The world wide web has become a bustling location of ideas, social spaces, libraries, marketplaces, and pretty much anything else you can think of. If you have a question or a need, the internet can give you an answer thanks to search engine technology.

But when you type in a question on Google, Bing, or your engine of choice, have you ever stopped to wonder where that answer comes from, how that answer came to you, or why it is number one in the search results? If you haven’t used the online world to run a business in the past, then you probably haven’t needed to know the answers to these questions. But if you have tried, or if you are beginning to try now, then you know that there is a whole industry of business dedicated to the science behind search engine results called: Search Engine Optimization.

Employing SEO strategies can make or break the success of your online business. But how do you know that you’re using SEO correctly or taking full advantage of the strategy that you can? The best way is by seeking the help of an SEO company. But what is the average cost for SEO, and can you afford the help?

Below we’ve answered a few questions about how SEO works and how much it costs.

What is SEO?

To better understand how much SEO costs, it’s crucial to know why it costs anything in the first place. SEO is the process behind improving your website and online presence so that search engine algorithms want to push your content in front of your target audience. This can be achieved through the specific keywords and content used on your web pages, the link-building structure you create, and the graphics you employ.

The science behind search engine results is a well-oiled machine that is continuously crawling websites, updating indexes, and cataloging and rating information. Therefore, if you want your website, brand, and information to be seen, you must learn how to work within the system. That is where SEO consultants come in.

Can I do SEO myself?

In theory, your company could do the optimization itself, but if you do not have an SEO expert on staff, then the time and effort that is needed to take full advantage of researching and employing SEO may not be worth the energy you expend because if not done well, SEO can actually harm your website in the form of penalizations. This could actually cause your landing pages to get buried in the plethora of google results rather than your goal of being on the first page. Therefore, it benefits business owners to ensure that SEO is done properly by experts. But how much does hiring out for SEO cost? It depends.

What Affects the Cost for Search Engine Optimization?

Deriving a cost estimate for what SEO costs per month can range anywhere between $500-$10,000. This wide gap is due to the fact that there isn’t a regulated industry standard for hiring SEO consultants. A recent high school graduate with content creation experience may charge a one-time $500 fee, while a digital marketing firm may charge a $10,000 monthly retainer. Either option may get SEO results, but the ultimate cost and outcome will depend on the level of effort and return you are looking for.

There are several different factors that affect the cost of SEO. Here’s a brief look at a few factors.


Anyone can say they are good at SEO, and anyone can figure out how to do SEO, but the quality is determined by the expertise a consultant has. For instance, on-page SEO may require that a writer develop content using keyword research, so any writer can complete a keyword research course and charge a nominal fee. But technical SEO requires knowledge of coding and HTML writing to ensure that your backlinks and formatting work properly. You should expect to pay more for more expert knowledge and more involved projects.


Where is your business located? Better yet, where is the SEO business located? If you are hiring a local firm from the mid-west, then the odds are that the prices they charge will be lower than if you are hiring a big-named marketing firm located in New York City. If your business is local or if you have a small online presence, then you do not necessarily need a huge marketing budget. Similarly, though the big-name- company may be well-known or have a larger team, that may not be a necessary selling point for you and your small business.


Have you ever been reading a product description that is in broken English and seems like it wasn’t written by someone who speaks English as their first language? It likely wasn’t. To cut costs, some SEO businesses are located outside of English-speaking countries. And that is fine because computer algorithms work across all languages and countries, but if your business is located in a specific country and targeted for a specific language-speaking country, then you want to make sure you are hiring an expert who is aware of this and can perform accordingly. Hiring a firm that farms out content creation out of the country may not work for you, therefore, you may pay a higher price point to ensure that your SEO projects are completed in-house.


Do you work in a high-dollar industry? Or do you sell a niche product? Then hiring an individual who specializes in general SEO or hiring a small firm without a wide range of experts may not benefit you. If you are trying to increase your online presence in selling a product or experience for a niche group, you need content marketing that understands your product. For instance, a medical equipment company will speak an entirely different language than an online clothing boutique, and the SEO content should reflect that. Therefore, finding SEO experts who can tailor your site to your market may take more of your budget.

What are SEO pricing models?

If you think that it is hard to find an SEO company with their prices outlined as neat packages online, you are right. And with a quality SEO company that provides quality work, it should be. Quoting a certain price for SEO cannot be done well upfront without finding out more information about your brand and your SEO needs. If you are able to find quick quotes, then the help you receive is not a unique or customized experience.

That being said, SEO can generally be divided into three categories:


When hiring hourly SEO consultants, you should expect to pay between $75-$200. In most cases, hourly SEO consultants are available for content creation, writing, keyword research, or SEO audits. Hiring by the hour is not the most popular option for optimization but may be a good idea if you have a tight budget or are simply trying to clean up your local SEO presence, such as assuring that your business phone numbers, website links, addresses, and other contact information is consistent across platforms.


When hiring an SEO consultant on retainer, you should expect to pay between $500-$1,000 monthly. In most cases, SEO is not a one-time hire but an ongoing necessity. Keeping your information accurate, creating new content, ensuring that all new content is optimized, changing links, and running new advertising campaigns are just a few responsibilities that are taken care of when keeping an SEO firm on retainer. This is the best way to ensure that your business stays on target with your audience and does not fall behind the competition.


When hiring an SEO consultant per project, you should expect to pay between $2,500-$5,000. In most cases, per-project consultants can help with launching a new SEO campaign, cleaning up a website, or completing an audit. If you have a clear goal for what you would like to achieve with SEO, then hiring on a per-project basis can be more cost-efficient than hiring on an hourly basis.

Choosing an SEO Agency

When you search “How to Hire an SEO Agency,” you are met with an abundance of search results, and each is a result of good SEO, but should you go with the top option? Not always. Those results are optimized to reach a wide audience and what you are looking for is a team who can give you curated results. You should never hire an SEO consultant without having an extensive conversation about your brand and SEO needs first. This ensures that they understand your vision and goals, product, or experience and can deliver tailored results.

At Sting Marketing, our team of experts has years of proven experience in search engine optimization. Our growth marketing methodology involves gathering the specifics of your business, defining your most pressing market problems, and implementing a 90-day plan to best serve you.

Are you ready to optimize your content and grow your brand? Give us a call today.