What is the best rate for SEO service offerings?

It never fails that I receive an email or phone call with a potential customer asking me how much search engine optimization (SEO) services are or what the going rate is for SEO service offerings.

Most of the time, I respond to their question with a question of whether or not they are aiming to save money on SEO, or drive tangible and profitable results using SEO.

Sometimes potentials then explain that they are on a very tight budget and looking to get the biggest bang for their buck without breaking the bank and their existing search rankings, if any exist.

However, most conversations I classify as tire kickers because potential customers are truly not after sound SEO services as much as they are trying to make the price of SEO fit their understanding and budget of what a small business should pay for SEO services.

The many facets of SEO service offerings

What most potential customers don’t realize is that SEO service offerings have as many factors as does a search ranking algorithm does when ranking websites.

From the market the SEO services are offered in to the various types of SEO service offerings to the varying degrees in experience of SEO professionals and agencies, there are too many moving parts to broadly brushstroke and determine what the best rate is for SEO service offerings.

However, today I’m going to breakdown SEO service offerings into four categories and explain each category and it’s roundabout pricing:

I’ll discuss and cover the pros and cons of each SEO service offering, talk cost or pricing as it relates to return on investment (ROI), and when a business should look to execute such SEO service offerings.

By the end of this post, I hope to provide you greater clarity for which SEO model is the best and most cost-effective model to select to capitalize and receive the greater ROI.

Monthly SEO Services Retainer

As offered here, the monthly SEO services retainer is by far the model that most SEO professionals and agencies hope that businesses will elect to move forward with.

A typical monthly SEO services retainer will be based on performing sound, white-hat SEO principles from month to month.

SEO services will typically include the following:

  • keyword research
  • on and off page optimization strategies
  • press releases
  • content creation in the form or articles or blog blogs
  • social media networking
  • organic link building
  • reporting and analytics capabilities showing results over time

A monthly SEO services retainer is best used by businesses with moderate to high profit margins, and don’t necessarily care to train existing staff, hire in-house SEO staff or perform the SEO work themselves.

This type of SEO service offering can sometimes have low to moderate setup fees based on the services rendered and structure of the SEO services agreement.

For instance, if the monthly SEO services retainer fee is high, the the setup cost could be no to moderate.

The same could be said in reverse to whereby the monthly SEO services retainer fee is low, and setup cost is moderate to high.

On average, a monthly SEO services retainer usually costs $750 to $5,000 each month, and can require a 6-month minimum services agreement.

Fixed Price SEO Services

A very high percentage of small businesses will engage with a SEO professional or agency by way of fixed price SEO services.

Most businesses, especially small businesses with a local market focus, tend to start with fixed price SEO services as a way of testing the SEO waters before making a larger resource commitment to a monthly SEO services retainer.

Typically less of an upfront and overall investment as opposed to a monthly SEO services retainer agreement, business owners are able to scope out a project much like they would a time and materials project.

Fixed Price SEO services can be and are one-time projects that are made to remedy and rectify website flaws that may harm search rankings.

Most of fixed price SEO services agreements focus on strictly enhancing on and off page optimization techniques to boost search rankings.

Although the expense of fixed price SEO is one-time, this can also be a downfall in choosing such a SEO model.

SEO in general is an ongoing activity and benefits gained from one-time changes executing fixed price SEO don’t hold over the long term in regards to keeping the website high-visible and ranked across major search engines.

If your business is one whereby you use a content management system such a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, and you can adhere to basic SEO optimization techniques while keeping your website continuously updated, then fixed price SEO services may very well be the best SEO model for your business.

But if you are ONLY choosing fixed price SEO because your budget is skimpy or non-existent to begin with, and you can’t commit to continuously updating your website and adhering to basic SEO principles, then choosing fixed price SEO is only going to waste your time and money.

On average, most fixed price SEO projects can cost anywhere from $5,000 up to $25,000, depending on the nature and structure of the website and SEO services rendered.

Hourly SEO Services

I’m not going to spend too much time talking about hourly SEO services.

My reason for this is that I don’t recommend anyone turning over the keys to their website to a SEO professional or agency at an hourly rate.

This is very much like having a credit card with no limits and giving it to a teenage to go to the mall on Spring Break.

You can only imagine what will happen and the multiple zeros and commas to come and visit your bank account when the credit card statement appears.

Hourly SEO services agreements can lead to you receiving bills for work that was never rendered or for work that you may not have needed.

If you love receiving unexpected bills and expenses, then by all means move forward with an hourly SEO services agreement.

Yes, it is or can be less expensive than both fixed price SEO and monthly SEO retainer services, but the risk for unexpected billing is off the charts.

That said, I don’t want you to think badly or have a negative image of hourly SEO services.

There can be some good with hourly SEO services seeing you engage with s sound and seasoned SEO professional and agency.

But again, that means you may end up betting and losing the farm before you find the right person or company to render sound SEO services.

Typically, fees for hourly SEO services can be and are nominal at best, and can often have low to no setup fees.

This can also be a downside of hourly SEO services due to the level of experience may or may not be reflected in SEO rates and pricing.

The typical rate per hour for hourly SEO services is $75 to $500 per hour.

Pay-For-Performance SEO

One of the most popular and hottest trending SEO models today for businesses, especially small business owners, is pay-for-performance SEO.

Simply put, SEO results are achieved first, then payment is made by customer.

Customers only pay they receive SEO results as agreed too.

Typically, fees for pay-for-performance are based on tiered-price search engine ranking positions for each keyword or keyword phrase.

Monthly keyword pricing tends to range from $450 to $1,500 for positions 1-5, $250-$1000 for positions 6-10 and $25 – $500 for positions 11-20 based on the competition and industry.

There tends to be low setups fees, if any, for pay-for-performance SEO.

In addition, I’ve also offered pay for lead SEO as pay-for-performance SEO.

In this type of agreement, I own the domain name, website, website content and optimize the website to rank on the first page of major search engines.

When customers visit the website, they simply complete a form to be contacted or dial a number to learn more or schedule services.

Businesses that choose the pay-for-lead option will pay a per lead fee for the potential customers they receive, or sometimes pay a monthly lease fee to be the exclusive partner of the websites I build, develop and optimize for page one search rankings.

Pay per lead or an exclusive leased website agreement is good and cost effective for those with businesses in financial services, insurance, plumbing, legal, heating and air conditioning, and other high-end products and services industries.


Written by Alvin Brown
He's an experienced and passionate serial entrepreneur, founder and publisher of Kickstart Commerce. Alvin possesses a great love for startups dominating their market using profitable digital strategies for greater commerce.