How Much Does SEO Cost in 2024?

April 26, 2024

Jeremy Moser

How much does SEO cost? As uSERP co-founder and CEO, I get asked that question a lot! 

But the truth is that SEO costs can be a moving target. Just like the digital landscape itself, SEO best practices and pricing structures constantly evolve. 

What worked last year or even last quarter might not be the most effective strategy today, making costs vary. That’s why I wanted to take a deep dive into how much SEO costs in 2024 and the various factors that influence those costs.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll break down the key areas that impact SEO pricing. I’ll cover everything from the size and scope of your business to the specific SEO services you need and the experience level of the SEO professionals you hire. 

I’ll also explore the cost difference between hiring an SEO agency and building an in-house SEO team. By understanding these factors, you’ll be in a much better position to estimate SEO costs for your business and make informed decisions when it comes to your SEO strategy.

Understanding SEO

Before we start talking numbers, we’ve got to cover the basics.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s an umbrella term for a suite of strategies and tactics to help websites appear higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Think Google, Bing, and other search engines.

SEO = visibility graphic

Image Source

Getting a higher ranking on those results pages can significantly improve the quantity and quality of your website’s traffic. This means more potential customers will see and hopefully interact with your business.

Importance of SEO for businesses

Here’s the deal: SEO is crucial for driving business success. And no, having a Google Business profile is nowhere near enough.

Most people aren’t going out of their way to find websites they’ve never heard of. They turn to search engines when they have questions or needs.

By having a strong SEO strategy, your business can position itself as an answer to those questions. Doing so delivers results:

  • Increased organic traffic from people clicking from those organic search results.
  • Higher brand awareness when people keep seeing you pop up in the SERPs.
  • Better user experience since a good part of SEO is about giving people a solid experience on your site.
  • Long-term wins since SEO efforts compound over time.
  • Improved credibility.

Factors affecting SEO prices

Now that we’ve understood SEO and why it matters, the cost will start making more sense. 

That said, several factors determine how much business owners need to invest in their SEO strategy. Let’s break these factors down one by one.

Scope and business size

Smaller, local businesses typically don’t have needs as complex as a sprawling national enterprise. Therefore, smaller projects usually result in lower SEO costs and vice versa.

Business SizeSEO Pricing (monthly retainer)
Large Enterprise$20,000–$30,000+/mo

Level of services required

SEO services can vary from a quick technical audit to a hands-on, full-service SEO plan. The more services you need, the more it’ll cost. It makes sense‌ — ‌more hours of work from experts means a higher price tag.

Level of serviceCost
Basic SEO consultation$100–$300/hour
SEO copywriting (blog posts, webpages, etc.)$0.15–$0.50/word
Keyword research and optimization$500–$2,000
Internal link profile audit$500–$7,500 (depends on the website’s size and complexity)
Full SEO content audit$500–$7,500 (depends on the website’s size and complexity)
Full-service SEO campaign$5,000–$25,000/campaign

The level of service a client is looking for will also strongly influence whether they choose to build their own in-house team or hire an SEO company. This decision will also impact overall costs. 

Need help with this decision? Take a run through this SEO decision tree to help determine what SEO investment is right for your organization. 

SEO decision tree

Image Source

Experience and expertise level

SEO consultants, specialists, and agencies with a ton of experience are going to charge more for their skills — and rightfully so. Their track record, expertise, and ability to deliver results are valuable. 

On the other hand, folks just starting out may charge less to get their foot in the door, but they may not be as effective.

Geographic location

We can all agree that hiring a web developer in India or the Philippines will cost less than hiring one in Silicon Valley, and that has nothing to do with skill. The same logic applies to SEO professionals and agencies.

A high-end professional in a major city like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York will generally cost more than someone in a smaller town or another country where the cost of living is significantly lower.

On average, a US-based SEO agency will charge $100–$300 an hour, while agencies overseas can charge as little as $10–$50 per hour.

SEO goals

Finally, the cost of SEO services also depends on the expected outcome. 

If you’re a marketer trying to fit SEO into your marketing budget, aiming for a modest boost in visibility for a handful of local keywords will be significantly less expensive than a national business aiming to dominate search results for highly competitive terms.

