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How much should I spend on SEO?

What you should spend on search engine optimization is a question I hear over and over again. There isn't a magic figure but there is a way to measure if you're spending too much for what you're getting.

So how much do people spend?

From zero to millions

I can launch a website in about a week and it will rank, bring in traffic and make money. After the initial investment in search engine friendly design and some really comprehensive, quality content I don't need to do anymore. I often don't even go off on link building exercises, email promotions or all of the other things some will tell you have to be done.

You just don't need to because if the website is up to it and its getting traffic then some of those visitors will do the promoting for me. I'm not unusual, anyone who is competent in SEO can do it.

Going forward I can just leave these websites to tick along and do their thing. Essentially, after the initial development and launch, my SEO bill is zero.

I have plenty of clients who just needed their websites sorted out the once with occasional updates as Googlee's algorithm changes. Their annual SEO bills will often be less than $1,000.

And then there are those that spend hundreds of thousands because every day they do a ranking battle with others in highly competitive billion dollar industries where moving up the search results a couple of places can create millions in extra revenue.

But I'm going to assume you are not the CEO of General Motors who has just dropped buy to get a budget figure. Your SEO costs are likely to be somewhere in between zero and millions. But where?

First up stop wasting money

I get a lot of clients who come to me from other SEO agencies. When I ask them what that search engine optimization company is doing for them their not sure. They've been brushed off with some jargon. One I heard the other day, "They're doing some sort of keyword insertion thing".

Yes there are people out there who are paying a couple of thousand a month for "some sort of keyword insertion thing". Month after month. So don't be embarrassed if that's you, I totally get it. Paying a SEO agency can sometimes act as a comfort blanket. You feel that you are taking SEO action because you're paying a bill but in reality they're probably just sitting with their feet up.

Unless that agency is coming to you every month with a detailed report, in plain English, about what they have been up to then it is 99% likely you are wasting money, no matter what your bill is.

SEO is not complicated to understand, although it can be complex to implement, so there is absolutely no reason why a search engine optimizer can't tell you what they are doing for you to earn their bacon.

Learn first, spend second

If you don't understand the basics of SEO you will always be at risk of wasting cash. The Webmaxing SEO Basics Course takes less than a day. It's a course I designed especially for absolute beginners.

Once you're done you'll be able to have a sensible conversation with any online marketing agency and they won't be able to fob you off with jargon. If you are paying someone now who is reporting their activity to you then you'll be able to see if you're spending your money wisely.

A reasonable cost for SEO starts with an audit

"OK, got it but give us a ballpark figure" I hear you say.

Alright. Here goes. First you need to identify what search engine optimization opportunities you have. There might be some simple changes you can implement and that's it or you might need ongoing help.

To get a website checked over (a SEO audit) from someone who knows what they are doing is going to start at $1,000. It all depends on the size of the site. In an audit you're not just looking for "How to fix this and that" but the opportunities that lie beyond it. Are there other keywords or phrases you could be ranking for that would be effective? Are there other Online Marketing activities - be that social media or paid advertising - that would complement your SEO? And so on.

I'm talking here about someone who doesn't just understand the technical side of SEO but how it fits in with your business needs.

Now of course I'm saying that. Those are the kinds of audits that my agency link2light does so why wouldn't I be giving that type of audit the hard sell? It's just common sense for audits to be this way or you could end up going down roads to no where.

One off SEO Costs or monthly plans

As I've mentioned I have plenty of clients who just needed one off services that only need tweaked now and again as search engines change their ranking rules. These clients can go a couple of years with absolutely no SEO costs.

Anyone who tries to railroad you into a monthly contract from day one without any particular justification is someone who needs to be avoided.

If your website does need ongoing SEO because of the competitive nature of your market or sector then, for a competent search engine optimizer, expect to pay around the $2,000 a month figure.

Your search engine optimizer needs to put aside quality time every month to review your data, identify new opportunities, fix arising issues and action new content. You're just not going to get that done to a high quality by paying less.

If you've got the right person then that $2,000 monthly cost should be comfortably covered by increased revenue from your website within 12 months. Then you'll be in a financial position to turn up the heat if you want to grow further - spend more for more SEO that brings you more revenue.

Summing up

There's no magic figure for "How much to spend on SEO" but there are actions you can take that make Search Engine Optimization pay. First if your spending now make sure its for something and something you understand. Second get a full SEO audit carried out to identify where you are and what opportunities are available and get this from someone who understands more than just SEO, someone who can understand the market in which you operate.

From there you'll be able to know if your website needs some one off work or ongoing attention but remember that ongoing attention for a few hundred dollars per month is unlikely to get you anything effective. In the long run you'll waste more money than biting the bullet and paying what you need to pay to get someone competent.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

Find me on Facebook or get in touch if you need help.

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