How Much Does SEO Cost for a Small Business?

When you are done reading this article, you will know how much you should budget for search engine optimization services.

Written by
Cameron Gallacher
Co-Founder and CMO

December 8, 2022

Last Updated:

December 8, 2022

You may have already heard that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is essential for businesses to increase brand visibility, especially when competing with larger organizations or companies that are well-known online. Since there is an increasing amount of content and competition, it is getting harder to get found by your target consumers.

SEO is the process of improving a website's ranking. It is not a one-time thing but an ongoing process that should be included in your marketing budget. The cost of SEO services depends on several things, such as your business size, location, and industry. Keep in mind that SEO is an investment. It can help increase your return on investment (ROI) if you have the right SEO campaign to bring a steady stream of organic traffic to your website.

So, how much does SEO cost? Our research showed that you have to pay at least $60 per hour or $1,000 per month for SEO services. We will look at how much SEO usually costs from various angles, whether per month, per service, through an agency, or when working with a freelancer. Understanding the different SEO costs for your business needs is vital, so keep reading!

What Is Search Engine Optimization?

Investing in SEO services is a must, even for small businesses. SEO is the process of making a site rank higher on search engines such as Yahoo!, Bing, and Google. Websites with higher rankings are more likely to be found by users. SEO has many aspects, like on-site SEO, off-site SEO, technical SEO, and local SEO, to name a few.

On-page optimization includes header tags, title tags, and meta descriptions, while off-page optimization covers activities like social media engagement and link building. The goal of the two kinds of optimization is to make a website more visible so that more people will find it through organic search.

How Much Does SEO Cost?

Do you want to know how much SEO costs? Look at how SEO professionals set their prices through different SEO pricing models.

Hourly rates

Many SEO agencies and freelancers base their prices on an hourly rate. The hourly rate can be anywhere from $60 to $300 per hour, depending on how experienced the SEO agency or freelancer is. If you are working with an agency, chances are they will allocate the work to more than one person.

This is a common choice for small businesses wanting to try SEO services. For this pricing structure, you have to pay monthly; the total cost depends on how many hours have been spent on different campaigns.

Project-based rates

Project-based pricing is another common way to determine how much SEO services cost. For this pricing structure, you will have to pay a single, predetermined amount for a specific deliverable or project. For example, you may have to pay between $500 and $2,000 for your website's SEO analysis or between $1,000 and $5,000 for keyword research and creating a targeted keyword strategy.

Project-based pricing could be a good option if you have a specific goal and want to work with SEO agencies or freelancers to reach it in a certain amount of time. Project-based rates work better for businesses with large or complicated websites.

Monthly retainer

The most common way to charge for SEO services is on a monthly retainer plan. Here, you will have to pay a set monthly fee in exchange for ongoing SEO work for your website. On average, monthly retainers range from $2,000 to $5,000 each month, but they could cost higher or lower depending on your SEO budget and needs.

A monthly retainer price structure is helpful because it gives you and the SEO providers consistency and predictability.

What Is the Fair Price for SEO Services for Small Businesses?

Companies should expect to spend money making their websites more visible on search engines for at least six months to a year. With this information in mind, you should spend a big chunk of your budget on SEO.

Since most businesses only offer custom pricing, it is hard to determine the average cost of SEO services based on SEO agencies' rates. If you hire a good SEO company, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per month for their services. You can still find cheap SEO services, but you might have to deal with people with less experience, and your business might not get the ROI it needs.

Some of the more affordable monthly plans focus mainly on research and auditing than on making new strategies. This is in contrast to plans that focus on putting strategies into action. Most of the time, you will have to pay agencies more than $1,000 per month to implement an effective SEO strategy. The price will be higher if you need content like blog posts, pictures, or videos to be made.

Hiring an In-House SEO Team vs. Hiring an SEO Agency

Since small businesses will have fewer websites and a much smaller "online footprint" to manage, they may be able to get SEO services for a lot less money than a large business. Compared to larger companies, it is usually much easier and faster for small businesses to hire casual or temporary remote workers.

A small business can hire a freelance SEO consultant part-time or full-time, or you could send your marketing manager to a training course to improve their skills. But a small business that does not have enough money to hire people on its own should work with SEO agencies instead. An SEO company can provide more services than a single freelancer could, such as backlinking and content development.

How much does it cost to have an in-house SEO team?

In Canada, hiring people to carry out an SEO strategy would cost you about $428,650 annually. This does not include taxes that are taken out of pay. When payroll taxes are added, you can be sure that this number will be much higher. Not to mention the software tools for marketing, data analysis, customer relationship management, and SEO that your staff would need to do their jobs well.

Here is a breakdown of how much an in-house SEO team costs each year:

  • The average cost of hiring an SEO copywriter is $58,017 per year.
  • The average cost of hiring an SEO content writer is $52,267 annually.
  • The average cost of hiring an off-page SEO consultant for Digital Public Relations is $57,316 per year
  • The average cost of hiring a web developer for technical SEO is $63,814 per year
  • The average cost of hiring an SEO marketing strategist is $60,000 per year
  • The average cost of hiring a Conversion Rate Optimization Specialist is $62,236 per year
  • The average cost of hiring a UI/UX is $75,000 per year

How much does hiring an SEO agency cost?