It’s essential to be realistic about your goals and work with your SEO partner (whether in-house or external) to determine a strategy that aligns with your budget and desired ROI.

SEO pricing models

SEO professionals and agencies typically offer different pricing models, each with different effects on your SEO budget.

Let’s break down the most common models available and look at when they make the most sense. 

Hourly rates

Hourly rates are great for small businesses or projects with a very limited scope. This pricing model can be great for short-term consultations, quick technical audits, or specific one-off tasks.

This model has some cons for the client, like low predictability, and it can lead to cost overruns if the project scales. However, it’s the most flexible option.

Monthly retainer

This is the most common SEO pricing model, both for agencies and independent SEO consultants. The client pays a fixed price per month for SEO for a set package of services.

uSERP pricing plan

Image Source

This model is ideal for businesses of all sizes that want ongoing, consistent SEO efforts. Monthly retainers make SEO budgets more consistent and predictable.

Project-based pricing

In this case, you pay a fixed price for a specific SEO project or deliverable, regardless of its length.

This is the preferred model for things like website audits, workshops, or a set amount of content creation.

Codeless SEO agency services

Image Source

Project-based SEO is highly scalable and ideal for well-defined SEO tasks with a clear start and end date. However, they tend to be less flexible than other options.

Performance-based pricing

Finally, we have performance-based pricing. With this model, you tie at least a piece of the SEO fees to specific performance metrics, such as:

  • Increased search rankings on keywords
  • Lead generation
  • Web traffic
SEO KPIs you should track

Image Source

Business owners love performance-based pricing because it puts most of the risk of the investment on the SEO agency or consultant. 

That’s why only reputable agencies with a solid foundation venture into this business model. However, some factors are simply out of the SEO provider’s control, so risk is always there.

FeatureHourly RatesMonthly RetainerProject-BasedPerformance-Based
Cost$100–$300$7,500–$25,000+$5,000–$25,000+Varies per KPI (e.g., $500 per keyword ranked #1 or #2 in the SERPs)
Cost PredictabilityLowHighMediumLow
Best forShort-term, specific tasksOngoing SEO effortsDiscrete projectsBusinesses with strong conversion rates but low search presence

Most common SEO services and prices

SEO isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. That means the specific services a business might need — and their costs — will vary. 

Here, we’ll cover some of the most common SEO services, what they typically involve, and how much you can expect to pay.

Content creation and optimization

SEO and content go hand-in-hand. Your business needs high-quality, unique, and relevant content that answers the questions your target audience is asking.

Content creation and optimization involves:

  • Keyword research: Finding the phrases people use to search for things related to your business.
  • Content strategy: Planning what content you need, the formats, and how it maps to customers’ needs.
  • Content writing: Blog posts, articles, website copy, product descriptions, etc.
  • On-page optimization: Making sure search engines fully understand what your content is about.

The price of content varies widely depending on length, depth, expertise required, and the writer’s experience.

uSERP content pricing plans

Image Source

Here’s a basic breakdown:

ServicePrice Range
Keyword research and content strategy$500–$2,000+ (depends on the scope)
Blog post (500–2,000 words)$75–$1,000+ (depends on content quality and technical difficulty)
Website copywriting$50–$200 per page (or more for specialized industries)

Link building and audits

Links from other high-authority sites to yours are like votes of confidence for your website. Search engines want to see you have these “backlinks,” showing others find your content valuable. Link building often includes:

  • Backlink audit: Analyzing your existing links to identify potential issues or low-quality links that might hurt your rankings.
  • Outreach: Contacting websites to try and get a link back to your content. It involves pitches, guest posts, collaborations, etc.
  • Building high-quality backlinks: Creating content or resources specifically designed to attract natural backlinks.

Backlinks are still one of the top factors search engines use when deciding how to rank content. Not all links hold the same weight, though! Backlinks from sites with a high domain authority or rating (DR) are harder to get and more expensive than ‌those with a lower DR.

Ahrefs competitor research tools and SEO backlink checker

Image Source

Link building is one of the most crucial (and time-intensive) parts of SEO, making it more expensive overall. 

