Enterprise SEO Pricing: Comparing Services and Costs
When deciding whether to tackle SEO in-house or hire an external partner, it’s important to understand enterprise SEO pricing. Our recent comparison of the pricing models of 10 different SF Bay Area SEO companies showed that some companies charge as little as $50 / hour, while others price their entry level services as high as $25,000 / month—and the overall value of working with each company was just as diverse.
The reason there’s such a wide range is that what different companies describe as “SEO” varies greatly, as do their teams, effectiveness, and level of service. Below, I’ll explain (a) what the different SEO offerings are, (b) the pricing models those firms use, and (c) what kind of results you can expect to see from an enterprise SEO agency.
Enterprise SEO Services
SEO encompasses all of the following practices:
- Mobile & site speed optimization — This practice can range from making images lighter across the site to changing the site’s core CMS to one that’s more Google-friendly. Google also expects modern users to be visiting your site on all manner of mobile devices, making practices like creating AMP pages important, as well as generally ensuring your site is built “mobile first.”
- Meta title rewriting — Google relies on keywords placed in your pages’ meta titles to correctly index your site, and a well crafted title will quickly convey to a human searcher what they can expect to find when they click on your site.
- Landing page creation — Missing valuable industry, service, or location landing pages is one of the most common mistakes that even enterprise websites make. Most providers will offer landing page creation as a part of their services.
- Targeted PR — Getting your content featured in industry publications via traditional pitching and guest posting on highly regarded news sites. This cements your position as an authority in your industry.
- UI / UX and conversion optimization — Your website’s design should instill trust in visitors, and making sure visitors know how to navigate through your website is important to making sure they reach out when they’re ready to make a purchase.
- Content syndication — Social, e-mail, and advertising are three channels that require great content, which can often be curated from your SEO campaign.
- Thought Leadership — Encompassing all of the above, thought leadership places much more focus on generating high quality content and establishing industry leadership, rather than doing the bare minimum necessary for SEO. Publishing truly insightful content that sets the industry standard makes every other aspect of SEO much more effective.
Different SEO agencies will believe different combinations of the above are what really counts for SEO. Or, they may simply be focusing on their core competencies. But any enterprise SEO firm that describes themselves as full-service should be able to present you with their approach to each of these practices.
The number of team members a firm will dedicate to a campaign ranges from 3-7, where more is typically better. Being able to provide all these services at an enterprise level requires that the agency’s SEO team has at least the following team members:
- Writer(s) – Improving search engine rankings relies on producing high-quality content. In order to do so, writing teams often consist of industry experts who are skilled at engaging readers with original, insightful articles.
- Editor(s) – Editors bridge the gap between writers and the client, and review content to ensure skimmability, quality, and adherence to client specifications.
- Campaign Manager – Campaign managers handle the administration of the campaign, a crucial rule: they determine what content is needed, delegate who will work on each piece, and approve guidelines for writers and editors.
- SEO Strategist – Campaign strategists are the main point person within the SEO company who sees the “bigger picture.” They develop a deep understanding of the business culture and goals. They also do some of the critical small-picture work, such as researching keywords and brainstorming topic ideas. Ultimately, it’s this person who is responsible for establishing the content strategy, justifying the needs for services, and demonstrating ROI.
- Web Designer/Developer – SEO starts at the most basic website level, so it is important to ensure that all published pages are visible, formatted for easy indexing, load quickly, and easy to navigate to.
Some smaller teams may have the same person fulfilling multiple roles, but wearing too many hats has its costs. Firms that pay attention to every specialized area of SEO (for example, hub-and-spoke content or SEO attribution models) will need larger teams. Naturally, that comes with higher costs.
Enterprise SEO Pricing Models
How an SEO agency prices and packages each service varies considerably from one company to the next, which can make direct comparisons challenging. Firms that offer just the basic technical SEO services like meta title rewriting, mobile optimization, and a single piece of content per month may charge as little as $50 / hour from providers overseas, with no long-term commitment. Others may have flat fee packages but offer no ongoing support. Below are some examples of the services and prices you can expect at this level of service:
Low-Tier SEO Pricing (best for small, one-time projects)
|#1||Assigns an account rep in conjunction with automated systems, focusing mostly on reports generated with little user input. Outsources content production to overseas writers.||$50/hr|
|#2||A single customized report on keyword rankings, followed by landing page creation and UX optimization.||$135/hr|
|#3||An individual consultant who offers content syndication and targeted PR services to supplement an existing in-house content team.||$150/hr|
|#4||One-time, upfront investment for 1 SEO report, followed by site speed improvements, restructuring existing web pages, and rewriting meta titles.||$15,000 flat fee|
These can be a great deal if you’re only looking for a few specialized SEO services. But without already having assembled an experienced in-house team, you won’t see the results you would from working with a full service provider. True SEO is not designed to provide a short-term bump, and improving your organic search rankings requires long-term content generation.
That’s why the vast majority of SEO firms charge by the month or require a minimum annual investment. A considerable amount of time, money, and effort goes into setting up the team, tools, and processes needed to create an effective system. SEO results won’t occur overnight; and while some companies can see results in as soon as two to three months, four to six is a more realistic expectation for most. But once established, performance will continue upward steadily, so long-term relationships are optimal for ensuring success.
At this end of the spectrum, firms will charge up to $15,000/month for an entry level package that includes a dedicated account specialist and a team of writers, editors, and strategists. These packages offer as many as eight pieces of thought leadership content each month, each written by an industry expert, in addition to optimizing all the technical aspects of your website like its speed and UI.
Many SEO service providers will fall somewhere in the middle—offering a personalized model with different levels of focus on content, social media, and website optimization—ranging from $4,500 – $12,000 a month. The quality of reporting that can be found in the middle price range varies greatly: from nonexistent or one-time research, to detailed monthly reports. Content production, targeted PR, and content syndication may not be included at all. Below, you can find a comparison of pricing and services offered for companies that fall into either of these two categories.
Enterprise SEO Pricing
|#1||One-time $5,000 upfront investment for restructuring web pages and editing HTML tags, followed by monthly maintenance and link building.||$5,000/mo|
|#2||Several tiers that can include technical audits, website optimizations, and landing page and content creation. Only the highest-tier package includes everything.||$4,500 to $15,000/mo|
|#3||Offers basic technical SEO services, but is primarily focused on content creation, content syndication, and targeted PR.||$8,000 to $12,000/mo|
|#4||Builds a full team for each client that includes industry specialists; custom-tailors their SEO strategy; and includes site speed, mobile, UI, and conversion optimization in addition to 8+ pieces of high quality, thought leadership content each month.||$15,000 to $25,000/mo|
At the $10,000 level and up, SEO firms move beyond in-house generalists writing occasional pieces to industry specialists with advanced degrees diving deep into complex topics on a regular basis. Often, these solutions will lead to your website becoming an automated lead generation system, further freeing your managers and team to focus on your core business. As a result, 55% of enterprise businesses will invest $20,000+ a month for robust SEO packages.
Investing in Enterprise SEO
SEO is a considerable investment , but traditional marketing channels like TV and print are both more expensive and harder to track in terms of reach and returns. And compared with other digital marketing methods, SEO offers much higher ROIs. On average, businesses received $2 back for $1 spent on Google Adwords, and $22.24 for every $1 spent on SEO. And many industries can see even better results, as an initial investment in SEO will further compound over the next three years.
SEO agencies that do it right will be able to use targeted research analytics to quickly determine when their strategy is or isn’t working, making adjustments where necessary to ensure you own your industry’s search results for years to come.