If you pay for an SEO service, you’ll normally be charged between £250-750 a month (£3000-9000 a year). Whether or not that’s good value depends on two things – the ROI and whether any shortcuts/risks have been taken in the process, which could see your site penalised later on. Some SEO services are good value, but lots of them aren’t.
If you do SEO in-house – some or all of it – you can significantly reduce the cost of SEO. For a small business targeting 5 averagely competitive keywords, the cost of doing SEO is between £100-2500 a year (details below). For subsequent years, the cost of doing SEO should drop to between £100-1200 a year, as SEO costs are very much front loaded.
On top of the financial cost of in-house SEO, you’ll also need to invest time and effort into the SEO process, which, of course, isn’t free. How much time it takes you to do SEO in-house depends on the personnel available and the skills and abilities they have, however, on average you should expect to need to allocate 5-15 hours a month (after the initial education/learning stage) to doing SEO.
What follows is a breakdown of the SEO costs for a small business doing in-house SEO. The cost and time estimates are for the 1st year of SEO and for a small business targeting 5 averagely competitive keywords, which, in this instance, are defined as having a combined search volume of less than 2500 monthly UK searches and no more than a couple of nationwide/big brand competitors.
There’s no need to pay for any SEO courses or books. You can learn everything that you need to for free, from online SEO blogs and forums. For example, there’s lots of free SEO help and advice here. To outrank other small businesses, you only need a beginner to lower-indermediate knowledge of SEO, and don’t need to learn any upper-indermediate or expert SEO processes or strategies.
You need to research both keywords and competitors. Keyword research you can do for free by using your knowledge of your industry and Google’s Keyword Tool. To research competitors, specifically their strength (in terms of online trust and authority) and who is linking to them, you’ll need to use a paid tool like Ahrefs.com, which costs around £50 a month. You don’t need to use such a tool every month though – just the 1st month and then at 3-6 month intervals.
If you teach yourself about on-site optimisation, and feel comfortable editing the code of your website yourself, then you can do this for no cost. The process can be quite technical though, and even a small error can make it difficult, or even impossible, for you to rank highly. Therefore, if you’re not confident in your abilities, you’ll need assistance from an SEO consultant for some of the process and/or to review the work that you do.
You should have an individual page for each of your services/products and 5-15 asset pages of authority content to attract backlinks and social media activity, and, maybe a blog that gets updated once every 2-4 weeks. You should at least try to write all of this content yourself, as no-one knows your business better than you. If you’re not satisfied with the end result, then you can pay a copywriter to edit and improve your work.
In theory, you shouldn’t need to buy backlinks, and paying for them is technically against Google’s guidelines, however, whilst you can rank highly using only free backlinks, in practice some costs will be incurred, especially if you want to rank highly in a reasonable timeframe. For small businesses, an individual link might cost £10-£100, and if you need 50-100 backlinks, you might end up having to fund, in some way, around 10-20% of those.
You can get all relevant analytical data about your site (number of visitors, keywords used to find your site, where your site is ranking, etc.) for free via Google Analytics and Google Search Console. You can definitely teach yourself to interpret this data and to highlight strengths and weaknesses that need to be worked on. For small businesses, this needs to be done only once a month.