Importance of backlinks

Image Source

Here are some factors driving the cost:

ServicePrice Range
Backlink audit$500–$5,000+ (depending on the website’s size)
Securing a single backlink on a high-quality site$100–$1,000+ (depending on the website’s DR)
Outreach campaign$1,000–$5,000+ per month, often included in monthly retainers

Technical SEO audit and optimizations

Technical SEO is about optimizing your website’s “backend” to ensure search engines understand it. If search engines can’t crawl or understand your website, nothing else you do matters. 

Semrush technical SEO audit

Image Source

A technical SEO audit analyzes areas such as:

  • Crawling and indexing: Can search engines easily find the important pages of your site?
  • Page speed: Do your pages load fast enough for search engines and users?
  • Mobile optimization: Mobile-first indexing matters more than ever.
  • Site architecture: Is your site’s structure clear and logical?
  • Security: Is your site secure with an SSL certificate?
ServicePrice Range
Technical SEO Audit$500–$5000+ (depends on website’s size and complexity)
Optimization services (fixing issues found in the audit)$100–$300+/hour (depends on the skills needed)

Reporting and analytics

SEO is all about data-driven decision-making. That requires constant tracking and analyzing of your results in real-time. Reporting and analytics may cover the following:

  • Number of conversions and average conversion rates.
  • Number and quality of backlinks
  • Tracking keyword rankings.
  • Website traffic.

The data you get through reports and analytics is vital for understanding how your SEO efforts translate into business results and making strategic optimizations.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs of reporting and analytics:

ServicePrice Range
Basic analytics (Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools)Free(but you’ll need to invest time in setting tools up properly and learning how to pull the insights you need)
Premium Analytics platforms (Ahrefs, Semrush, etc.)$100–$500+/month
Custom Reporting Setup and AnalysisIncluded in monthly retainers, or $100–$200+/hour for project-based work.

Monthly reporting and monitoring

SEO is an ongoing process. Continuous monitoring and reporting show what’s working and what’s not.

Periodically reviewing your analytics data and interpreting the results to monitor for improvements is a rich source of actionable insights. It’s a way to track how SEO correlates with your business goals.

Content marketing strategy

Image Source

Monthly reporting and monitoring costs are usually included in monthly SEO retainers for ongoing clients. However, some freelancers and agencies may offer it as a standalone service for companies that primarily handle SEO in-house and just want reporting support.

Average cost of SEO in 2024

While there’s no “exact cost” for SEO, I can give you some broad ranges to consider. Remember, the factors I discussed earlier influence prices, along with industry competition and your specific goals.

Business SizePrice RangeWhat to expect
Small businesses$1,000–$5,000/moFoundational SEO (content creation, local targeting, technical audit)
Mid-sized businesses$5,000–$15,000/moComprehensive SEO (content creation, backlink outreach, competitive keyword targeting)
Enterprise businesses$20,000–$30,000+/moLarge-scale SEO (content campaigns, technical optimizations, backlink campaigns, detailed reporting)

In-house team vs. agency SEO cost

Deciding whether to build an internal SEO team or outsource to an SEO service provider is a significant decision for marketers and SEO professionals. Both approaches offer advantages and have unique cost implications.

Let’s break down the financial considerations and potential challenges.

Building an in-house SEO team

Building your in-house SEO team offers potential benefits like direct control and deeper integration, but understanding the associated costs is essential. 

Why? You’ll easily spend a minimum of $300,000 to $600,000 to build a small in-house team. The crazy part? These are annual costs (read: a huge impact on your bottom line). 

Plus, it’ll take multiple quarters (at least) to drive meaningful results. Plus, these results are never guaranteed. Building a team from the ground up takes a bit of trial and error to get it right.

Here’s how these ‌in-house expenses add up: 

