How Much Does SEO Cost?
As a small business owner myself I know that you want to know how much it will cost you, the problem is that there isn’t necessarily a straight answer here. Yes, you can have packages that will give you a ballpark idea so you can figure what will fit into your monthly or annual budget. The truth is that true local SEO has many facets and just like your small business is unique, oftentimes you need a package that is tailored and unique to your business.
In this guide to local SEO pricing for Asheville, NC, my goal is to give you a fairly good idea of what to look for and expect when you are speaking with marketing agencies that specialize in local SEO. I want to make sure you are equipped to compare apples to apples not apples to oranges.
How are SEO Prices Determined?
As you start the process, you will need to be sure to collect and be able to provide some information about your business to the quoting agency in order to receive an accurate estimate of SEO pricing. This will help an SEO marketing agency determine the type of content needed, just how much work will be required, and approximately how long a project should take to complete.
Some of these crucial elements include, but are not limited to:
- What is the current state of your search presence, or what are you showing up for and not for on the search results pages (SERPs)?
- What is the value of an average sale?
- What is your close rate of leads to sales?
- What are your goals for hiring a local marketing agency?
- How quickly do you want to see results?
- What is and how is the current marketing budget allocated?
How Much Do Most Businesses Pay for SEO Services?
Image Source: Spakrtoro
There are various payment structures that are commonly used for SEO pricing. According to a Sparktoro survey, nearly 9 out of 10 SEO Consultants or SEO Agencies charge monthly retainer fees.
This survey also found that most firms charge between $500 and $5,000 per month. With the peak rates being $1,000-$2,500 per month.
What is a “Good” Price for SEO Services?
Oftentimes a lower price can mean low quality of service, or in some cases, it just means an agency has significantly lower overhead.
However, I would be leery of a business that is offering services for anything less than $250-$400 a month. Most businesses like this are going to be offering you bare minimum options, using shady methods like link schemes, or in my mind taking your hard-earned money and providing you with very little results.
In 2018 Ahrefs reported that:
- More experienced SEOs charge significantly more than less experienced SEOs (surprising, right!?). Those who’ve been in business for 2+ years charge 39.4% more per hour, 102.41% more for monthly retainers, and a staggering 275% more for one-off projects than those who’ve been in business for fewer than 2 years, on average.
- SEOs who only serve their local market charge significantly less than those serving the worldwide market. On average, those serving the worldwide market charge 130.74% more than those serving the local market when it comes to monthly retainer pricing. Our findings were similar for hourly and per-project pricing, too—albeit not quite as extreme.
Are Monthly SEO Services the Better Option?
When exploring and thinking about SEO rates, the first thing to keep in mind is that it will be a continuous service or solution you need, rather than a one-and-done option. In other words, SEO isn’t like a website where you can just “SEO it” and expect to keep bearing fruit. SEO is something that takes time to grow and must be nurtured.
Aside from the aspirations and goals you have for your business, the sort of service(s) you want influences SEO pricing. This component cannot be considered without first addressing the problem of quality.
As I mentioned before, most SEO tactics require monthly attention. SEO methods, such as link building and content marketing, require ongoing monthly work.
Your content and links must be updated, upgraded, and continuously improved on a regular basis. This is why most small business owners gladly pay a monthly retainer for a high-quality SEO service.
How Much Does Local SEO Cost?
As a local small business, you are likely marketing to a local client base as well. If that's the case, I am guessing you are asking yourself, “how much does local SEO cost?”
Some good news: local SEO for Asheville businesses is typically cheaper than national or global SEO services. The reason is that the competition is much lower, and you are dealing with a much smaller, more concentrated target audience.
What Types of Local SEO Packages Are There?
The cost of local SEO, like global SEO, will depend on the pricing models you are interested in and the search engine optimization package your local Asheville small business needs. Local SEO can be categorized into four categories:
1. Automated Local SEO ($200-$400 per month)
This is often the cheapest option for ensuring that a small business's information is submitted to directories. This will often include verifying that your NAP or contact information, such as name, address, phone number(s), and email connections, are correct across the web. While this is needed and should be part of any local SEO strategy, unfortunately, it doesn’t improve your search position. The reason being is this is merely the necessary information that Google and Bing uses for geographical search results. However, this can be enough to gain limited visibility if you only operate in one location, such as Asheville, Hendersonville, or Black Mountain, and want to target clients within a few miles.
These automated type services entail updating all business accounts on location-based sites as well as including required links and information that clients frequently look for, such as hours or services. It may include limited posting on your Google Business profile, but it will not have any form of content marketing or social media management, which is where you see the most gains.
2. Basic Local SEO ($400-$1,000 per month)
A basic Local SEO plan will often involve creating highly targeted geographical or local landing pages. These pages are designed to let the search engines know who you are, what service you offer, and in what location. Often these pages may be combined with pay-per-click ads or social media campaigns that are highly localized to reach a geographic audience. Basic Local SEO is designed for solopreneurs and those businesses that are just starting out with a limited geographic area and limited budgets. Packages in this price range are suitable for the budding entrepreneur as they can help them keep costs low while reaching a highly relevant and target audience.