Now that you know all the key details that go into building an in-house SEO team, think about what kind of services you will get when you pay $500 per month to an SEO agency or freelancer. This is why you need to put in the right amount of budget to implement an effective SEO campaign with the help of an SEO agency.

The real average cost of SEO for small businesses is between $1,000 and $5,000 per month. This number may increase for small businesses that want to be known nationally and internationally.

Small businesses often depend on the community within their area. This is where local SEO comes in. Local SEO is the process of getting your business listed in business directories and on search results pages for certain areas. You can find "Local SEO packages" being offered by SEO agencies, which you can avail to have your business show up on online map tools and in results for searches like "X near me" and other similar phrases.

digital marketing

Factors That Can Influence SEO Costs

Figuring out the SEO budget for your business can be hard because there are so many different things to consider. In reality, it takes some time to figure out what your business needs to do well. Before securing an SEO package, here are some of the factors that can influence the SEO cost:

SEO agency or SEO consultant's reputation

A well-known SEO agency or consultant can charge more for their work because there is enough demand for their services. SEO service providers who have been in business for more than two years have prices that are about twice as high as those who have been in the industry for less than two years.

Project's scale

The amount of SEO tasks that need to be done depends on several things, like how much competition there is in the market, how many websites and social media channels need to be optimized, and how strong your site's domain authority is. Local SEO services that target only one city will have lower prices than those that serve the whole state.

Office culture

A good SEO company will suggest how to improve your keyword rankings and domain authority. How quickly your staff understands and makes the necessary changes will affect how well the project goes, how long it takes, and what kind of follow-up work is needed.

Is It Worth It to Invest in SEO for a Small Business?

Most small businesses do not allocate much to SEO, with some only investing $500 to $1,000 per month. One of the reasons why small businesses do not prioritize SEO budgets is that they find it hard to learn about something as technical as SEO. Many small business owners are preoccupied with the day-to-day operations of their companies and devote little to no effort to understanding technical SEO functions.

Moreover, many people are under the impression that SEO operates similarly to paid ads. Thus, they anticipate an instant ROI for each dollar they pay, only to get disappointed by the results after a month. This is why it is vital to thoroughly understand that SEO is a long-term strategy that requires consistent work over six to twelve months.

If you change course in the middle of SEO campaigns or give up on it altogether, your small business might never get the results it needs from SEO. SEO is not worth the time or money for business owners who do not have the time, desire, or dedication to put in the work needed to get a big ROI.

This does not mean you have to go out of your way to learn about SEO on your own. Even so, it would be best to learn as much as possible about SEO, so you do not get scammed by a shady SEO consultant or SEO agency.

How to ensure that SEO for small businesses is a worthwhile investment

Opting for cheaper SEO services may cost you a lot more in the long term. Those who provide SEO services with a cheap SEO pricing model often have to cut corners. They use "black hat" SEO techniques against Google's SEO standards.

As soon as Google finds out that your website broke one of its rules, it will be removed from its index for good. Every penny you spend on SEO will be a waste if this happens. This is why small businesses need to choose local SEO services wisely.

If you do not want to be taken advantage of in the SEO industry, you need to work with companies and freelancers who explain their services clearly. These explanations should align with your company's goals and show how they will help your ROI increase over time.

Many SEO companies and freelancers will add services that are not needed because they do not care about going above and beyond your business goals. Thus, working with SEO agencies interested in learning about your business goals and explaining how their services will increase your income and market share is very important.

How Much ROI Can A Small Business Get From SEO?

It will take at least five to twelve months before an SEO strategy for your website starts to pay off. This means that it will be a long-term investment, so the costs will also increase over time.

But because SEO's ROI) is so high (up to 1,220%), it is a great financial move for almost any business. So, if you spend $12,000 a year on SEO and are lucky enough to get a big return on investment, like 500%, that comes to $60,000. As long as you have an effective plan for turning site visitors into customers, you won't have to wonder if investing in SEO is worth the money.

Things to Remember Before Hiring SEO Services

Before signing any SEO service contracts, you should know exactly what kinds of deliverables are included in the price, no matter what pricing model you choose. Prices may vary depending on your business or website size, but these ranges should give you an idea of what to expect overall.

If you are paying by the hour, ask how many hours will be spent on your account each month. If you are paying a monthly retainer, ask what kinds of SEO and digital marketing tasks will be included. If you are paying for project-based work, ask about a timeline and what will happen after the project is done.

Moreover, before choosing an SEO agency to help improve your website's search engine ranking, you should do some research. You can also get a good idea of how good an SEO company is by asking for case studies and reviews from the customers it has worked with.

Case studies show how an SEO agency helped some of their clients move up in the search engine results page. By reading reviews, you can also get an idea of how good the agency's work is and whether or not they pay attention to what their customers want.


Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a key aspect of a successful digital marketing strategy and strong brand visibility of small businesses. But if you want to get anything out of SEO, you have to put money into it over the long term. Opting out of SEO will make it easy for competitors to steer people away from your business.

Money-wise, getting an SEO package from an agency on a monthly retainer is more ideal than putting up an in-house SEO team for your small business. The total cost of SEO will depend on the size and complexity of your website as well as the services you need. On average, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $10,000 monthly for professional SEO services.

You can save time by asking the agencies directly for information about their prices and a breakdown of the costs. We are happy to offer a free proposal and consulting call.

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