Why Does The Cost of SEO Vary So Much?

by Jessica Ramesh FSE Online Ltd
Danielle Haley

Beware Of False Economy When Seeking Search Expertise

The phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ is perhaps never so apt as when talking about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) services. Prices vary widely – and so do some of the extravagant claims from some SEO practitioners as to how quickly they can get you to ‘number one on Google’.

What Is ‘Good SEO?’

In a nutshell, SEO is a method to help your website rank well with a search engine by appearing as high as possible on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Ideally your site would appear in the coveted ‘page one of Google’ (or other search engine) position when people use a search term for a product or service your business or organisation provides.

Some types of ‘rough and ready’ basic SEO might get you a high ranking for a short period, but almost certainly not for the long term – cheap and fast services will not provide a good return on investment in the long-run. Effective and more advanced SEO develops your website’s effectiveness in terms of ‘being found’ in searches and puts proper building blocks in place to help your site rank well for a longer period.

SEO – An Ongoing Project

The rate of change with search engines and the way they rank websites is rapid. Google makes detailed adjustments pretty much constantly in addition to the occasional major ‘headline’ algorithm change such as the Penguin and Panda updates. For example, a large algorithm change last year focused on ranking sites based on their effectiveness when being searched by people using mobile devices such as smartphones.

A good SEO partner (for that is how to ideally think of your SEO specialist) will have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on regarding search and specifically search engine developments. They’ll be able to respond rapidly to changes and ensure your website meets current search engine criteria.

What Affects The Cost of SEO?

Usually the level of service you’ll receive. A basic service will usually consist of an automated ‘one size fits all’ arrangement.


For an annual or monthly fee, an automated system will submit your information to data providers and business directories. They’re easy to manage and may be promoted as ‘your set and forget system’ or ‘push button SEO’ or something similar.

This type of SEO may not help your search engine ranking particularly, but it can assist in local search effectiveness by making sure your name and details are consistent throughout various directory sites and other local search sources.

Once you stop paying for the service, the proverbial ‘tap’ is turned off and it’ll stop maintaining your listings.

Small-Scale SEO

Perhaps more a local marketing campaign service than SEO, these services offer a seemingly attractive package of various marketing methods often including social media and pay per click advertising.

The possible drawback here is that you’re being spread rather thinly across various platforms and, as above, the various marketing channels cease once you stop paying.

Bespoke SEO Services

Provided by SEO specialists, a service suited to your needs and business type is provided. Consisting of consultations where the provider will discuss options, the SEO is built to last – even if you stop working with the SEO agency the results won’t disappear overnight.

Some of the benefits you’ll gain working with an SEO specialist:

  • Maintenance of website elements affecting search
  • One to one ongoing consultations
  • Solution tailored to your business such as relevant keyword research and bespoke content creation
  • Up to date intelligence as to what is required in the ‘search arena’
  • Regular and easy to understand reporting so you know how your SEO is developing
  • No ‘lock in’ contracts – rolling monthly arrangements can usually be made

Will It Be Expensive?

Most SEO specialists provide various tiers of service, and the amount of involved help would usually be commensurate with the type of business you are. A smaller outfit might require less involved help – and therefore at a lower price – than a large multi-national with heavy SEO demands.

There again, you need to balance the costs against the service you’ll be getting. Much of it is ‘manual’ such as content creation and properly researching keywords, and none of it will be trying to ‘game’ the search engines through cutting corners or indulging in ‘black hat’ activities (those that deploy aggressive strategies focusing on the search engines and not on the human audience – and in extreme cases violate the search engines’ terms of service).

With professional SEO companies, strategies that help your site rank highly are based on your site providing value and relevancy for someone searching for what you provide. It’s ‘white hat’ all the way – SEO that improves your search performance whilst maintaining your website’s integrity and observing the search engines’ terms of service.

Beware Of Extravagant Claims

Some SEO practitioners might market their service with screaming headlines promising you ‘page one search engine rankings by tomorrow’ or similar. Be cautious; effective SEO takes time to implement – as mentioned above, it’s very much putting strong foundations in place such as by building links carefully and properly researching keywords.

Most SEO specialists worth their salt won’t promise the earth and are adept at managing expectations – they want to work with you over the long term so will be keen to create and develop an SEO strategy that meets realistic objectives.

See For Yourself

Many SEO experts offering a bespoke service are happy to have an initial discussion of your needs before you make a commitment, so talk to one or two to see how they can help you.