Before I answer what SEO costs, I think it’s important to talk about what the wrong price to pay for SEO is. I recently met with a small business owner who had been paying $275/month for 3 years. His site was a mess, his domain name had little to do with his brand or his services. Google has 9 pages indexed for his site. He’s not receiving monthly updates from his SEO provider and when I inquired as to what keywords he’s ranking well for, he wasn’t sure. On top of this, while the site had some minor optimizations, it left a lot to be desired from an SEO of even intermediate skills. This man had spent close to $10k on search engine optimization services and he was, apparently, getting little to nothing for it.

These bad actors ask for minimal investment and deliver next to nothing in return, or worse, they achieve quick and unbelievable results through black hat SEO tactics including low-quality link networks. While this might be initially great news, these tactics can (and likely eventually will) result in Google delisting your website, which will cost you quite a bit more money to recover from. Let’s call these people what they truly are: Spammers and scammers. They reach out to a business owner and suggest a price that undercuts the market while promising the world. What happens when the SEO service doesn’t deliver? Almost nothing. If the small business owner recognizes how little is being done on their behalf, the cost has been so minimal that it’s not worth it for that business owner to hold anyone accountable.

The true end result of hiring a cheap search engine optimization servicer is that the business owner has just lost time, budget, and faith in digital services. The only party this is good for is the cheap SEO, who has already moved on to his next mark.

SEO can be too cheap. Anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in your success and offers you inexpensive SEO is likely not worthy of your trust or your budget.

Now that you know what you shouldn’t pay for search engine optimization services on your website, let’s get to the reason you arrived at this article in the first place:

How much does SEO cost per month?

According to a 2018 article on


  • The majority of SEOs charge between $75 – $150 per hour.
  • Monthly retainers will generally run you between $500 – $1,000/month in the US.
  • The more experienced an SEO, the more they’ll charge.

Let’s follow up those hard numbers by answering a question a prospect recently asked me:


How does an SEO agency justify their monthly cost?

Technical Search Engine Optimization

Technical SEO is all about making sure that your site is visible, in full, to Google and Bing, communicating your site’s pages and relevance to search engines, meets Google’s Best Practice Guidelines for SEO, is visible and functional on all platforms, including (and maybe, most importantly) mobile devices. All of the work in the world won’t be worth much if Google doesn’t know it exists.

Key Query and Competitive Research

You can absolutely achieve with a rudderless SEO campaign, in the same way that a rudderless boat can hit land. It’s mostly out of your control and relies on an abundance of luck. Upfront key query research can help give some guidance around what content should be created, including what questions are being asked that you can and should answer, and where your best competitors are earning search traffic.

As your content matures, Google will start ranking it in search. Your SEO practitioner should be able to inform you for what queries your pages are actually ranking at volume and recommend some adjustments for continued upticks in search visibility. Remember that your website is a living and ever-evolving library of information. A website is always under construction.


I’ve said it before – I will continue to say it: Poorly optimized content that’s great can rank all on its own, while well-optimized content that’s poor may fail to provide results.

The clients that I’ve achieved the best results with are also those clients who are continually creating new written content. This can be content that they write themselves, that they have outsourced to a copywriter or a combination of both. Your investment in SEO should partially go to creating new content and/or adding markups and refinements to new content.

Reporting and Analysis

This is really what you’re paying for – proof of change. I’m still amazed by the number of people paying for search engine optimization services that aren’t having regular check-ins with their agency. Website traffic and analytics reporting, ideally, is where the rubber meets the road and your learning how your rankings are fluctuating, discover trends in your traffic, and review what upcoming work should include to maintain or improve upon your existing rankings, and find new opportunities.

Off-page SEO

Your companies trust with your audience or relevance with search engines isn’t solely built on your website alone. There are a host of websites that can reference your content, provide categorical context for your services, and furnish customer and employee reviews of your company. All of these entities are important to the search experience and should be tended to in part or wholly by your search engine optimization agency.

This includes ensuring that all of your social media profiles include accurate and complete information, that your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are kept up-to-date and include frequent updates, and, if included in scope, that backlinks from highly trusted sites are secured, when possible.

Another consideration to be aware of is that if your search engine optimization agency finds that you have received poor reviews which are breaking trust with potential customers, they should recommend a reputation management program meant to address negative reviews and generate reviews from happy customers.

And if everything is going right, they should come back after a while and ask for a bigger budget.

You probably don’t want to hear it, but justifying an increased budget is the mark of an SEO and/or marketing program that’s going well. Your investment should result in improved results. Your agency should want to build and continue a relationship with you. Eventually, be it a quarter or a year down the road, your SEO company should be able to show you how far your investment has taken you so far and where additional budget should allow you to go in the future.

Whether your hire 4B or not, you deserve to get the best search engine optimization for your business. For that reason, we strongly recommend that you invest the 12 minutes required to watch this video from Google on how to hire a good SEO service and avoid a bad SEO service. If you’re ready to get started improving your velocity of search traffic, get in touch.