SEO Companies want to know how much to charge for their services and businesses want to know how much site optimization is going to cost. Lucky for all of us, SEOmoz just posted the results of their 2011 survey, How Much Does SEO Cost? The survey asked approximately 500 search marketing consultants from all over the world to share information about their services, fees, clientele and company statistics. The result is a pretty reliable sampling of data that both consultants and businesses will find very helpful. The survey results include information from the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, India, Australia and New Zealand, but since the greatest population of survey participants came from the U.S., we’ll focus on those results. All the results can be viewed in the graphic below.
The following results are based on 296 U.S. based participants.
SEO Consultants charge $76 – $150 per hour on average
SEO Payment Models
Project based contracts, utilized by 73% of participants and monthly retainers (65% of participants) are the most popular cost model used. Contract-based projects varied widely from $230 to $30,000 but most often, contract sizes fell between $2,500 – $5,000. The large variation isn’t unexpected as search marketing projects can vary greatly in size and complexity. Monthly retainer fees were split from $100 to $500 on the low end and $750 – $5,000 on the high end. The most typical cost of having an SEO consultant on a monthly retainer was $2,500 to $5,000 per month.
Sixty percent of SEO companies also offer an hourly-fee option and 55% offer services at a fixed price. Less than 2% charge for their services based on outcome success through keyword ranking or website traffic.
Hourly Rates for SEO
Historically, hourly rates have varied greatly with previous surveys showing ranges from $25/hour to $1,000/hour. As a new industry, SEO consulting firms had to figure out what their services were worth. This survey, conducted at the end of 2011, has much more focused numbers, ranging from $76 to $150/hour, typically.
The Most Common Agency/Consultancy Type:
Most commonly, businesses performing search engine optimization are SEO-specific firms or consultancies whose main focus is on inbound/organic search marketing. These businesses make up nearly half of all surveyed. Web design firms are also offering SEO services in large number. Nearly 20% of firms who responded identified themselves as web designers/developers. In the U.K., nearly 32% of SEO consultants primarily identified themselves as web designers.
Number of Employees in Agency/Consultancy:
Single-person consulting agencies are still the most common with over 30% of those surveyed identifying themselves as the only employee. Agencies with 2-5 employees followed closely behind representing 29% of participants. SEO firms with over 25 employees were few and far between, collectively representing just 12% of those surveyed in the U.S.
Number of Concurrent Clients
With most SEO agencies having less than 10 employees, it’s no surprise that firms keep the number of active accounts to a manageable size of between 2 and 25. (As an aside, I have to admit there is a big difference between having 2 active accounts and 25. As a single-employee consultancy I am interested to know how other firms divide projects between employees.)
The value of search marketing and optimization has only recently been understood and so the need for SEO consultants is fairly new. About half of all agencies have been in business for 1 – 4 years. More than 15% are less than a year old.
Common Client Types
Small to Medium-sized businesses (regional manufacturers, funded web-start-ups, etc.) are the most prevalent clientele hiring SEO consultants. Regional retailers and small local businesses (single restaurant, mom & pop retailers) are also utilizing professional SEO services. Large, nationally recognized businesses and Fortune 1000 companies made up the smallest percentage of clients, simply because there are less of them.
Types of Services Provided
Search marketing consultants are providing a variety of services. Nearly all offer keyword research (97%), on-page recommendations (95%) and performed hands-on revisions (91%). Less popular services were logo/visual design services (40%) and onsite training (40%).
For a visual breakdown of all the SEO survey results, check out the graphic below provided by AYTM.