If you’re here, you already know that SEO is an integral part of any digital marketing strategy. You want to include it—you just need a better idea of what it’s going to cost you.
Spoiler alert: There’s no fixed, magic number. Depending on your needs, SEO can be managed in-house or by partnering with a digital marketing agency like VELOX. Naturally, that means the cost can span a wider range than you might see for other marketing-related services. The good news is there’s a sweet spot in that range just for you once you’ve determined your business’s needs, goals, and timeline.
The first thing you want to consider is pretty obvious: Will SEO really benefit your business? The short answer is that if you run an online business or have a presence online, then SEO can absolutely take it further. The longer answer is slightly more complicated. If your business is creating a new market or part of a growing industry (like CBD, for instance), then SEO has to work a lot harder to meet your goals. The harder it has to work, the more it’s going to cost, and that might not be worth it if you’re just getting started.
If your business needs the whole package—on-site optimization, search engine marketing, PPC, link building, etc.—then your spend is going to be higher. However, if you think that just a couple of these services will suffice, you can save some money and still enjoy some benefits.
The same is true for your own contribution. Do you have an employee or in-house team who can handle the time and commitment needed for a solid SEO strategy? If not, you’d probably be better off hiring a digital marketing agency to take care of it. Unless you already have SEO experts on your payroll, it’ll cost you less, in the long run, to have an outside company handle the logistics for you.
To give some perspective, here are a few of the core services that most digital marketing experts consider to be part of the “complete SEO package,” along with a breakdown of why they’re important:
From fashion to cosmetics, skincare, and more, search engines have quickly become the first and most popular place that consumers start looking when they decide they want to research or purchase new products and services. Whether it’s to brush up on new trends or compare reviews between brands, the last few years have seen significant changes in consumer behavior. As a result, businesses and retailers have been forced to adapt as consumers look for faster and more convenient ways to replicate the window-shopping experience.
In short, the #1 spot in organic search results has never been more important, especially for smaller businesses looking to make a name for themselves in a crowded or competitive industry. From keyword research to customer engagement, a complete SEO strategy starts with helping your brand to stand out in SERPs, driving more qualified traffic to your website in the process.
While organic search might be considered the base of your SEO strategy, PPC campaigns play an equal part in boosting your brand’s overall reach. From Google Ads to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, a well-executed PPC strategy can provide your business with quick, conversion-friendly results. This is because the customers clicking on these ads are already interested, often clicking with the intent to make a purchase. Likewise, the PPC model is highly targeted, meaning you can narrow your audience by age, geographical area, interest, or even marital status.
For businesses looking to promote time-sensitive offers (like holiday sales) or novel products and services (think B2B or SaaS products), the PPC model is especially effective. It allows you to run simultaneous A/B tests on different ad sets to find the most conversion-friendly variant. Likewise, you can use branded and non-branded campaigns to increase your visibility in SERPs, as paid ads naturally top the list in search results. With 75% of Google search results ending on the first page, this makes PPC an excellent way to drive ROI-positive traffic to your website, no matter your industry or niche.
Whether through unique website content, blog articles, or video content distributed across social media channels, effective digital marketing means targeting and engaging your core audience with relevant, high-quality content. As highlighted above, today’s consumers and their expectations are vastly different from just two or three years ago. Most shoppers are seeking gratification, authenticity, and hyper-personalization from the brands they interact with, and recent statistics show that 57% of consumers who feel connected to a brand will increase their spending with that brand. Likewise, 76% of those consumers will stick to one brand over a competitor if the connection feels strong enough. If that weren’t enough, Forbes highlights that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.
More than ever, these connections are being made through various forms of content marketing. Fashion retailers often find success when they incorporate shoppable UGC and video marketing into their content strategies, supplementing those efforts with highly targeted imagery or blogs to highlight the latest industry trends. At the same time, B2B businesses tend to benefit from infographics, as this method is perfect for breaking down and communicating complex ideas or information. Whatever the approach, a well-executed content marketing strategy can often be the difference between whether or not users choose to convert, as the end goal is to engage potential customers at every stage of the buying process. With so many brands vying for the same customers, those that succeed are often the ones who learn to tackle their content marketing with a more strategic mindset.
