SEO is a central traffic channel for most businesses.
The ability to drive targeted traffic on a consistent basis makes the process worthwhile. Ranking in the search engines does require patience, not offering the immediacy of paid traffic channels.
However, most businesses see the investment in time and resources paying off in the long run. While SEO is often considered a free traffic source, this is far from the case. Ranking for any significant terms will cost money, so you need to factor this in when making plans.
So, what are the typical costs you need to factor in for running an SEO campaign?
Think about ROI First
Many businesses will have a rough budget in mind for various marketing costs. While it is important to think about these costs, considering the potential return on investment (ROI) should be a more important factor.
Ideally, you should be able to invest a large sum because you know the investment will pay off. SEO doesn't offer any guarantees, though, as you may never achieve the rankings you are striving for. However, if you are comfortable with the risk, you can assess potential earnings.
Looking at your current results should indicate the expected lifetime value of a customer and the conversion rate for your offer. You can then use an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush to find out the difficulty of your target keywords and the expected traffic you will receive for reaching a high ranking position.
You can use this information to make a rough calculation of earnings. Another option is to run some Google ad tests for your target keywords to ensure the traffic will convert in the way you anticipate.
How Competitive Is Your Industry
The SEO world does not stand still, so it is important to remember your competitors will also be working hard to achieve rankings. Along with an analysis of the current ranking positions, it is worth looking at the industry as a whole.
Try to ascertain what your competition is doing, working out if they are heavily involved in SEO and are developing long-term strategies. This analysis can indicate whether you will be involved in a long-term battle for exposure within the search engines.
Are You a Global or Local Business?
Different businesses are trying to reach different sectors of the market. A local business will usually be focused on ranking for local search terms based around their industry. This aim might distinctly limit the number of competitors you are facing while reducing the amount of investment you need to make.
Trying to rank for global terms, though, will be a different proposition. You may be facing businesses from around the globe, so you cannot guarantee the industry landscape will stay the same.
Are You Outsourcing or Doing the Work Yourself?
Some businesses will choose to complete their SEO work internally, while others will outsource the work to a freelancer or an agency. Using an agency will typically be the more expensive option, factoring in the operation, labor, and markup costs.
Freelancers are usually cheaper than agencies, but you need to ensure you are working with an established professional. If you are heavily involved in online marketing, creating an internal team can be worth it, but there may be a substantial investment for resources and training.
Creating a Budget
There is a lot of choice with SEO services, so it is important to work with a budget you are comfortable with and can afford.
Optimization may take months to show results, meaning a commitment will be required.
A local business might expect to pay around $300 to $500 per month for a simple campaign. Small businesses might aim for $500 to $1,000 per month, but this can easily rise depending on the complexity of the work.
Large campaigns with big ambitions could reach $5,000 per month or more.
These costs can vary considerably depending on the goals for each campaign and the track record of any agency carrying out the work. There will be some people carrying out SEO work for a very small amount of money, but this will usually involve automated processes that offer very little.
Additionally, it is important to discuss what work will be provided. Automated software posting carries a great risk of a penalty. A private blog network can offer some excellent results but is also risky.
The established agencies will usually focus on long-term strategies like content and social media marketing, with costs rising due to the more complex nature of these methods.
It is difficult to accurately assess the cost of any marketing campaign as there are so many variables involved. You can often be surprised by how quickly a page receives a top ranking.
However, you may also find yourself struggling to gain any traction with certain keywords, receiving limited traffic for your efforts.
Having a rough campaign budget in mind is an effective approach, though, helping to ensure you stay on top of costs. SEO will never be a perfect endeavor, but setting goals and monitoring ROI is the best way to ensure you get the results you want.