Average Cost of SEO for Small Business

According to a survey of 1,200 business owners and over 350 agencies, freelancers, and consultants, the average cost of SEO for Small Business is $501-$1,000 per month globally. The average cost of SEO for small businesses in the United States is $2,501 to $5,000 per month.

Keep in mind that you get what you pay for when purchasing SEO. Many companies do not do great work and even take advantage of you. This is shown in the survey of 1,200 business owners. The number 1 reason that businesses switch from their current SEO provider is dissatisfaction with business results and outcomes.

There are two main reasons why businesses have poor outcomes with SEO agencies. Clients cite a lack of education and resources as the top reasons they were dissatisfied with the business results and outcomes when hiring an SEO agency.


This means that in order for you, as a business owner, to have a wonderful experience with an SEO agency. You need to hire an SEO agency that transparently educates you on the process and invest more resources into SEO. Companies that spend over $500 per month are typically extremely satisfied with the quality of their SEO services.

We understand why hiring an SEO agency, or freelancer is challenging when you do not understand the ROI to justify the amount of resources to allocate to your SEO strategy. This is why we put together this article to educate small businesses on the average cost of SEO for small business and how you could justify investing resources in SEO to generate the greatest ROI out of any of your current marketing channels. 

Is SEO Worth It for Small Business

Is SEO Worth it For Small Business?

A survey of 500 marketing professionals in charge of the marketing budget at small businesses found that less than half of small businesses have $0 allocated to SEO. The small businesses investing in SEO services are only investing a measly $500 to $1,000 per month.

When you pay for SEO, you get what you pay for, and when you do not invest in SEO, you lose market share to your competition. We understand why small businesses do not invest in SEO. Many marketing professionals and small business owners are far too busy to educate themselves on something as complicated as SEO.

Many assume that SEO works like paid advertising and expect an immediate return on investment for every dollar they invest. In reality, SEO is a long-term strategy that takes consistent work over 6 to 12 months to see a significant return on investment. Changing directions or stopping the SEO campaign early could result in your small business never getting the results you need in SEO. 


Many small business owners are focused on running their business and spend little to no time learning how marketing works. Most businesses are focused on operations creating step by step systems to get from point A to point B. Assuming that SEO marketing works the same as running a business, many small businesses fall into the trap of $99 to get page 1 rankings that SEO scam artists advertise.

SEO is not a commodity, and treating it like one will result in your small business being scammed. For these reasons, SEO is not worth it for business owners that are not interested in investing the resources and time to receive a significant return on investment from SEO.

This does not mean you need to invest the time to learn SEO yourself.

Educate yourself on seo

Still, you should be investing time to educate yourself on SEO, so you do not get taken advantage of by SEO scam artists. More so, you will have realistic expectations on how much time and resources to invest in SEO. 

The cost of cheap SEO is much higher than any cost you could spend on doing SEO the right way. For SEO agencies and freelancers to deliver work at cheaper rates, they have to cut corners. This results in these SEO agencies and freelancers doing black hat SEO, violating Google’s SEO guidelines.

Once Google finds out your website violated its guidelines, it will be permanently removed from Google. This means that all of the money you invested in SEO for your business is useless. When Google hands down a penalty, this could end your business permanently.

Avoid business ending decisions by educating yourself on SEO and setting an SEO budget that delivers a strong return on investment over time.

How much should a company spend on SEO

How Much Should a Company Spend on SEO?

Before you establish a budget for SEO, you need to set high-level business goals that are realistic. Your high-level business goals need to include measurements for results and a realistic timeline to deliver the results.

The most important goals to measure directly impact the bottom line most efficiently. In SEO organic sessions, goal conversions and revenue directly impact the bottom line.

When you are setting goals, keep two things in mind.

Your goals need to be achievable

  1. Your goals need to be achievable.

    Unrealistic expectations and expecting to overcome your competitors that have been investing in SEO for years within the next months is a pipe dream. However, overcoming your competitors on a realistic timeline with a realistic budget is attainable and realistic.

You need to give the campaign time to work

2. You need to give the campaign time to work.

According to Google’s YouTube video on “How to Hire an SEO“, you need to give your SEO campaign four months to a year. Doing so allows your SEO agency or freelancer to help your business make improvements. Then you benefit from those improvements over time.

Remember that your high-level business goals will determine what tactics are needed for success. Start with setting your business goals to create a framework for developing an action plan and the necessary budget to efficiently implement that action plan with a strong return on investment.

seo costs calculator

SEO Costs Calculator

Calculate if the Average Cost of Your SEO Company is Worth it for Your Business

Search Engine Journal put together a couple of excellent SEO cost calculators to demonstrate how to measure the return on investment of SEO or search engine optimization.

The first SEO calculator is an example of what is commonly the incorrect way to measure the ROI of small business SEO.

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-cost-calculator/264305/#close


The method above is incorrect because it fails to consider the lifetime value of a new customer, the most important key performance indicator. For small businesses to grow, they need repeat customers. The ROI is grossly understated when you fail to calculate the lifetime value of a new customer for your small business. 


