Each company's pricing model will look a little different, and the overall cost will depend on the specific services and level of effort your business requires.
The main piece of advice I can give you here is not to ask "How much does SEO cost?" but rather "How much SEO is needed to rank my website on Page 1?". Many factors can determine the level of SEO investment your business requires to achieve the rankings and results you are looking for, most notably:
- Keywords. Are the keywords you want to rank for competitive? Succeeding in competitive keyword markets take more effort, more time and, therefore, more money.
- Competitors. Do your Page 1 competitors have strong SEO in place? Displacing competitors with a strong online presence will take more effort and time.
- Inventory. What resources do you currently have that can be used for SEO? Analyzing your existing website is the first step in determining how much work is needed.
Be wary if a company is quick to quote you a price without at least first considering these factors. And remember: If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
Any SEO company you hire should be able to prove their legitimacy with industry accolades, partnerships, registrations and more.
Also, make sure they practice "white hat" SEO - as opposed to black hat. Black hat SEO refers to practices that are not sanctioned by Google and other search engines. While your website might see a temporary spike in rankings and traffic from certain black hat SEO techniques in the beginning, your website will eventually be woefully punished and, worst case, disappear from the search results entirely.
To achieve long-term positive results from your SEO strategy, make sure the company you hire practices white hat methodology. One quick and easy way to tell is to look for a Google Partner badge somewhere on their website:
This badge shows that the SEO company adheres to Google's webmaster best practices which specifically prohibit certain black hat SEO tricks such as spamming, duplicate content and hidden links.
Every company likes to talk big (a skill us marketers are especially good at), but as the saying goes: "the proof is in the pudding." Make sure the SEO firm you hire can back up their promises with measurable results before you sign a contract.
One way to check into a company's results is by looking at their case studies, portfolio and customer testimonials. These are great insights into how an SEO company makes decisions, how they treat their clients and how they intend to follow-through with their objectives. If not listed on their website, don't be afraid to ask for a list of current and past clients.
Like any business, SEO companies come in all shapes and sizes - from single-person enterprises to major agencies that staff hundreds of marketers. You can benefit from more personal attention with the small, one-man operations, but they may lack the resources and turnaround time that a large marketing agency can provide.
To get the best of both worlds, I recommend going with a medium-sized SEO company with anywhere from 10 to 30 team members. These companies tend to offer the best combination of personal attention, creativity, resources and efficient project turnarounds.
This should go without saying, but make sure the SEO company you're considering has real experience as a successful internet marketing firm. Better yet, ask if they have experience working in your specific industry.
For instance, if you're an attorney looking to acquire better search engine rankings and website traffic for your law firm website, consider searching for a marketing company specializing in legal SEO. Each industry poses unique marketing challenges, so a company with prior knowledge and experience working with businesses like yours can help give you big jumpstart.
While hiring an SEO company with experience in your specific industry is preferred, it isn't necessary. Finding such a reputable company may be very difficult depending on how niche your industry is. At the very least, make sure the marketing firm you're considering can show proven results and has years (if not decades) of experience in search engine optimization & online marketing.