Wondering how much you should spend on search engine optimization?
You’re not alone. The industry doesn’t exactly have a history of making itself accessible to outsiders, after all. It also doesn’t help that so many SEO agencies don’t do much beyond selling the digital marketing equivalent of snake oil.
Small wonder, then, that many small and mid-sized businesses don’t even factor SEO into their budget. And those that do usually spend an average of around $500 a month, according to SEO training and link-building specialist Backlink. Per Backlink, the average agency typically costs between $50-$150 an hour.
Most businesses probably have very little notion of what they’re getting for that money, either.
Here’s the thing—where SEO is concerned, you very much get what you pay for. If you work with an agency that charges you peanuts, the quality of service they provide will likely be equivalent to that. Similarly, the agencies that charge exorbitant prices typically aren’t worth the cost.
This background information is all well and good, but it’s not what we’re here to discuss. We’re here to walk you through the basics of planning your SEO budget. The good news is that it’s actually not as complicated as you might expect.
- Start by looking at your overall marketing budget. How are your funds allocated, and where are you getting the lowest return? Generally, you should be allocating anywhere from 20-40% of your marketing spend to organic traffic.
- Consider what you need to do. Are you creating a website from scratch and need someone to handle every single facet of optimization, or do you simply need an agency to crawl your site and let you know what you’re doing wrong?
- Define your goals. Similarly to the above, what exactly do you want to gain from SEO? You want to make sure you set clear, measurable, and attainable objectives—be realistic.
- Ask what you’re willing (and able) to do on your own. With the proper guidance, SEO isn’t terribly difficult to understand. If you have the time to train yourself with a resource like Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, it may be worth your time to simply pay for a premium SEO tool and manage things yourself.
- Look at competitors. How does your site stack up to others in your industry or niche?
- Use a cost calculator. Websites like SEOcalc should generally be taken with a grain of salt, but they can nevertheless give you a decent idea of where your starting point should be for your budget based on factors like your website’s age and size, your target audience, how well your keywords rank, and so on.
It’s important to note that you don’t necessarily need to spend anything on SEO. It’s entirely possible to build and maintain a successful website wholly through free tools and utilities. At the same time, your chances of success are far greater with premium software—or better yet, the assistance of an experienced agency.