Search Engine Optimization PRICES, FEES and TERMS

by Dave Curtis on 09/29/2011

If that’s what you’re asking – Stop!  Realize that that’s like asking “How much is a family meal” without letting anyone know how large the family is, how old the family members are (are they all getting the kiddie menu?), without knowing whether the place feeding them is a hot-dog stand or a fine, quality, dining establishment (or virtually anything in between), without knowing whether anyone in the family has special dietary needs, etc.
When it comes to pricing, the some of the most basic questions serious SEOs will ask themselves are:
  • How much work will it take to beat the stiffest competition for specific ranking terms?
  • What place position (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc) on page one in Google does the client want for each specific ranking term?
When it comes to the client determining budget needs, and the above questions have been answered by the SEO, the client needs to consider:
  • How much is the total amount spent by all people online for the product(s)/service(s)?
  • What am I willing to pay to acquire a specific percentage of that revenue streaming to me through my site?
  • Will a lower position costing less in man hours bring me more significant cumulative annual gains in the short run, and how much will I stand to lose in the long run if I don’t invest heavily enough for position one rank?
Here’s how the top 3 positions work (with position 10 thrown in to show how the CTR falls off):
Position #1 Click Through Rate is 36.4%
Position #2 Click Through Rate is 12.5%
Position #3 Click Through Rate is 9.5%
Position #10 Click Through Rate is 2.2%
What the above means is that if $1,000,000 worth of ACTUAL REAL SALES as the total spent in whatever areas you’re products sales or services sales are being covered on page one in Google, and you have position #1, your 36.4% Click Through Rate will translate into $364,000 of that $1,000,000 in general (if your marketing is right and the offer is at least as attractive as everyone else’s). Position #2 will bring in $125,000 of that $1,000,000. Position #3 will bring you $95,000 worth of that $1,000,000 total, and all the way down to position #10 which brings in just $22,000 worth of cash to you, all things being equal. The SEO’s job is primarily to rank pages. The basic marketing content needs to be supplied by the client, and the SEO then optimizes it. Unless the SEO is a company employee working at the physical business who knows every detail, then you’ll have to supply the marketing copy or precise details to the SEO if you want to rank properly and not be shocked when you’re getting thousands of dollars worth of potential work orders that don’t precisely fit what your services are doing or what have to sell. The above click through rate figures are supplied by a case study performed at Search Engine Watch.
There is no one size fits all SEO package, and no generic, all the same way to perform Search Engine Optimization.

My prices range between inexpensive and medium, based on the click through rate requirement considerations written about above and the “Company Considerations Affecting What You Can Expect to Pay” listed beneath the bullet points below.

(The Base of the pricing model on this page is an article by Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOMOZ in Seattle, Washington “…comparing notes with owners of search marketing firms, as well as referring a lot of people seeking SEO services… on the pricing & cost structures of the SEO business… from a few dozen companies and a couple hundred referrals” Source Rand Fishkin of SEOMOZ SEO Pricing Costs What You Charge How Much Should You Pay ) Please visit that link if you think you may want to use SEOMOZ’ services, or have Mr. Fishkin refer you to any of the excellent SEO firms he refers clients to. After extensive research on SEO service price and service models I believe that this is the most helpful and accurate information on the web. I have modified this information and placed it here due to my own paranoia that a valuable page like this one may one day disappear from a site. If you are an SEO planning to link to this information PLEASE link to SEOMOZ and NOT to this page. Please also remember that if you adapt any of SEOMOZ information and place it on your own site, to provide a link to Rand Fishkin’s original work.

Why is SEO, for a service that is relatively “invisible” seemingly so expensive? (Also see “Why is SEO So Expensive?“)

The best way to answer that question is through an analogy using fine wine and well optimized web sites as examples. (Also see “Google & Bing, Self Appointed Web Site Connoisseurs“)

If you’re fine driving a used Ford or enjoying Gallo Hearty Burgundy and don’t know the difference between a Manet and a Monet then you’re likely not going to understand much of anything that follows. But if you do understand why quality engineering provides a competitive edge, if you are serious about marketing and work at percentages every day, then read on.

Google, Yahoo and Bing have set themselves up to answer your search queries by serving you the finest examples of what they believe are the most relevant results based on your search terms. What these search engines do is use anywhere up to 200 or more (depending on the search engine) different variables to score a web site. The search engines are thus “connoisseurs” of what makes the most perfect web site deserving top ranking, and every other rank all the way down to the very last page in Google for each and every keyword or keyphrase being searched. More than anything else, they are judging a site by its content, and not how it looks.

Google, Yahoo and Bing have thus set themselves up as the expert judges, just as wine competitions have trained wine experts as judges whose aim is to obtain valid comparisons of wines by based on many complex qualities deemed important in the best of wines.

The similarities between making wines and building web sites are amazing. Almost anyone with a little knowledge, some grapes, yeast, a barrel, some sulfur, bottles, corks and some labels can make a wine, and call themselves a vintner. The same can be said for web sites. Almost anyone with a computer, some software to build html pages, some graphics, a hosting platform and a domain name can build a web site and call themselves a webmaster / SEO.

The results may look just as good on the outside, but the content inside is what matters. I happen to know a lot about wines – varietals, monopoles, proprietals, fortifieds, dessert, sparkling… chateau wines, champagnes, German, French, Californian, philoxera, native root stocks and grafted… there are so many nuances… estufas, soleras, terms that are specific to so many different wines. And it’s the same thing with web sites. A good vintner can make a wonderful wine that will please both the connoisseurs and the public, just as a good SEO can create a site to please the public and the search engines.

It all starts with words. Words on a site are content – and just as each grape can be noble and create a totally noble wine – each word must be carefully selected (or rejected) if the content is to qualify both for what the searcher wants to see and what the search engines will deliver.

That’s why one person will promise to build you a site for $500 with SEO included, and build you a pretty site with lots of nice graphics, fancy menu, animated flash and other eye and ear pleasing rich media – but pop the cork on the internet and Google, Bing and Yahoo turn up their noses at it, and won’t serve it, unless by accident someone types in the occasional lucky phrase and somehow it shows up anyway. By accident is no way to run a business.

So, while there are many thousands of grape varieties used in wines throughout the world in millions of combinations, there are at least as many categories and sub-categories of subject specific web sites. Some are harder to optimize for than others. Some of the classier luxury ones have much stronger competition. The difference between a well built web site properly SEOd and one that isn’t, is that one will sit on the shelf and never go anywhere – possibly selling only locally to the walk-ins, while the other will go county, state, region, country or even world-wide as Google, Yahoo and Bing see fit to deliver.

Your lawn service doesn’t need world wide attention, so it will be cheaper. Your established cosmetics company wants to go nationwide in a big way against multi-million dollar sales competition – so it will be much more expensive. Certain wines like web sites also benefit from age. Hire a good SEO and you’ll get quality results delivered to your many brand new clients by Google, Yahoo and Bing.