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How much does SEO really cost?

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Recently the results of some brilliant research conducted by the clever people at Ahrefs was published on their blog and it painted a pretty clear picture of what SEO actually costs in 2018. To help everyone we know better understand the costs of search engine optimization in this day and age we will give a summary of the article here and for those of you looking for the full details we also provide the source article at the end of our summary.

The Research

This data was collected through a survey of 350 Agencies, Consultants, and Freelancers in the SEO industry and Ahrefs manually reviewed every submission to remove duplicates, spam and anonymous submissions. They also promoted beyond their own audience (they have a large following in the SEO industry already), so they definitely reached a broad range of SEOs with this survey. The results provided insight related to hourly rates, monthly retainer rates and per-project fees.

Key Findings

  • Most SEOs charge a monthly retainer: 74.71% of respondents charge clients a monthly retainer fee. Pricing for this varies significantly from country-to-country, but it almost never exceeds $5K/month (94.23% of all respondents priced their retainers at $5K/month or below).
  • For monthly retainers, $501-$1,000 per month is the most popular: 23.08% of monthly retainers fall within this range. The second most popular pricing tier is $251-$500, which accounts for 19.23% of all retainers. However, 24.23% of monthly retainers are $2,001/month or more. In the US, $2,501-$5,000/month was the most popular pricing tier.
  • Some SEOs offer numerous pricing models, although the majority don’t: 40.8% stated that they offer multiple pricing models. But 59.2% of respondents offer only one pricing model, 66.99% of whom charge a monthly retainer. This means that 39.66% of all SEOs surveyed only charge a monthly retainer—they do not offer hourly or per-project pricing to any of their clients.
  • For hourly pricing, $100-$150 per hour is the most popular: 25% of all hourly rates fall within this range. In the US, that figure jumps to 35.29%. The second most popular hourly pricing tier is $75-$100, which accounts for 19.53% of all hourly rates.
  • Hourly rates almost never exceed $150: 88.28% of respondents charge $150/hour or less, although over half (50.44%) of those people charge between $75 and $150 per hour. Only 11.72% of hourly rates exceed $150/hour, and only 6.25% exceed $200/hour.
  • For per-project pricing, $501-$1,000 is the most popular: 25.17% of all projects fall within this range. However, 52.32% of respondents charge one-off fees of $1,001 or more, with some charging as much as $25,001-$50,000.
  • SEOs who only serve local markets charge significantly less than those serving the worldwide market: On average, those serving the worldwide market charge 130.74% more than those serving the local market when it comes to monthly retainer pricing. Our findings were similar for hourly and per-project pricing, too—albeit not quite as extreme.
  • SEO agencies charge more than freelancers and consultants: Freelancers charge $68/hour, on average, whereas SEO agencies charge almost double that ($134.66). It’s a similar story for monthly retainers and per-project fees; SEO agencies charge 2–4x more than freelancers and significantly more than consultants.
  • More experienced SEOs charge significantly more: Those who’ve been in business for 2+ years charge 39.4% more per hour, 102.41% more for monthly retainers, and a staggering 275% more for one-off projects than those who’ve been in business for fewer than 2 years, on average.

This information should give anyone seeking SEO services a strong idea of what to expect as far as costs go but for anyone looking to get the finer details of the survey are encourage to check out the original article on the Ahrefs Blog.

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