brand simply because it worked for other companies in your industry.

This is precisely why a customized solution and SEO pricing models are better. Every business has distinct SEO goals and objectives and requires an SEO strategy and pricing that aligns perfectly with its needs.

For instance, if an SEO company utilized digital PR strategies that proved successful for a cryptocurrency brand, it doesn’t guarantee the same outcome for an eCommerce store, as e-commerce SEO will entail a different process.

Therefore, it should be excluded if its SEO pricing includes a fixed fee for digital PR services that may not apply to your brand.

At Stellar SEO, we prioritize a customized approach. We take the time to understand your objectives and tailor a customized SEO strategy that enables you to achieve them efficiently and effectively.

What About ROI?

Let’s examine the most vital aspect of determining an SEO budget and evaluating success: Return on Investment (ROI). 

One of the significant challenges in this industry is the disparity between customers’ understanding of the cost of SEO and its value. 

A quick search for “cheap SEO” or similar terms will reveal several offers highlighting this disconnect.

Now, we’re certainly not familiar with these specific companies or their offerings; however, considering all the factors we have discussed so far, a very important question comes to mind: 

What can these companies truly deliver for $500 per month?

Nevertheless, cheap SEO packages are purchased every day, often due to a lack of understanding of SEO and its complexities. 

Put yourself in the shoes of an uninformed consumer for a moment: If someone offered to “rank you” for $100 or $5,000, which option would you choose?

Many individuals would opt for the cheaper one, as these services have been available for years.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the situation.

Apart from used car sales, which industry faces the most criticism?

It’s SEO, primarily because low-value offers are pushed toward consumers non-stop.

Unfortunately, this often leads to the misconception that SEO doesn’t work for their business. The problem lies with “cheap” SEO packages and services.

Assessing SEO’s ROI and allocating your budget is vital to avoid getting caught in this cycle. A properly executed SEO campaign can produce an insane ROI over the course of a couple of years.

These numbers emphasize the significance of allocating a substantial marketing budget to SEO.

A Wakeup Call

As a business owner, we hope we helped you recognize how vital it is to acknowledge the dynamic nature of digital marketing and understand the significance of running in the opposite direction when confronted with a cheap offer that appears too good to be true.

Quality SEO work demands substantial time, expertise, and resources, so you should always beware of anyone claiming otherwise. They are likely seeking to profit quickly at your expense.

That said, it’s essential to prioritize long-term success and invest in reputable SEO services that deliver genuine value and results.

So, how much does SEO Cost? Nothing if you do it right – instead, it becomes one of your best investments.


Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO. His background as a U.S. Army combat veteran and a dedicated business owner has shaped his approach to SEO, blending discipline, thorough research, business acumen, and a deep understanding of the evolving SEO landscape.

Travis Bliffen's expertise and contributions in the field of SEO have earned him recognition and features in several prominent publications, such as Search Engine Journal and SEMrush, where he has shared his insights and strategies for effective SEO practices. Since launching Stellar SEO in 2012, he has been committed to crafting tailored link-building and SEO campaigns for clients across diverse niches.

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