SEO Campaign Cost 2020-2021: 10 Companies’ Pricing Compared

Here’s what you need to know about SEO campaign pricing when planning ahead for 2020.When I speak with marketing executives who haven’t implemented a real SEO campaign in a while, they often ask me how much SEO costs and what they should expect from an SEO agency. To provide the most accurate answer, I surveyed 10 SF Bay Area SEO firms, including our own. After getting pricing info from each firm, I weighed the services they offered against the costs to come up with an “Overall Value” metric. The chart below summarizes my findings. After the chart, I give you my bottom-line conclusion.

Comparing SEO Campaign Costs for 2020

When reading the chart below, keep in mind that there isn’t a consistent, agreed-upon slate of services that each SEO company includes in an SEO campaign. However, there are basically 5 services that SEO companies tend to provide:

  1. Technical SEO: Improving site speed, security, and mobile-friendliness, and fixing site errors;
  2. Keyword optimization of meta page titles (MPTs);
  3. Publishing content, ideally on a regular basis;
  4. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) of major landing pages; and
  5. Reporting on various KPIs and other measures of success.

SEO companies package these services in different ways. To help you understand what the range of offerings looks like, I’ve summarized each company’s package and compared that with their total, at-the-end-of-the-day price (eliminating the hassle of figuring out what’s included and what’s not) for a campaign, grading each of them on their overall value.

SEO Company Model Pricing Technical SEO MPT Optimization Content CRO Reporting  Overall Value
#1 One-time $5,000 upfront investment for restructuring web pages and editing HTML tags, followed by monthly maintenance and link building. $5,000 up front and $2,500/mo Yes Yes No No Yes, but minimal:
One report generated automatically and sent monthly
C+
#2 One-time customized report on keywords, competition, and technical SEO. Creates content in-house and builds links as needed via directory submission. $150/hr Yes Yes Yes, as needed Yes Yes, but ad hoc & charged hourly B-
#3 Several tiers that can include technical audits, keyword research, in-house (generalist) content creation, and link building. Only the highest-tier package includes everything. $3,500 to $7,500/mo Yes Yes Yes, but one piece per week and written by in-house generalists Yes Yes, included in higher-tier packages or upon request B
#4 Create-your-own package that typically includes a strategic SEO plan, keyword research, and blogging. Outsources work offshore. $35/hr Yes Yes Yes, 3 to 6 pieces/ mo but content written by non-expert freelancers No Yes, but minimal: One report generated automatically and sent weekly C+
#5 Individual consultant working with a team who does technical SEO & keyword research $135/hr Yes Yes No, attempts to partner w/ content creators at client company Yes Yes, but minimal: One report generated automatically and sent monthly B-
#6 Assigns specialist in your industry, custom-tailors SEO strategy that includes technical SEO, keyword research, content, and CRO. $10,000 to $12,000/mo Yes Yes Yes, 8 pieces/ mo written by industry SMEs + interviews your team Yes Yes A
#7 Monthly package that includes upfront keyword research, technical optimization, link building, and one piece of content per month. Outsources work offshore. $20/hr Yes Yes Yes, 1 piece/ mo but content not written by experts No Yes, but minimal: One report generated automatically and sent monthly C+
#8 Assigns an account rep in conjunction with automated systems, focusing mostly on technical SEO $40/hr Yes Yes, but minimal and not personalized No Yes Yes, but minimal:
One report generated automatically and sent weekly
C+
#9 Personalized consulting model focused mostly on CRO $3,500 to $6,000/mo Yes, but minimal Yes, but minimal No Yes Yes, custom and highly detailed B-
#10 Does SEO with heavy emphasis on content & social media in conjunction $6,000 to $10,000/mo Yes, but minimal Yes Yes, 4 to 8 pieces/ mo No Yes, but minimal and generated automatically B+

Ultimately, the company that received the highest grade (Company #6) came out on top because they offer all 5 services and their content is published multiple times per week by an actual expert in the client’s industry. While their pricing is on the higher end, it’s justifiable.

My Bottom-Line Conclusion: SEO Campaign Price vs. Value

This chart should give you a sense of the services you can expect to receive at different price points from an SEO firm in the San Francisco Bay Area. But more than anything, it should tell you that you will need to pay $7,500+ per month to get all five services. If a firm is charging less, it’s a clear indication that you’re not getting everything you need. (The only exception would be finding that rare bird who is just going out on their own and can do everything — research keywords, do technical SEO, write content, conversion optimize, and track KPIs — while underpricing their services. Those people do exist but they’re a few-times-per-career find.)

A Note on Link-Building

One service we did not include in this chart is link building. Traditionally, link building has been one way to build trust with Google and increase ranking ability once your meta titles are keyword-optimized. It was not included in this chart because it is very rare that a link building service will actually help, rather than hurt, your site. Google specifically forbids links that are acquired through press releases, directories, or guest posts, and nearly every link building service uses one or more of those methods. The only link building service that is a net positive is something much more organic and akin to PR. That is, reaching out to journalists and bloggers, sharing high-quality content, and asking them to cite your article. Additionally, Google’s algorithm now counts consistent publication of high quality content more highly than links in its algorithm.

A Note on Quality

This chart implicitly addresses quality, in that it notes when firms outsource SEO services offshore or have in-house generalists write content, both of which are generally low-quality things to do. So that even when a firm provides all 5 services, as Company #3 does, if it does so in a lower-quality fashion, it doesn’t receive a high grade in Overall Value.

To Google, quality is essential, particularly when it comes to content. To wit, the search engine began including on-page user engagement as a ranking factor in the last few years.

SEO is a critical part of marketing in 2020 and beyond, but in order to harness its power, you need to know what to look for. When considering SEO campaign costs, weigh both the price and the benefits you will receive to make an informed decision. If you’d like to learn more about what you should look for in an SEO company, feel free to contact us.

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