If You’re Paying $500 a Month for SEO, You’re Paying Too Much

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO (as it’s more commonly known), is a complex combination of technical and creative tasks that over time, if done correctly and in harmony, will help your website reach the promised land at the top of the first page of Google. Unfortunately, many of you are paying far too much to your SEO agency or contractor and still not getting the results you hoped for. I’d like to help you understand why that might be the case.

In this article, I’d like to take the subjective elements off the table and look at this issue like a math equation. How is SEO a math problem? Well, all of the tasks necessary for the success of your SEO project require man hours and the greater the number of hours spent on your account, the faster you get to your goal.

First let me ask… Do you even know what your SEO agency or contractor’s hourly rate is? Most agencies bill you in a lump sum, but they assign a value to the time they spend at somewhere between $100 to $150 per hour. Contractors may bill a little less, but for the sake of this experiment, let’s call it $125 per hour. This covers the salaries agencies pay their SEO employees (between $65K and $90K), the cost of buying quality backlinks and citations, their software tools, the cost of their general overhead and,oh yeah, the profit that makes it worth them staying in business.

Let’s start with some of the most basic tasks every SEO agency or contractor should be doing for you each month and then we’ll add up the numbers.

1. Reporting
Every SEO provider should be generating reports for you on your account each month. They run their automated reporting tools, document their findings, list the tasks they worked on last month and plan the ones for next month based upon last month’s data. I believe this process should reasonably require about 2 hours a month of their time.

2. Client Meeting and Meeting Prep
Your online marketers should be having a meeting with you each month to communicate what they accomplished over the last month, go through your reporting, present their findings and discuss the tasks that they will be doing next month. Again, I think a reasonable amount of time each month to prep for and conduct this meeting is approximately 1 hour. (PS – If this doesn’t happen regularly for you – Houston, we have a different problem.)

3. Blog or Content
Another common task just about any SEO should be doing is writing blogs, articles or creating content for your website. I know how long it’s taking me to write this article, so let’s assume your SEO person is better at this than I am and they are able to crank out a well-written piece, find an appropriate image, size it and get it all posted in around 2 hours. 

 Now, Let’s do the MathHoursTotal
Client Meeting and Meeting Prep1$125
Blog or Content2$250
Invoice Amount 



Oops, look at that! You’re already over the $500 in labor hours you purchased from your bargain basement SEO firm and they haven’t even gotten into the time consuming SEO tasks that really affect rankings yet, like link building, citation building, optimizing existing content, titles and descriptions. There’s not even time to check and correct broken links.

So going back to the the title of this article, the point I want make here is – You can’t get any worthwhile SEO done for just $500 per month and if you’re working with some “budget” SEO company who’s charging you a flat fee of $500 a month or even $1000 per month, you are definitely paying too much. You are just throwing your money away.

SEO is not easy. Think about it. There are just 10 organic slots on the first page of Google. The competition to be there is brutal. There’s a saying in our business: If you’re on the second page of Google, you might as well be on the 100th, because the average person doesn’t look past the first page of results. If your company is not showing up on the first page when someone is searching for what you do, your competition on the first page is making that sale.

Being cheap and scrimping on SEO is setting your business up for failure. Go big or go home.

How much SHOULD you be paying? This is obviously a subjective question based upon many qualifying criteria, but luckily it’s mostly driven by the competitiveness and financial rewards of your particular business vertical. For instance, a single good conversion for a personal injury attorney can mean a six figure deal, so the competition is fierce to own the top of that page. A high profile personal injury attorney in a larger city should be spending maybe $10k to $20k per month or more on just SEO. But a single office dentist in the same market might be able to crack the first page for $2k to $3k per month. It can also depend upon the level of sophistication within your particular industry. Many business verticals are slow to adopt technology as a whole and it can be less costly to rise to the top just by being an innovator.

Is this article a reality check for you? Perhaps it just raises some good questions. If you are concerned in any way about whether or not your agency or SEO provider is doing a good job or not, have them audited. But don’t fall for a free audit from another agency. That’s like asking Chevy if you should keep your Ford. Get an independent third-party audit from someone with no skin in the game like OnMark Advisors. Additionally, if we find that your SEO is not up to par, we can help you find an exceptional agency or contractor that can help you reach the promised land of that coveted first page.


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