How much does SEO cost?

With organic search results, it really depends on how much value this type of traffic can bring to your business and how many different marketing channels you are investing in aside from SEO. Some businesses just do SEO while others run paid ads, social media, radio and more.

As an overall budget, small businesses should invest at least 5% of annual revenue on just SEO.

  • If you are spending less than $10,000 for the year, you should have your SEO company do the work in a two month time period. They will unlikely do actual search engine optimization otherwise over the course of the year, or at least any worthwhile activity.
  • If you are spending less than $20,000, have them complete the work in 3 months. Be sure to review their plan and determine their deliverables. Before completion, be sure to review that list and confirm this work has been completed to your satisfaction.
  • If you are spending over $20,000 you may end up stretching the budget over the course of the year. With this type of investment, your small business will likely gain from the longer term relationship and make improvements based upon success or change recommendations from data.

If I were a teacher in a classroom and asked how much should be spent on marketing for a small business, I would have to stop and ponder, then give the following answer –

About 10 to 15 percent of revenue should be spent on marketing.

That is the short answer. Easy, wrapped in a bow, done.

Business doesn’t occur in a classroom though. For a small business that is looking to bring in $250,000 their first year, it can almost come as a shock to the system to realize you will need to put up $35,000 in marketing for one year. In some cases it is almost unavoidable to do so. If you are opening a divorce law practice in Chicago, it would be near impossible to expect leads without investing in online advertising and SEO. Legal Practices and digital marketing go hand in hand nowadays.

Without being too crass, the old saying is true. It costs money to make money.

What are SEO Companies actually Charging you for


There is time that goes into setting up tools, receiving passwords, gaining access to needed online resources, etc. There is also a process of getting an intake of what the client goals and objectives are from stakeholders within the company and confirming exactly what your business should rank for. If this is not being addressed, you are not really getting marketing services.


Gaining a historical understanding of the domains, company history, data from past reports and more takes time. Once this process is complete, a strategy and work plan can be formulated and executed.

Technical Onsite Improvements

The analysis and changes can be as simple as the image file sizes are too large all of the way to a new website is needed because it is not mobile friendly. Google and the other search engines have requirements to make it easier for them to crawl and index websites. We make sure your company abides by these best practices when possible.

There are some great tools available to provide a simple overview if you want to take a look yourself.

Page Speed Insights from Google

Pingdom Speed Test


If you are not having actual conversations with your SEO company, you are likely not getting nearly the benefit of the relationship that you should be. Changes occur within your business that often your marketing company should be aware of and there really is no replacement for analyzing data together and the questions that follow.

Website Content Improvements

Based upon the plan, pages can be evaluated to determine which require improvements, which ones need to be merged or removed and what pages need to be created that do not yet exist. This is a time consuming process, but once completed, you now have a roadmap for how to achieve success.


Other websites linking to your build up a profile in the search engine algorithms. Your SEO company needs time for research and to deliver a plan on to deliver these backlinks to strategic pages on your website.


You need to be able to see the results of these efforts. This should not be just a bunch of data and graphs, but a discussion of what work was done, what do these results mean and how will next quarter’s plan effect those numbers.

Should an SEO agency guarantee results?

Google will be the first to tell you that any marketing company out there that guarantees results, is likely

Even Google’s own documentation makes that clear:

Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings
if they guarantee
If they guarantee you that their changes will give you first place in search results, find someone else.

This is not to say that they can’t offer a money back guarantee. The question is do you want to spend time working with a company that you chose not because they had the experience and track record of results, but because they would give you your money back? That is, if they will give the refund. And then consider all of the time that has gone by without actual marketing work being performed.