  • SEO professional salaries: Salaries make up the bulk of in-house SEO. SEO specialists with varying expertise are crucial. You’ll likely need a strategist, a technical SEO expert, a content specialist, and‌ a link building expert. Annual salaries can easily range from $60,000 to $120,000+ for each role (an average of $81,414, according to Glassdoor), depending on experience. You may be able to find candidates who can take on multiple roles to save money, but that depends on the breadth and scope of your SEO goals. Let’s not forget all the other costs associated with hiring employees (health insurance and other benefits). 
  • Content creation expenses: High-quality content is the backbone of SEO. Factor in costs for writers, editors, graphic designers, and video creators (if your strategy includes multimedia). Add tens of thousands more to your monthly expenses to cover these costs.
  • SEO tools: Subscribing to essential SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, SurferSEO, or others for keyword research and SEO optimization is necessary. These can add hundreds (even thousands) of dollars to your monthly costs.
  • Link building: While some backlinks may be organic, link building often involves paid partnerships, guest posts, or outreach campaigns that come with their own costs.
  • Management and ROI: Managing an SEO team requires dedicated oversight to implement, track, and adjust strategies for better ROI. This can translate to added salary expenses or divert the time of existing personnel.

Hiring an SEO agency

On the flip side, partnering with an SEO agency presents a different cost structure and distinct advantages. Even if you invest $10,000 a month ($60,000 per year), that’s potentially 10x cheaper than building an in-house team. Agencies can also run advanced display Ad networks to increase traffic and leads to their client businesses.

Still not convinced? Here are some key benefits of hiring an SEO agency:

  • Expertise and specialization: Agencies offer a team of experts in different SEO disciplines, saving you the effort of finding and hiring multiple specialists individually.
  • Bundled costs: Agencies handle expenses like tools and software internally, so you don’t have to worry about individual subscriptions.
  • Better SEO tools: Since SEO is their core business, digital marketing agencies and SEO agencies typically use best-in-class SEO tools that smaller teams can’t afford.
  • Single payment model: Agency fees are often structured as a single monthly or project-based payment, simplifying your budgeting.
  • Efficiency and focus: SEO agencies handle the strategy, implementation, and reporting, freeing up your time to focus on other core business areas.

Here’s a summary to help you decide.

In-House SEO* Deeper understanding of your business.* More control over strategy.* Potentially more cost-effective in the long term.* Time-consuming to find expertise.* Requires management.* Need to manage tools yourself.
SEO Agency* Immediate access to specialists.* Established processes.* Access to premium tools.* Recurring fees.* May not be the top priority.* Need to communicate your needs effectively.

Key Takeaway: Both in-house SEO and agencies offer compelling benefits. In-house grants you more control but comes with greater complexity and risk. Agencies offer convenience and expertise but involve trusting an external partner.

Hiring an SEO agency is 10x cheaper than building an in-house SEO team and can drive results in months instead of years.

SEO: A worthwhile investment, not a cash grab.

There’s no single magic number for how much SEO costs. Different businesses will need different levels of service. 

Some will require a stronger focus on technical SEO, while others will require more hands-on on-page SEO. Others have their technical and on-page SEO worked out, but their off-page SEO is lacking. Others still need the whole package.

Like a great suit, you must tailor your SEO strategy to fit your business perfectly, making a standard SEO pricing plan impractical.

A word of caution: beware of agencies or individuals promising guaranteed first-page rankings or results that seem too good to be true. SEO takes time and consistent effort. If someone offers overnight miracles, it’s probably a scam.

SEO, done right, will give you the best return on investment in the long run. It’s about building a solid, ever-evolving strategy to make sure your ideal customers find you right when they need you.

Investing in SEO isn’t cheap. In-house? You can’t guarantee your in-house link builder can get 30 links per month. And you pay a salary regardless of whether they hit that goal. 

Content? Want 20 pieces per month? If your in-house writers don’t hit that, you’re paying a salary regardless.

With this structure, if things aren’t good, you can change directions quickly, without severance packages, firing, job boards, interviews, onboarding, training, and managing them every single day to make sure they are doing the tasks given. 

The mantra of “in-house is best” is long gone. 

Especially in SEO, where deliverables are very clear-cut. 

The best of the best keep it simple: SEO managers at the top. Give them a budget and let them outsource core functions while managing the strategy that pulls it together. 

Ready to strike while the iron’s hot? Book an intro call with uSERP. We’ll scale your SEO-driven revenue 10x faster (and cheaper) than hiring in-house. 

Jeremy Moser

Jeremy Moser

Jeremy is Co-founder and CEO of uSERP and has spearheaded SEO campaigns for global brands like SoFi, Robinhood, Freshworks, monday.com, & 100s more. He's a Forbes 30 under 30 in Marketing & Advertising.