I get this question a lot… I mean, quite a bit and it is not the easiest question to answer. In order to confidently provide a prospective client with a quote, they need to understand the value of what they are getting and what all goes into it. But before I touch on the value and the deliverables, allow me to share some credible industry data.

SEO Industry Rates Survey Results

In 2013, a survey was performed by Search Engine Watch, where they requested the average pricing of every agency considered to be credible in the industry. Based on those results, it was determined that the average retainer for SEO services ranges between $750-$5,000/mo. Wow… that’s a broad range. I mean, what determines the pricing and what separates $750 from $5,000? The pricing ranges are determined based on the business and the extent of services needed for the client. Some market verticals have less competition, which require less effort, while others require highly complexed strategies with multiple keyword themes requiring significant amounts of research, content and outreach.

How SEO Actually Works

Most business owners that I initially meet don’t immediately understand what is required to deliver great, longterm results with strong positioning in search engines. Typically, they think of SEO as a technical practice or formula that somehow unlocks their websites SEO magic, taking their website straight to the top…. Sincerely, I wish Google was that nice. SEO, in essence, is simply a popularity contest. While it is important to do keyword research and create content that is relevant to your keywords, that won’t be enough to get your website ranked. I generally break SEO down into 4 categories:
  1. Online PR
  2. Content Marketing
  3. Technical SEO
  4. Social Media

SEO is a Multi-Channel Marketing Strategy – Not Just a Tactic

Yes, I said it. SEO is more than just a few meta tags and some keywords on a page. If that were the case, Google would have an awfully hard time determining which pages should be ranked 1st for their users. Let’s use an example by Googling “Ford Trucks.”
The query, Ford Trucks, generates about 111,000,000 search results. That is ONE-HUNDRED ELEVEN MILLION search results. Google’s goal is to provide their search engine users (like you and me) with the highest quality results so that you continue to use them over their competitors like BING and Yahoo. This is why, Google chose to integrate popularity signals into their algorithm.

How Does Google Know Which Websites are Popular?

That’s a great question and there are over 200 signals that Google tracks to determine these results. I won’t list all of them, but I will list the top signals they look for.

Four Categories of Signals Google Looks For

  • Inbound Links – The number and quality of inbound links to your website are a factor. For instance, this link would be considered an inbound link for my website, joshuabelland.com. Google chose to make inbound links the most important signal in their algorithm because 1) When someone links to your website, it means they find value in the content you’re producing or the products/services your company provides.
  • Social Media Signals – The more people who share your content on social media within a certain time frame, the more popular your content must be. In other words, social media shares, likes, retweets, etc… are ways for Google to determine whether or not your company is popular and credible. The rate at which people share over time, provides Google with the data it needs to determine the difference between an article that perhaps had some interesting topics, and a post that goes completely viral.
  • Content Signals – This is the component most people think about when they hear someone mention SEO. Google uses content relevancy signals to determine which webpages are related to the query a user searches.
  • Technical SEO – This has become more important than ever with the steadily rising volume of mobile search traffic. Google will not rank websites with poor mobile experiences well. Your website should be easy to navigate, read and visual appeal to the mobile user. You can read more about this on Google’s website.

OK, I Get It… But What Do I Need to Actually Do?

So, now that you understand what all goes into a standard SEO campaign, the next question is how much time and effort goes into feeding these signals to Google from your website? Great question – I’ve outlined my entire SEO process and strategy on my website for free.

What SEO Agency Fees All Boil Down To

When it comes down to it, every website is in a different state of repair. Some websites are 10 pages while others are 100,000 pages. Some keywords are relatively easy to rank well for, while others are nearly impossible. In most cases, an experienced SEO Consultant with a solid track record of success will start their pricing around $1,500/mo because they know what they are doing and will more than likely get you the results faster, while an agency that may charge $750 will perhaps take twice as long or longer to achieve the results you are seeking. Great results in a reasonable amount of time come from experience. The longer it takes you to get to the top, the longer it takes you to get a return on your investment. Always make sure you know who is doing your SEO work and research them. Beware of agencies that farm their work out to foreign countries or hand it off to inexperienced interns.

A Thought to Leave You With

Remember, SEO is an art and a science. It takes just as much passion as it does knowhow. If you have more questions, please feel free to give me a shout. I don’t mind taking the time to offer advice, as making the right decision for your business is the most important factor to consider.