The goal here is knowing how to optimize content for local searcher intent and find creative ways to reach buyers that meet the necessary criteria. While this is more complex than an “automated SEO approach,” basic local SEO marketers can help you and your Asheville small business cover the essentials without delving into the weeds. While this is an excellent place to start, it does not guarantee any rapid growth and will usually take longer to see traction (6-18 months depending on the competition).
3. Local SEO for Small Businesses (starting at $800 per month)
A local SEO for small business plan should be a combination of the automated and basic Local SEO plans. But unlike the basics, you will have much more content being produced in the form of blogs and geographical landing pages. It may also include offerings of PPC, social media, and reputation management.
Some of the other major performance metrics covered in plans such as these may include more closely monitoring your search engine ranking, analytics, competition, website health, reviews, citations, Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), backlink audits, and building, and social media engagement.
It should come as no surprise that local SEO plans pricing will increase more as they become more comprehensive and more services are added. However, the more intensive and specialized the marketing plans are to your Asheville-based business, the more value and better ROI you will see.
What are Other SEO Pricing Factors?
Beyond the typical differentiation between agency rates, SEO pricing plans and packages can be impacted by various factors such as:
Some industries are more likely to invest in digital marketing than others. Therefore, they are much more competitive.
HubSpot has a list of some of the most expensive keywords on Google. Among the top of that list are lawyers, medical offices, finance companies, locksmiths, and car mechanics. Other industries with highly competitive and thus expensive keywords include real estate, home improvement businesses, software companies, and marketing services, just to name a few.
Image Source: Hubspot
The cost per click (CPC) for these highly competitive keywords might exceed $1,000 in some instances! Niche small businesses typically have an advantage in this area since they may use longer keyword phrases or different keywords with reduced competition and pricing.
Everything from the area you are targeting or the population of a city can impact SEO and PPC pricing. Even individual factors can have an impact. For instance, breweries would be much more competitive in Asheville compared to Wilkesboro, NC, or Hickory, NC.
Of course, more densely populated areas such as major metropolitan areas and cities will face more competition. Costs for localized SEO and PPC plans in areas like Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro will be far higher than for many businesses that only want to target clients living in those areas or the small nearby towns.
What Type of Services Do You Need
SEO plans and pricing options will often be determined by whether you want to optimize your site for organic search, produce lots of content, build up a review profile, or focus on paid search ads. For example, if all you need help with is setting up Google Business Profile and doing a bit of technical SEO, this could be a one-off project. If you want to really grow your business, then you might need to build up lots of content focused around a blog and local landing pages so that you can rank better on the SERPs. Therefore if that is your goal, a monthly retainer would be a much better choice.
Current Brand Awareness and Visibility
SEO plans and pricing can also shift depending on where your Asheville business and brand currently stands in terms of visibility, awareness, and credibility. If you are a brand-new small business and just starting out, then there is inherently more leg work that needs to be done. However, suppose you have been running your business in Asheville for several years, and you already have an established search presence. In that case, you may only need to focus on optimization and maintenance.
How to Determine Your Budget for SEO Services?
You may be wondering if the question of “How much does local SEO cost” is really a good question? What about the question of “How much should you be paying or budgeting?”
When researching SEO consultants, you should consider what you need to do to outperform your competition. Even if you have superior services or products, your competition will get more online leads if their website ranks higher in the SERPs than yours.
A recent Sistrix report found that 28.5% of Google users click the first organic result that appears in the SERPs. 15.7% look at the second, and the numbers decrease from there.
The report goes on to state that:
A ranking at position #1 achieves a click rate that is more than ten times higher than a ranking at position #10. The biggest absolute leap in CTR is made with a ranking improvement from # 2 to # 1: this improvement leads to a CTR that is 12.8 percentage points higher.
Given the above-stated facts, you must first determine where you are in relation to your competition and how much effort it will take you to begin outranking them.
Budgeting for SEO Services?
Now you need to look at your current budget constraints in terms of predicted growth. When creating objectives, you must be both ambitious and rational. It is highly unlikely that your organic traffic would quadruple or triple within the first few months of executing an SEO strategy. This may, however, be an excellent goal to set for the next couple of years.
When you speak with an SEO agency about your Asheville small business, be prepared to elaborate on your basic expenditures and ROI goals. While it might not seem relevant at the time, a good SEO consulting agency can help you determine what a reasonable working budget for their services is. While an SEO agency cannot promise a particular ROI number, they may be able to provide you with forecasts based on comparable businesses they have helped in the past. Then with this knowledge, you are better equipped to choose a suitable budget amount.
How Can You Determine Your Competition’s SEO Performance?
How do you know which competitors are beating you and what they are doing to beat you in SEO? Most business owners think they can just Google keywords to see how they are performing compared to their competitors. The problem is that Google knows a lot about you if you are logged in as a user. And when I say a lot, I really mean everything you search for via the site or app. According to an article on Reader's Digest, Google keeps “a list of every single Google search you’ve done.” Therefore you aren’t getting accurate results when you Google on your own.
