SEO for CEOs
SEO for CEOs

Digital Toolkit

SEO for CEOs

Rule #4: SEO Is Not Cheap. Neither Are You. Understanding The Cost Of SEO

It often amazes me how experienced C-Suite executives – people I know personally and well – seem to think that anything to do online is automatically cheap. But understand this: SEO is not cheap. Neither are you. Understanding the cost of SEO is as important as understanding SEO itself.

If you don’t provision SEO with a proper budget, you will not buy yourself honest and meaningful services. You don’t want to hire a shyster off the internet with dubious credentials who attempts to reduce SEO to a laundry list of dubious tasks.

In another article I have gone over a list of question you want to ask your prospective SEO consultant. This one is about why you should respect the exercise enough to provision it as the most important activity that is at the fulcrum of your entire marketing exercise.

Let me go over the meaning of what I just said. (Note: this article is meant for mid-sized companies and not for the very small companies.)

First, let’s look at a cost breakdown, of what it takes to do a proper job for your brand.

An SEO team at least should consist of these skill sets: SEO-aware writer, a spreadsheet ninja (a research, reporting and data analyst) and a web developer. If you are a very large company with the ability to hire and retain this talent, you could  build yourself an in-house SEO team. Bear in mind that a competent SEO manager person would cost anywhere between $75,000 and $100,000 a year – maybe a little less in India, but again, you need to concern yourself with a thorough due diligence of his or her experience and ability.

Else, you should hire an consulting agency.  And then the important question is how much should you pay? Here is the quick and dirty monthly retainer cost estimate reproduced from digitalcurrent.com. This is the best source for the information that I could find on this sticky subject. This ought to be your cost, no matter where in the world you source this service. Beware of cheaper ones.

Use this as a guideline, of course. But also bear in mind, that several companies offer SEO as an added service to something else they offer clients, and for that reason might be cheaper. My advise is to pay top dollar and demand top efforts.

Under $500/month:

  • Good for a very small hyper-local company that has little competition
  • Most companies that work in this area automate a lot of their link building, use overseas labor for content, and only do basic on-site technical work. This might work for a local pizza shop looking to rank for their name and show up in some local listing sites like Yelp and Google Local, but if your goal is to rank for a keyword that has competition, you should probably look into DIY SEO courses.


  • Good for smaller companies with low to medium competition and less complex websites
  • Prices as the lower end of this scale (like in the $1000-$1500 range) could indicate inexperience or a lack of proven results.
  • SEO requires consistent quality content creation, high-quality link building, and a strong focus on optimizing conversions, usability, and accessibility
  • It’s difficult to find all of these services, correctly performed, at the lower end of this scale unless you are working with an agency that has been in business for a while and knows how to produce quality at scale.

$5000-$10,000 /month:

  • You will find more established SEO companies with a proven track record of success in competitive markets.
  • This price point can often give your company access to a dedicated SEO team that employs professional copy editors, content managers, conversion specialists, web development experts, link outreach specialists, account executives, and analytics experts that will ensure success and give you the support you need.


  • Best for companies with ambitious goals
  • SEO partner that manages the entire process from start to finish.
  • Not only does your business get access to a senior SEO team at this budget
  • This investment is likely to drive substantial results since the entire project is well-funded, providing more opportunities for your search partner to perform.

If the market you are trying to dominate has lots of competition, you can expect to make this type of investment for at least the first year or two. In fact, it’s not uncommon for companies in the US to spend well over $100,000 a month on SEO if they are targeting the most lucrative keyword spaces. And that is for SEO, and does not include advertising costs.

This is what the website has to say about hiring these costs in-house:

Employee Costs $50-120k+/year

Your organization may have ongoing needs that require specific attention that can only be handled internally, in this occasion, hiring an SEO strategist or manager may be the best option. SEO employee salaries, not unlike other salaries, range primarily on experience level and geographic location. For example, an SEO director for a large tech company in San Francisco can make upwards of $200,000 a year. To get a better idea of what you should pay, search for SEO specialists using career sites such as Indeed or Glassdoor for your specific area.

CLICK HERE FOR: 28 Reasons Why It’s Time To SEO


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