The correct method to calculate the ROI of SEO is to add the customer’s lifetime value to your SEO cost calculator, as demonstrated in the image below.

As you can see, adding the lifetime value of a customer to the equation turned a -60% ROI into a net positive 200% ROI. The lifetime value of a new customer for your small business is the most important key performance indicator to measure SEO results.

What is the cost of SEO and pricing for small businesses

What is the cost of SEO and pricing for small businesses?

The cost of SEO depends on the SEO pricing model for small businesses. There are four factors affecting the final price for small businesses.

Pricing model

  1. Pricing Model


SEO agencies and freelancers typically charge based on 4 SEO pricing models: hourly rates, performance-based, monthly-retainer, and one-time SEO pricing project fees.


2. Services


Every project is different depending on your business goals. You may be an enterprise company that is at the top of your industry or a local business that is just starting with the goal of dominating your local city. Depending on your business goals, you will require different SEO services.


3. Scale

A local business that serves a small city will cost less than a local business that serves the entire state. Depending on the scale necessary to execute your campaign, the costs will vary.


4. Experience


SEO Agencies and freelancers that have been business in for 2+ years cost nearly double that of SEO agencies and freelancers that have been in business for less than two years. You are paying for the experience of 2+ years consistently delivering strong ROI for small businesses just like yours.

SEO Pricing Models for Small Businesses

SEO Pricing Models for Small Businesses

Whether you are hiring an SEO company or a freelancer, there are four different pricing models that you could expect to encounter when searching to hire an SEO agency. The pricing models are hourly, performance-based, monthly retainer, and a one-time project fee.

hourly rates

Hourly Rates:

According to a survey of 350+ SEO agencies and freelancers, the average hourly cost of SEO is $68/hour for freelancers and $134.66/hour for agencies. Hourly sounds good in theory, but the issue is SEO providers are financially incentivized to take longer to deliver work. The longer the work takes, the more money the SEO providers make. For this reason, we do not recommend you hire an SEO agency or freelancer at an hourly rate to execute your SEO strategy.

Performance based


The average cost of performance-based projects varies based on the payout. Performance-based pricing is the best way to go for small businesses. This does not mean hiring SEO agencies that work for free until they generate leads, traffic, and new customers. SEO is a long term strategy where you could expect at least 6 to 8 months to begin seeing fantastic results in leads, traffic, and new customers. We recommend hiring an SEO agency with performance-based deliverables. Hence, you know exactly what you get when you pay for SEO. You do not pay until your agency delivers the work. 


Even better if you hire an agency with a money-back guarantee, meaning if they cannot deliver what you agreed upon, the agency will return your money.

Monthly retainer

Monthly Retainer:

According to a survey of 1,200 business owners and over 350+ SEO agencies and freelancers, the average monthly retainer for SEO is $500 to $1,000 a month. Monthly retainers are great for working month to month with SEO agencies and freelancers. The issue with monthly retainers is that you may not be receiving the same amount of work each month. Since monthly retainers recur monthly, the agency has already been paid no matter what the SEO agency delivers that month. Shady agencies often use these retainers to take advantage of unsuspecting small business owners. If you ask questions about what is being delivered and the results, they will bring it back to the reality that SEO takes time. Truthfully, SEO takes time to deliver results and is a long-term strategy. However, you open yourself up to being taken advantage of by SEO agencies hiding behind the fact that SEO services take time not to deliver what they promised you.


The other issue with monthly retainers is that agencies could set unrealistic expectations for small business owners. Since monthly retainers are based monthly, you are expecting results every month. SEO services take at least 6 to 8 months on average to see fantastic results. This is why many small business owners will leave after a short three months of working with an agency because they have not received the results they were promised. In reality, anything less than six months minimum is an unrealistic expectation to show results from your SEO strategy.

One time project fee

One-time project fee:

According to a survey of 350+ SEO agencies and SEO freelancers, the average cost of a one-time project fee is $500 to $1,000 per project. One-time projects are great for strategy and consulting to help your in-house team deliver more efficient results. The issue with one-time project fees is when expectations are not set correctly, and there is no clear transparent outline of what is being delivered. 


If you expect to receive an immediate tremendous ROI from a one-time SEO project of $500 to $1,000, you have unrealistic expectations. SEO is a long term strategy, and one-time projects are best for optimizing and improving your existing strategy. To gain outside perspective from an SEO consultant to help lay the foundation for your in-house team’s next 6 to 12 months of execution. More so, a one-off SEO audit could help uncover conversion issues and SEO issues that your in-house team could execute to improve your website that is already generating search engine traffic, leads, and conversions from SEO or search engine optimization. 

The other issue is that many SEO agencies and freelancers will use these to rip off unsuspecting small business owners. They may claim that all you need to do is pay $99 and receive number 1 rankings. When in reality, you are getting what you paid for, and if you are not educated, SEO is a long-term strategy that requires many different marketing and technical roles to execute properly. Then you may end up falling for the pay $99 and receive the number 1 rankings trap that unethical SEO agencies and freelancers advertise.