Now you may think that it’s impossible to tell how the competition is performing locally. However, there are ways to tell.
- Do some keyword research, exploring the top ten performers for your target keywords. Check out a good list of tools here.
- Explore stats and data like Domain Authority, which can provide a clear picture of how your competitors are performing and what you’ll need to do to outrank them or how much you need to budget and spend to outrank them.
Small versus Medium versus Enterprise Businesses: How does the price differ?
You would be right to assume that small business owners’ SEO plans and campaigns for Asheville, North Carolina, can be comparatively cheaper than medium or large enterprise size companies or corporations.
SEO agencies strive to make strategies scalable so that hourly fees and set pricing are reasonable for a wide range of clients. According to one poll of agencies by Ahrefs:
40.8% stated that they offer multiple pricing models. But 59.2% of respondents offer only one pricing model, 66.99% of whom charge a monthly retainer. This means that 39.66% of all SEOs surveyed only charge a monthly retainer—they do not offer hourly or per-project pricing to any of their clients.
Multiple pricing models enable North Carolina small business owners to select the solution that best meets their specific needs. For example, you can pay hourly and expect to spend between $100 and $175. Whereas if you go with a retainer solution, it might range from $250 to $7,500+ each month. If you were to choose to go project-based, it could run the gamut of a few hundred dollars to five figures.
It should be noted that prices are often determined by SEO pricing factors I previously mentioned and can vary for each agency, small business, business industry, and project type.
Unfortunately, small business owners have no fixed cost to fall back on when asking: “How much does SEO cost for small business needs?” Instead, we recommend that you invest at a minimum of $500 per month on SEO in order to see any tangible results and benefits.
What Should You Do if You Have a Limited Budget?
Many North Carolina small business owners make one big mistake when thinking about or looking at SEO. That mistake is they look at it as a cost or even as a risk. Instead, SEO should be viewed as a long-term investment that provides ongoing benefits to you and your small business.
Content marketing is incredibly cost-effective and offers amazing ROI. Compared to traditional marketing programs, content marketing costs 62% less and generates approximately three times the volume of leads.
Considering that, the impact of a great piece of content on your website may have a far more significant impact than any ad can for the price.
Also, think about this, paying a talented SEO marketer to create a high-level piece of optimized content for your website can drive in new leads for years to come. A one-time payment can pay off dividends in the future.
While $300 is the bare minimum, Asheville small business owners should aim to spend somewhere between $500 and $5000 each month on SEO and content marketing.
Remember, the more experienced an SEO professional means that they can provide you with scalable services without missing any essential components, such as:
- Production of high-quality content
- Conversion rate optimization
- Client review management
- Accessibility and usability of your website
- Link building
Should Your SEO Spending Budget Be Increased Over Time?
A fully-managed SEO marketing plan for your business could easily cost you upwards of $5,000 per month. Essentially what you're doing at this point is hiring a part-time chief marketing officer and their expert staff, thus allowing you to forget about promotion and delegate it out. Enterprise companies might easily pay up to $100,000 per month on SEO, depending on the keywords and the amount of competition.
As a result, high-quality SEO services may be cost-effective and have a phenomenal ROI. Also, keep in mind that it may take some time before you begin to see meaningful returns from SEO (6-18 months). This isn't a sprint; it is very much a marathon. The more work you put into content creation, keyword inclusion, link-building, and other SEO strategies, you will see better results.
What’s the ROI of SEO?
There is no guaranteed ROI for SEO services. In fact, if an SEO agency guarantees you any sort of results (other than doing everything they can to help you succeed), you should run!
There is some good news, though, most Asheville businesses that stick with SEO and content marketing see positive results, if not dramatic, results.
First Page Sage provides the following information on the different types of marketing efforts along with the returns and break-even times.
|SEO Service||Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS)||ROI||Time to Break-Even|
(Technical fixes, keyword research, title tag rewrites)
Standard Content Marketing
(Average quality keyword research & blog articles ~4x / month)
Thought Leadership Marketing
(Transactional quality keyword research & blog articles ~8x / month)
(Source: First Page Sage: SEO ROI Statistics 2022 )
However, it should be noted that the average return rates will depend greatly on the industry of the business and the types of services.
SEO relies on a wide range of factors, many of which are outside the control of both you and the SEO agency. In addition, it takes time for SEO efforts to pay off. When you reorganize your material, you generally won't see an immediate increase in traffic.
The key to SEO is to be patient and persistent, even if a specific return on investment cannot be predicted. Most small companies begin to see returns within six months to a year of launching their SEO and content marketing campaign.
I hope this has given you an insider's look into SEO pricing structures and the variables that influence how much you will need to invest in SEO services. Asheville small businesses that need SEO services often don't have a one-size-fits-all budget. However, the more you can afford (and are willing) to invest in high-quality content and services, your outcomes and ROI will be better.
At Cube Creative Design, we provide scalable, professional SEO services and solutions to suit your Asheville, North Carolina business’s budget. With our help, you'll be able to outrank your competition on the SERPs without breaking the bank. Get in touch with us today, and we can start putting together the perfect SEO package for you.