What we will cover
How much does SEO cost for small business owners? Three key factors
Before we can hope to answer the question, ‘How much does SEO cost for a small business?’ we have to work out your current position and the scope of the project against the potential of customers searching.
We also need to consider your goals, Search engine optimisation (SEO) is all about increasing online visibility, but whereas one business might be looking for a modest increase in visitors to a small website in a local niche, another might be targeting a top three ranking for a set of highly competitive keywords in order to break into a new market.
Here are three key factors that will have a significant impact on your SEO costs:
Your current position and the tasks required
Some common SEO tasks include researching keywords, creating landing pages, blogs (and other new content), optimising existing content, backlink building and performing behind-the-scenes ‘technical SEO’.
In other words, a whole bunch of stuff that is likely hard to visualise in practical terms and difficult to compare as a service.
There are three main elements to SEO, technical updates, content creation & backlink profiling. Finding someone who understands the relationship between them and can create a package to impact all of them will demonstrate their subject matter expertise.
So, using the three statements below think about which is most relevant for your website and look for an SEO expert who has recognised your specific position…
- My website is old and doesn’t look great on new phones. (It may be giving users a poor experience and require technical underpinning before anything else is done. Slow or poor usable sites will not be prioritised by Google).
- My website is not that old but has loads of pages that haven’t been touched in ages. (The more complex your website is, the more time will be needed upfront to analyse, rewrite, optimise and restructure the website content).
- I have a new or small site with very little content. (This will likely have no authority with search engines, which means you may need more work done “offsite” to create backlinks and show Google your content is valuable to others).
If someone is creating backlinks (offsite SEO) for you be sure to ask where these will come from, be wary of those who promise quick returns from their own specialist networks as these can be irrelevant to your industry (bringing useless traffic), or worse, spam.
Search engines can mark these groups of websites’ authority down with a new update overnight – taking years to earn your rankings back.
Competitive landscape & Keyword difficulty
If your small business is focused on local SEO (i.e., being visible in your neck of the woods), has few competitors and offers a niche product or service, a decent SEO agency can probably raise your online profile quite quickly.
Be wary of people promising to get you on page one overnight, it isn’t true. If a keyword is valuable and making someone else money, it will take time to compete with them.
If you are taking on the big players in a saturated global marketplace, you will almost certainly need to dig in for the long haul. This will demand more resources and will impact the SEO cost for small business owners against the massive budgets of larger businesses.
Let’s use a real-life example. I’ll pretend I just made a website for my skateboard shop in Exeter.
The term “Skateboard” currently gets 35,000 searches a month. Props to Skatehut, who are currently top for this search (they probably do alright for skateboard sales). Now, because this is a relatively popular and valuable keyword it has a difficulty rating (KD below) of 39/100.
It’s going to be hard to demonstrate my new website is worthy to knock Skatehut off the top spot, so I must choose something more niche. “skateboard shop” perhaps?
That has much less volume but, higher difficulty – which brings us to keyword intent (and a quick aside), it means this term is more competitive (and likely valuable), as someone searching for “skateboards” may just be learning about them generally. “Skateboard shop” implies buying. Skatehut are still top, hmmm….
“Skateboard Shop Exeter”, local, very relevant. 70 hits a month compared to 3,000. But look at the difficulty – 2. No sign of Skatehut, Two Seasons – a local skate shop in Exeter are currently top. Oh, skate shop…
400 searches over those two, nearly 500 potential customers between those keywords. They may not all convert, but line up a hundred new customers outside my new Exeter skate shop every month and I’m happy.
This is a window into the mind of the SEO expert and the process of keyword research against your current situation.
Your SEO goals & How you will measure them
The unique goals you have for your business will also have a big impact on SEO costs. Achieving an improvement (e.g., a 100% increase in traffic to a specific webpage) is almost always easier than achieving dominance (e.g., ranking on Page One of Google for a specific keyword).
Define some goals and ask them how they will measure success when getting quotes.
An agency that wants to align SEO (or any other marketing) against your business goals is likely one that will deliver results and offer transparent reporting. Be wary of those who don’t have a good answer or an example report to show you.
Don’t be fooled by big-looking metrics, most of the time, businesses want to see enquiries or sales tracked so they can calculate the return on their investment.
Before moving on to the next section of this article, think about the three factors above. This should help you to estimate whether you will be looking at the lower or higher end of the price ranges below.
We should also stress that prices vary by geographical location. It should go without saying that ‘London prices’ will blow the SEO cost for small business owners out of the water by comparison with other locations.
How much does SEO cost for small businesses? UK Pricing models and ranges
There are three major pricing models used by the vast majority of SEO providers: hourly rate, monthly retainer and ‘per project’ cost.
Individual specialists and small agencies often charge their clients an hourly rate for SEO services. They will often provide a mixture of SEO services (e.g., keyword research, content creation, technical SEO and reporting) and tailor the work to their clients’ budgets. At the time of writing, typical hourly rates ranged from around £50 to £250.
Medium and large SEO agencies tend to favour the monthly retainer or ‘per project’ models. Retainers can range from £300 per month or less to £10,000 per month and more. These agencies may offer a selection of optional add-ons.
Per project costs can vary widely. For example, you might be quoted under £100 for a series of blog articles or over £1,000 for a link-building campaign. We wouldn’t recommend an SEO only project as it isn’t something measurable at the point of delivery.
How to find the right SEO agency for your business
The task of finding the right SEO company is complicated further by the fact that price is not always a reliable indicator of quality.
Effective SEO can transform your small business, so we recommend you take your time before deciding who to trust with your budget. Collect some quotations, but more importantly, take the time to research and talk to each agency you are considering.
Here are a few tips to help you evaluate an SEO agency:
- Ask about their experience in your industry. Do they have any case studies they can share with you?
- Reach out to small businesses that the agency has worked with before. Ask them for a reference.
- Does the agency take time to really understand your business? Or are they trying to push a generic solution onto you?
- Ask the agency how they evaluate SEO success. What data do they use? How do they report results? Can they give evidence that their previous work has had a measurable impact on their clients’ businesses?
- Do you like the team you will be working with? Do they share your values? SEO should be a positive, mutually rewarding experience rather than just a transactional one.
Lastly, there is no substitute for a trial. We talk to clients who have been burned by a poor experience and say “SEO doesn’t work”, the reality is it didn’t work for them, at that time, with that person.
Our case studies show that SEO does work, be prepared to try things more than once and test the water by working with someone.
How to go about a trial SEO run?
One of my favourite enquiries was from a new client who said their agency we’re going in a different direction, we were one of 3 agencies chosen to trial the sales process of a new website widget.
She was an experienced marketer who knew she would learn enough about how the agencies responded to this brief, to make a choice for the ongoing marketing relationship and website.
Often SEO’s offer an audit, you could get 3 and compare the depth of quality and expertise. Sometimes these will be free and may be light touch, so if you’re going to pay one of the agencies to provide an Audit, offer that extension to anyone offering a free Audit for a level playing field.
Be transparent, explaining you are budgeting £x for this process, speaking to 3 people and will make your choice based on the responses.
The fact you are reading this shows you will do your homework and make an informed choice.
Let’s talk about what YOU need from an SEO service
Hopefully we’ve at least partially answered the question, ‘How much does SEO cost for small business owners in the UK.’ If you’re ready to talk about your business and its SEO goals, we would love to meet you.
Take a look at our dedicated SEO Services page, where you can find out more about our approach and processes.
We look forward to hearing from you as one of your three test agencies 🙂
Do you know anyone who may be interested in this project?
Click to share: