How Much Does SEO Cost in 2021?

Nowadays top priority is given to Affordable SEO by brand owners all over the world. Most firms and startups use SEO as a significant marketing strategy to increase brand awareness. The potential created for business websites is limited only by the search volume. The implementation of SEO will not only improve your search engine ranking but also enhance the quality of your website. This is achieved by optimizing your site and making it user-friendly.

I usually find myself among the people who ask, “How much does SEO cost?”. My answer is “depends”, and believe me, they hate this answer as it is the last answer everyone wants to hear. I also know that this answer is frustrating, but the truth- it is difficult, or you can term it as nearly impossible to put a price tag on SEO as SEO prices can vary quite a bit, depending upon a number of factors.

And by far you might have come far too many pricing models, too many choices, too many agencies…. As a matter of fact, research done by shows that you can end up paying less than $20 to over $20,000/month for SEO services.

You can yourself see that the pricing band is HUGE! But honestly, the price range that wide doesn’t help anyone. So let’s look more closely at a few numbers, and then the pros and cons of each SEO pricing model.

Take a Look At Some Numbers

In thorough research, Moz polled over 600 SEO companies and combined all of the data. A quick look shows us the following… an average SEO expert charges between $80 and $130 per hour. Further, the average monthly fee lies somewhere between $750 and $1,500/month. Whereas, performance-based SEO is free to start and has dynamic pricing.

Even with that basic knowledge, you may still be left wondering which sort of SEO will be best for your particular business?

I think the best and only answer is to disaggregate the different types of search engine optimization services various companies offer and come up with a standard price for each one.

1. Performance-Based SEO Costing

This model of SEO is relatively new and the Moz study neglected to mention pay for performance SEO. Moreover, not too many performance-based SEO options are available for small businesses. This model can be termed as “if you don’t rank, you don’t pay”. While it erases the risk for clients, it puts a heavy burden on the SEO agency to produce measurable results.


With a performance-based SEO plan, clients only pay if their rankings improve. This minimizes risk exposure for clients.

Reputable performance-based SEO agencies will provide upfront pricing, outlining rates if/when results are proven.


Some keywords will simply be too competitive for a performance-based SEO agency to accept and invest in.

Since rankings change on a daily basis, it’s impossible to predict exactly what your rankings will look like each month. That translates to a variable monthly rate.

Ideal For:

Performance-based SEO is ideal for smaller and/or local businesses that lack the resources or potential to invest in a retainer.

For eCommerce store owners, performance-based SEO offers much-needed flexibility to target specific products and product categories for better organic visibility.

2. Monthly SEO Retainers Costing

For long-term partnerships over one-off projects monthly, SEO services are favorable. This option is viable for most companies who need to outsource SEO completely. For many companies, this is one of the most promising ways to build meaningful results by optimizing search engines.


With a monthly SEO retainer, you will have an agency or company managing your campaign from end-to-end.

Working together on an ongoing basis will generally lead to improved communication, a stronger partnership, and greater trust.


You’ll sometimes end up paying for features/services that aren’t necessary for your business.

Monthly retainers will expect at least 6 months of commitment. While this is standard, it does mean you could be stuck if you’re not happy with the results.

Ideal For:

This SEO model is ideal for long-term SEO investment and complete SEO outsourcing.

Ideal for close collaboration with an SEO company that can integrate with other departments as well.

3. SEO Project Costing

This is the most popular SEO model among all the models. Despite its relative popularity, there’s a wide range of potential prices, mainly because the cost depends upon the scope of your needs.


You don’t have to worry about hourly costs racking up, or ending up on the hook for more than you’d planned to spend.

With this model you’ll likely agree upon a contract that clearly describes exactly what you’ll get, and when it will be delivered.


Prior experience is important to work with SEO companies or you could easily end up being overcharged.

Changes increase as if you need change or you need to pivot your campaign as project-based pricing normally comes with a contract that outlines all deliverables and due dates.

Ideal For

For those who have a strong grasp of SEO and only require specific & temporary help.

4. SEO Hourly Costing

Whatever hourly charges you approved before the starting of the work, is what you’ll pay. Depending on how many hours were required, you can accurately estimate what your bill will look like. At face value hourly SEO services seem like a beneficial investment as you know exactly what you’re going to pay for.

Sounds good to be true, isn’t it? But there is a catch

SEO is a process it takes time to achieve desired results therefore SEO projects can take longer than expected. Further, if you’re hiring an expert in SEO, the rates can get pretty high! So if you are planning to go for quality SEO you might end up paying between $75 and $150 per hour.


Time is logged for each activity, this helps you to easily track where your hired SEO expert or firm is investing the bulk of their time and effort.

Great for controlling how much you are spending.


SEO is a long process, and it might take up to 6 months to see noticeable improvements in results. This might save money but increases time.

SEO team may end up punching the clock since they are being paid hourly.

Ideal For:

For someone who needs outside help while planning to manage his/her own SEO.

For a very small and content-thin website.

What Affects The Cost Of SEO?

  1. Skill Set And Expertise

People and firms with higher expertise tend to cost more as they deliver proven results.

  1. Location

SEO services in metropolitan cities tend to cost more. Depending on the location, SEO costs may vary.

  1. Size of Your Business

SEO cost varies with the size of your business. Whether you are a multinational or a start-up or a small or a medium-size business, marketing tactics change for each and so does the overall cost. For example, for a small business, you can opt for SEO Packages for Small Business that will include all the necessary SEO strategies required for small business.

  1. Competency in Your Target Audience’s Language

Not every agency has a core competency in each and every language. For example, while hiring an SEO in India might sound like a great idea at first, be sure that the agency you hire has a firm grasp of English if you are planning to optimize your website for Anglophones. This goes for any language.

  1. Level of Marketing Expertise in Your Niche

Each marketing agency has expertise in at least one industry. Cost may vary with each industry as marketing skills and tactics change for each industry.

Summarizing The Costs of SEO

SEO provides you a definite increase in traffic, increases your brand awareness, and gives your brand a higher conversion rate.

With the continuous rise in competition in today’s market, it is doubtless that SEO can definitely help your brand stand out in the crowd. There is much noise in today’s market, and customers are confused about what brand to trust. You can use SEO as a tool in 2021 to build brand credibility, gain more customers, and generate better ROI.

Go through all the pricing templates discussed above, and choose what is best for you to take your company to the next level!