How much does seo services cost for small business

How Much Does SEO Services Cost for Small Business?



The key to not being taken advantage of is working with SEO agencies and freelancers that provide transparent explanations of their services. These explanations need to align with your business goals and demonstrate how they will help improve return on investment over time. Many SEO agencies and freelancers will tack on unnecessary services because they do not care about exceeding your business goals and increasing your return on investment. They are out for a quick buck. This is why it is crucial that you work with SEO companies focused on understanding your high-level business goals and provide explanations on how the services they are delivering will increase your revenue and market share to reach your goals. 

Hiring an in-house team to execute an SEO strategy would cost you about $528,754 per year. Here is what goes into executing SEO with an in-house team:

hiring an seo copywriter

hiring an seo content writer

hiring an off page seo digital public relations manager

  • Hiring an Off-Page SEO for Digital Public Relations. Average Annual Salary – $100,000

hiring a web developer for technical seo

  • Hiring a Web Developer for Technical SEO. Average Annual Salary – $68,025
  • Hiring a Marketing Strategist To Create an SEO Strategy. Average Annual Salary – $120,007

hiring a marketing strategist to create an seo strategy

hiring a conversion rate optimization specialist to improve the conversions of your seo traffic

  • Hiring a Conversion Rate Optimization Specialist to improve the conversions of your SEO traffic. Average Annual Salary – $74,676

Hiring a UI/UX Designer to Improve Customer Experience and On Page SEO

  • Hiring a UI/UX Designer to Improve Customer Experience and On-Page SEO. Average Annual Salary – $90,000

total annual costs for an in house team

Total Annual Costs for an In-House Team:

$528,754 a year for an in-house SEO team. This does not include payroll taxes. Including payroll tax, you could expect this number to be considerably higher. Not to mention marketing, data analysis, customer relationship management, and SEO software tools your team would need to execute their job effectively. The costs, including payroll taxes and tools, are closer to $1 million a year.


Now that you see what truly goes into creating an in-house SEO team, what kind of services do you think you are getting by hiring an SEO agency or freelancer for $500 to $1,000 per month?

Low-quality services considering this is nowhere close to what it cost to hire and manage an in-house SEO team. 


This is why only 30% of small businesses say that they have a wonderful experience with SEO agencies and freelancers because they are not educated on what goes into SEO. They are not investing the correct amount of resources to execute an SEO strategy effectively. 

The real average SEO costs to hire an effective SEO agency or freelancer that delivers fantastic results is around $2,500 to $5,000 per month for smaller companies. Expect this number to go up considerably for larger small businesses that require a national and international presence. Our SEO services start at around $3,500+ per month and go up depending on the scale that your small business requires to reach and exceed your high-level business goals. We offer a money-back guarantee which means that if we cannot deliver what we say we will deliver, then we will return your money. Our pricing is performance-based which means we do not get paid until we deliver the work that is agreed upon. Your SEO strategy is custom-tailored to your needs and business goals based on what we learn on our SEO analysis free consultation call.

local seo services

Local SEO Services


Local SEO Services cost, on average, about $300 to $2,000 per month depending on the pricing model offered services, scale, and experience of the SEO agency or freelancer.

FAQS About SEO Pricing

FAQs About SEO Pricing

Average SEO Monthly Cost


The average monthly seo cost is $500 to $1,000 per month depending on the pricing model offered, services, scale, and experience of the SEO agency or freelancer.

How Much Does SEO Cost for Small Business UK?


According to a survey of 350+ SEO agencies and freelancers, the cost of SEO for small businesses in the UK is broken down into three pricing models.


  1. UK SEO Hourly Rate
  2. UK SEO Monthly Rate
  3. UK SEO Project Rate

UK SEO Hourly Rate


SEO Freelancer – £ 30 to £ 35

SEO Consultant – £ 55 to £ 75

SEO Agency – £ 55 to £ 110


UK SEO Monthly Rate


SEO Freelancer – £ 1,000 to £ 1,500

SEO Consultant – £ 180 to £ 360

SEO Agency – £ 350 to £ 750


UK SEO Project Rate


SEO Freelancer – £ 750 to £ 1,000

SEO Consultant – £ 360 to £ 3,500

SEO Agency – £ 350 to £ 750

SEO Freelancer Price


The typical average costs to hire an SEO freelancer varies depending on the pricing model. The pricing model is broken up into three different pricing models:


  1. SEO freelancer hourly rate
  2. SEO freelancer monthly rate
  3. SEO freelancer per project rate


SEO Freelancer Hourly Rate


On average, SEO freelancers charge $68 per hour.


SEO Freelancer Monthly Rate


On average, SEO freelancers charge $1,364 per month.


SEO Freelancer Per Project Rate

On average, SEO freelancers charge $1,530.85 per project.

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