While crafting relevant, high-quality content is a key component of effective SEO, it’s only part of the process. When deciding how to rank your website, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines also take a look at how many links lead back to your site. They then look at the quality of those links, as the more high-quality, trustworthy, and authoritative these third-party sites are, the higher your blog posts and landing pages stand to appear in search engine results. When someone links back to your content, you earn a backlink from that site to your own, exposing your brand to a much larger audience. This process is known as link building and, when done correctly, it can help establish your website as an authority in your chosen industry. As a result, your brand gains a boost in visibility, helping you climb the ranks of organic search that much faster.
Naturally, this means that you’ll want to publish content that provides real value, aka content that teaches or helps a reader understand something. To give an example, let’s suppose you run a health and wellness business. If you’re trying to market a new supplement or product, it would be in your best interest to publish content that highlights the benefits of that product while answering common questions. If done well, this can help establish your brand’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. As more people take note of your content’s value, there’s a greater chance they’ll want to link back to it, sharing it with friends, family, or colleagues across different websites and social media channels. It’s a win-win, and the process remains the same whether you’re selling weight-loss products or home gym equipment. At the end of the day, you want to give people a reason to trust you and share your brand with others.
Like every business, your website says a lot about the level of professionalism that clients and customers can expect. If your site looks sloppy or unorganized, you run the risk of damaging customer perceptions about your brand. At the same time, a poorly designed website can leave gaps in purchasing journeys, making it easy to lose out on potential conversions. While you might have gotten away with a basic website before, things are very different today, especially if you’re looking to drive sales for an eCommerce business.
It’s no secret that eCommerce is a rapidly changing environment, and by 2025, it’s expected that eCommerce sales will account for almost a quarter of worldwide retail sales. It’s important to take a step back and examine how well your current website is performing. All aspects of your website, from its design to its content, images, and navigational structure should support your growth goals. You also need to incorporate SEO best practices to ensure your website is discoverable. Like the other pillars mentioned above, improving the user experience of your website greatly helps to boost the visibility of your website in search engine results pages.
While every online business can benefit from a well-executed SEO strategy, not every business is going to take the same approach to marketing. Some might prefer to keep everything in-house, believing themselves to be the only ones capable of meeting the needs, goals, and challenges of their company and chosen industry. On the other hand, others might wish to weigh their options, factoring in the cost of outsourcing that challenge to a digital marketing agency.
If you find yourself on the fence about which is right for your business, you can always do some quick math on both options. For the sake of clarity, let’s consider the cost of building an in-house SEO team first.
Right off the bat, you’ll need to factor in the salaries of a full team of digital marketers, from your Content Writers to your Director of Marketing, Social Media Manager, SEO Analysts, and more. In addition to these salaries, you’ll also have to factor in the costs of employee benefits, health insurance, yearly bonuses, etc. It’s a lot to consider, but our own research puts that number at an upwards of $84k per month or just over $1 million per year.
If that weren’t enough, there are two other factors to consider when deciding whether to tackle SEO on your own. For starters, SEO is inherently complex, and that complexity requires a special combination of people and talent to see results. If you’re not too experienced with SEO, it would be just as difficult to gauge which employees might be right for the job, especially if your company is part of a crowded or competitive industry like fashion, beauty and skincare, or health and wellness. Secondly, let’s suppose that the stars aligned and you found the perfect person for every SEO role. What if someone quits? What if they find a better opportunity elsewhere? Worse yet, what if they actually weren’t right for the job? You now have to worry about the costs of replacing this individual, and the time spent doing so could easily eat into the time you would have spent on other revenue-making opportunities instead. It’s not the best scenario to imagine, but it’s food for thought.
On the flip side, let’s suppose your company decides to look into third-party options, namely hiring a digital marketing agency to streamline your SEO efforts from the ground up. A quick look at the numbers will tell you that the cost of digital marketing in 2022 for small to mid-size businesses ranges from $2500 to $12,000 per month, $50 to $500+ per hour, and $1000 to $7500 per project. Naturally, this depends upon the services offered, but it gives you an idea as to what you might spend. Better still, even if you spent close to $20k per month on SEO and SEM services, it’s a far cry from the average $84k per month to hire and retain an SEO team of your own. In other words, your business already stands to save money in the long run (upwards of $768,000 per year) by entrusting your campaigns to digital marketing professionals.
