The Real Cost of SEO

Ryan Bednar

Ryan Bednar

09 / 15 / 2021

the real cost of seo

The Real Cost of SEO

Ryan Bednar

09 / 15 / 2021

RankScience is the #1 trusted agency to grow SEO traffic for venture-backed Silicon Valley startups.

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SEO is a marketer’s secret weapon. It’s one of the most affordable ways to stretch your brand’s reach over time, and to attract some of the most qualified leads to your site. 

That said, SEO is often loosely defined. Businesses that are just getting their feet wet with SEO often aren’t sure where to start—and what, exactly, it entails from a budgeting perspective. 

Read Also: B2B SEO Breakdown: Your Top Questions Answered

With SEO being an ongoing investment, it’s important for you to know what to expect in terms of costs. Keep reading for tips on how to calculate the true cost of your SEO strategy. 

Factors to consider when managing SEO

There are a variety of factors that come into play with any content strategy, including the talent you’ll need to hire and the types of projects you’ll be managing. Here are some roles and responsibilities to keep in mind:  

  • Content writing – It goes without saying that you need someone to create the actual content. This person will be responsible for putting words to paper and incorporating on-page SEO best practices, while also writing enticing copy that will generate clicks to your site.
  • Web development – SEO can get very technical, and will require someone who’s highly skilled in web development to ensure that your site is running smoothly across all devices. Not to mention that if you’re looking to stand up new webpages as part of your content marketing strategy, you’ll need a developer to bring your ideas to life.
  • Keyword research A strong keyword strategy is vital to your organic success, but the quality of your strategy will depend on the quality of your research. For this reason, you may choose to use one or two subscription-based keyword tools to analyze new opportunities and to check on the overall health of your site.
  • SEO auditing – Because search engine algorithms are constantly changing, you’ll want to regularly perform seo site audits to ensure that your content is up to snuff. This responsibility is best handled by an experienced SEO expert who knows what to look out for when testing your site.
  • A/B testing – The devil is in the details when it comes to SEO. To give yourself the best chance at ranking, you’ll want to regularly run experiments aimed at improving the searchability, rankability, and conversion rate of your pages.
  • Link building and content distribution – Creating SEO-friendly content is only half the battle. The other half entails promoting your content and creating opportunities for others to discover, plus link, to your content. At the very least, you’ll want to leverage your existing email list and social channels to share content—but, to scale distribution, you may choose to involve a social media marketer, ads, and other resources. 

Costs that you could run up against

With the above in mind, what costs should you anticipate? Below are several fees that businesses often assume as they put their SEO strategies into motion. 

Platform costs (free – $100+ per month)

One of the first SEO-related fees that you may encounter may involve platform costs. Depending on whether you use a keyword research tool, an advertising platform, and/or other tools, your costs could vary.

The cheapest platforms are free. Examples include Google Search Console, Google Keyword Planner, or something like Ahref’s Keyword Generator. However, many of these free tools are limited in their capabilities or the insights that they’re able to spit back.

If you’re serious about SEO, you’ll likely need to employ a tool like Semrush, Moz, or ContentEdge. Each of these platforms are feature-rich and offer advanced insights, such as competitor performance, backlink monitoring, and topic-based analysis. 

One of our personal favorites—ContentEdge—boasts an AI-based text generator where you can plug in a URL to get a content relevancy score. You can then use an AI text generator to auto-write content that reflects all the qualities of the top-ranking pages surrounding your target search term. 

ContentEdge offers a free trial, alongside subscriptions that range from $49/month to $149/month depending on your needs. View the full pricing page

screenshot of various seo research tools


Employee costs ($55,000 – $120,000+ per year)

When looking for someone who can plan, create, and optimize your content on behalf of your brand, you could choose to hire someone who’s fresh out of college or someone with years of experience in your specific niche (for example: B2B writing, eCommerce, etc.).

The type of role you hire for may vary too, depending on your skill sets and priorities. Some popular roles include…

  • Marketing manager/coordinator 
  • Content writer
  • SEO strategist/specialist 
  • Social media manager 
  • Web developer
  • Designer 

You don’t necessarily need to hire a full marketing team to get started, but each of these roles play a hand in deploying your SEO strategy (and more broadly, your content marketing strategy). Consider what knowledge gaps exist among your team today and hire positions that can fill your biggest gaps first. 

Outsourced writer ($10 – $500+ per blog)

If you’re not too keen on hiring a full-time employee, you can always choose to outsource work. There are plenty of different sites to search for freelancers, SEO specialists, and other high-demand jobs. 

For example, Upwork and Fiverr are two popular freelancing marketplaces. Freelancers in these spaces set their own rates, usually by the hour, word count, or project type. Some writers may be available for as low as $10 a blog (though you’re likely taking a big gamble in terms of quality), while others may charge a couple hundred per blog. On channels like these, you’ll have to vet and manage freelancers on your own. 

Alternatively, you can check out services like Verblio that pre-screen and manage writers on your behalf. Verblio itself charges on a monthly basis, costing anywhere between $34.95 to $539.95 per blog, excluding any optimizations or services that you choose to add on. 

screenshots of various platforms for hiring content writers

SEO agency ($5,000 – $10,000+ per month) 

If you’re looking for full-fledged SEO support, we’d recommend going the agency route. Agencies offer talent and expertise in various areas of marketing that can come in handy and can be shuffled around depending on your current need. 

Agency costs, unsurprisingly, tend to range a lot. However, the average retainer will likely be between $5,000 to $10,000 a month with a six-month minimum engagement to ensure that you allow enough time for SEO to work its magic. The agency may offer discounts too, if you are willing to sign up for a full year of services. 

Your total contract cost and scope may be split up between on-page versus off-page SEO initiatives. For instance, off-page SEO efforts may include a site audit, competitive analysis, and/or backlink analysis. On the other hand, on-page SEO may include content marketing services, like writing, editing, and overall content management. This work can be charged on a per-post basis or an hourly basis.

Aside from these costs, you’ll want to keep in mind that even though you’re outsourcing a lot of the work, you should expect to be involved in planning, reviewing, and (at times) implementation processes (we would ballpark around five to 10 hours a month to ensure a successful engagement). The exception is if you work with a team like RankScience, which uses in-house software to lessen your load and automate certain tasks. Either way, any successful agency relationship requires your participation when necessary.  

To sum it all up

SEO costs can range all across the board. Luckily, the control is in your hands. You get to decide how much or how little to invest in new resources as you ramp up your SEO efforts. As you weigh your costs, make sure to weigh your opportunities as well. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on certain purchases when the time is right. 

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