Pricing SEO work

I’m wrapping up my first large SEO project this week. The client contacted me yesterday and wants me to present to them ways that I can continue improving visibility for their site…

I’m happy about that – the company I’m working with is small but growing and is in an interesting but competitive niche industry. We’ve had a number of good conversations about the work and the site and it was all quite productive – they are now much more knowledgeable about where they stand in relation to their competitors and tactics to improve that standing, and I have my SEO processes and reports debugged to the point where the next time I perform this service, my workload will be cut way down.

So… over the weekend I thought about how I could continue with them. They have a medium-sized small business site, and we worked on 8 landing pages for the first three months as a package deal, not monthly fees.

Now my suggestion to them will be to continue in that vein with the next set of 10 pages or so, and rather than moving to a monthly fee-based service I think I’m going to revise my packages and present one of them as the best option (the more cost-effective option since I’m really starting from scratch with the next batch of pages). If we get to the point where all landing pages are optimized, then it will switch into monthly fees.

I did some reading today online, visiting about 20 SEO firms and a few blogs and found a big range in pricing, for the few that even mentioned it. $2000-$6000 per month for some, $75 per hour for others…

I really undercharged when I started working with them (it was my first large SEO project) but I’ve revised my single package into three, based on the number of hours I spent the first time and the fact that this time will be a lot faster. I don’t really know how to price my services based on the value I provide for the client, but that’s something that I noted frequently when I was researching how to reset my prices.

I spent a lot of time in the beginning getting the processes, data gathering methods and reporting formats nailed down, and don’t have to do any of that again. It was tricky at first to create a cohesive set of documents but now I think it’s come together quite well, and the client’s been very pleased with the depth of reporting.

I think my pricing structure is fair, reflects my level of experience accurately and will cover most of my clients’ needs, except for the smallest sites. I’m really interested in targeting small to medium-sized sites with moderately competitive keywords because it’s a bit more challenging.


  1. Good post, Debbie.

    I would like to highlight some points on which you can potentially price your services.

    1. Straight time: figure out how much you want to make for the time frame and charge that. Many times, value is in perception and not in the skills involved experience or even in the results.

    2. What its worth to the client: regardless of how difficult or time consuming the task is, if you feel it is of great value and can potentially have great results, make sure you get compensated for your knowledge and insight. If all it takes is a simple redirect from the non-www canonical version to the www version, but it will have great effect on rankings and ultimately revenues and profits, you deserve to be compensated for bringing that issue to light with what is almost a % of the final outcome.

    3. Perceived value: do not cut yourself short. Ask yourself, where would they be without you? Without your help, would they have had the success they do now? Who else can offer your level of advice and service? No one!

    4. Flat fees: Figure out each aspect of your service and then take into account how long each will take. Decision makers love clear cut services and pricing. This is a great way to continue your relationship and potentially get more work from that client as they will now have a price menu to look through and compare historic results to fees.

    5. Results based compensation: figure out some data points and ask for compensation when certain levels are met. Maybe you can get paid when a page hits the 1st page on Google–maybe the top 5 for a high volume keyword? Also, look into PageRank (ugh!), link quantity (yuck!), link quality (yay!), unique visitors per day/month, conversion rate, and ROI.

    I hope that helps.

    Gennady SEO Specialist

  2. Pricing low is OK for good reputation building and I have done several AND I will continue to take care of these special few at the low rate.

    The rewards from their testimonials help me build higher prices that I think I am worth.

    I tend to lower the price for low mental maintenance businesses and have a hidden forum for them – like my own little SEO advice center.

    If I get an obvious PITA client to be out come the contracts and higher prices.

    Good luck to you


  3. David, I like the idea of providing low-level support with a private forum. Has that been successful for you? Do your clients like and use it enough to be valuable?

  4. Gennady, thanks for this nice post. I like your positiveness.

    I think that a combination of flat fees and straight time will serve me well for the time being; I’m not sure how I could come to a price based on value to the client. How do I determine what that could be?

  5. In order to figure out the value that your SEO work really brings to the client, you need to take a step back and do a little legwork on the entire business model.

    For example, if they are a local shoe store in a small town, getting them to the 1st page on Google for “Lake Somewhere shoe store” will not hold much value for them. Let’s say you estimate that it brings them 100 visitor a month with a conversion rate of 10%: so 10 customers bought shoes from their sole Google listing. Let’s further estimate a markup on their shoes of 50% and the average pair retails for $100. That means they made $50 per sale on 10 people so that’s is $500. You just made them $500 base profit (obviously this is a very rough estimate and example) on $1000 in sales. Now figure out how much that $500 in sales is worth to them in straight profit and potential return sales. I would guess 25%. So I would value my services to this Lake Somewhere Shoe Store at $125.

    The reverse can be implied for a major industry and several listings. Lets use the example of a New York City Real Estate agency. You must estimate how many visitors your work will bring them. Lets say 10000. In that time span, they close 50 deals. Each deal pays the agency 10% of the total sale: the average sale being $500,000. So the agency just made $50,000 per deal and a total of $2.5M in profit on 50 deals from your efforts. Say we apply that same 25% value to that $2.5M in profits. That means your efforts were worth $625,000.

    Clearly you wont be able to get all of the percentages but you can estimate and try to figure out industry standards. Further, you can play with that 25% value any way you like. There is no definitive way of doing this with clear cut numbers. In this case, you must really go with your gut. Many times, I have found that what you tell them your efforts are worth will be taken as gospel. Just don’t exaggerate. Be straightforward with what you think its worth.

    In addition, you can throw in an extra 10% on all final profits for return customers, brand awareness, site success after your contract is up, etc. There is a lot of room to play here and be creative.

    Feel free to email me with questions.

  6. I am just starting out in freelanceSEO, having done some SEO for a few friends companies. Do you generally make the changes to the website code yourself as an SEO consultant, or make all the necessary recommendations to the company’s webmaster for them to do themselves?

  7. I’m a designer and developer, so unless a company had someone on staff that was familiar with SEO (or the CMS that the company is using) I usually do it myself.

  8. With SEO allways charge middle rate not the top if you charge the top clients expect something beond belive. Dont ever charge rock bottom prices either i learnt a very important lesson doing that becase you get every bit of work going sounds good but it ust rns you into the ground if your mid price at least you know yo are getting something back for the time you have invested.

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