That being said, working with a digital marketing agency comes with some obvious perks beyond the money saved. For starters, it grants you the opportunity to bring in a second team of experts on whatever goals you have for your business. That’s twice the manpower and brainpower on your campaigns, up to and including any SEO analysis, keyword research, content creation, etc. that you may need. Likewise, the right digital marketing agency will already be familiar with brands like yours, and your research will likely highlight any noteworthy case studies they have in your industry. Best of all, a marketing agency is going to be that much more adept at staying on top of digital marketing trends, whether it’s changes to Google’s algorithm, updates to popular marketing tools, or shifts in consumer buying habits.
Speaking of goals, an important part of knowing and setting your goals is to keep reasonable expectations. Every company is different in some way, so you can’t fully expect one company’s goals to apply to yours, even if you’re in the same industry. The next step, naturally, is identifying and outlining those goals. Here, it’s important to be both smart and realistic. In other words, you need to set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to your business, and timely.
For instance, it’s easy to say, “I want to increase my revenue,” but that’s a broad goal and not all that reasonable on its own. Instead, you want to aim for something more specific like, “I want to increase my revenue by 15% by the end of this quarter.” From there, you can focus on how you’ll implement and benchmark that goal.
Will you use PPC campaigns and on-site optimization? Would a link-building strategy help? Whatever you choose, you need to determine how you’ll measure that strategy’s success. Take advantage of the tools out there to help you. Hint: Google Ads is your friend, even if you’re working with a smaller budget.
Needless to say, you’re already going to great lengths to lay these plans out, so make sure a 15% increase by the end of the quarter is a practical goal. Ask yourself, is it truly attainable, or is it a pipe dream? Keep in mind that if you aim higher than your business can actually reach, you could set yourself up for disappointment. While a 10% increase is lower, you’ll feel much better if you meet or exceed it than if you set a 15% increase goal and only hit 11%.
That same principle holds true for deadlines. You want your goals to be timely, but you also need them to be reasonably timely. Is the end of the quarter an achievable timeline for increasing revenue by 15%? Would it make more sense to add a few months to the deadline? Like with the actual percentage, you’ll feel more successful if you reach your goal by the later deadline, rather than nearly reaching it by an earlier one.
We already mentioned that your goals should be timely, and reasonably so, but your expectations for results also need to be just as timely. Google states that SEO can take at least four months to have a visible impact, so you should keep that in mind when mapping out your strategy and the budget to go with it.
Larger companies with an established online presence can potentially see results sooner than a smaller one just beginning to make a dent in the market. Companies that only operate locally may have better results more quickly, if they target the right keywords, than a company trying to garner awareness on a global scale. Wherever your company falls on the spectrum, make sure the money you’re setting aside for your SEO plan is enough to be effective in that space without putting your business in a tough spot.
Now that you know what you need, what your goals are, and how long it may take to see results, what do you do? The answer is simple: research. Use Google Ads’ tools to choose the best keywords for your purposes, then plug in your budget to see what it’ll cost to run ads for those each day. If you decide to work with a digital marketing agency, check out several companies and decide what you want to ask in advance.
As far as the main question here—what you should be spending on SEO—the answer is up to you. Our best advice, however, is to be prepared to invest. While there are agencies out there offering cheap services with fast results, you should be wary of them. Though there’s no set number for what SEO will cost you, there is a threshold. In short, companies that offer a monthly fee of $200-500, regardless of your business or overall vertical, are almost certain to offer meager, cookie-cutter results.
In the meantime, we recommend that you lay out the minimum you think you’ll need to spend, based on your research, as well as the maximum you’re willing to spend to get results. Because there’s no fixed number that can apply to every business, only a relative range depending on your industry, you should strategize based on a range as well. It’s the most practical way to give yourself a realistic look at what you should be spending on SEO. If you find yourself needing a hand figuring out the specifics, VELOX is here to help. From cosmetics digital marketing to PPC for fashion brands, we offer proven results at competitive and honest rates, and we’ll always be transparent about the work we’re doing for you and why it works.