SEO is free, but is it really free?

It is well known that search engine optimization requires some sort of investment. If a business owner wants to have tangible SEO results like an increase in search engine/Google rankings or they want more traffic to their website: then this is either going to cost them time, money, or both. If you try to do SEO yourself, it will cost you time to learn, create, and implement a strategy. Or… It will cost you money by hiring an employee, an agency, or some type of hired help. I created this post to help readers understand how most SEO agencies determine the price of SEO.


Big picture, this is all you need to know. The more people who are competing against you, the more difficult it is to gain a piece of the pie. Thus, this most likely costs an agency more hours of labor and/or utilizing more resources to generate positive performance.

High SEO Competition: More Work + More Time= Higher Cost.

“Competition” is mostly based on two categories: Industry & Location.


Mostly, SEO is based on keywords and not an industry. However, a competitive industry mostly has competitive keywords. For example. The term “Attorney” is a competitive keyword. An attorney service or niche like: “Personal Injury Attorney” is also a very competitive keyword. This vertical is so competitive that secondary personal injury related keywords like: “accident attorney,” “auto accident attorney,” etc., are usually competitive terms. It’s always possible to find keywords that are less competitive but those are most likely less searched.

Some more examples of competitive verticals:

Auto Parts/Service
Auto Dealers
Computers/Office Equipment
Drug Stores/Pharmaceuticals
Financial Services
Real Estate

If your business is within a competitive industry, generally your SEO will be expensive. Please note that this is the case for most circumstances. There are some exceptions to this rule depending on the strategy of the campaign.


For most cases, location can be split into two categories: a national campaign or a local campaign. When using the search engine, Google as an example: A local SEO campaign is based on the city.

Local SEO Example: “Keyword + City.” A national campaign is just the keyword. National Example: “Keyword.” A national campaign means that no matter where you are, the keyword you are searching will bucket your searches on a national scale. However, this rule isn’t always the case if the term you are using is typically associated with a local location. Then Google is smart enough to provide you some local search results. Example: If you type in “restaurant” without a city, you will most likely receive restaurant searches near your location and searches on a national scale. This can differentiate based on a variety of factors. This instance is most common from searches on a mobile device. If you search “restaurants” on your mobile phone, then you will receive mostly local results.

Regardless, the more competitive your location, then SEO will be costly.

Other Factors:

  • Multiple Keywords and/or Multiple Locations? If your website offers a large variety of products or services or contains a range of keywords that don’t fit a consistent theme. Then, this typically warrants an additional and custom cost by most agencies. A similar outcome occurs if your business has multiple locations and/or you want to rank in various cities. Local SEO is based on the city the keyword is searched in. So, if you want to rank in more than one city, or a metro area of a city, then this will most likely require an additional custom cost.
  • Condition of the Website? Is the website new, old? Does the website have technical issues? 404errors? Is the website mobile responsive? Does the website have a lot of pages? The current condition of the website can determine the amount of work needed for a SEO agency to deliver performance. If there are a lot of technical issues, this will either delay the time of performance or an agency will charge more for this extra work. If the SEO agency does an audit of your website upfront, they can determine this before delivering a price point.
  • Previous SEO? Did you use a SEO agency or individual before and the relationship just didn’t work out due too poor work? Or, perhaps they did of positive work and you’re vetting a new agency to take over. If this is the case, it might cost more to fix poor work or possible less to continue positive work.
  • Quicker Results? Be wary of anybody you claims fast results. SEO, has a huge variety of factors especially when it comes to keyword rankings on search engines. However, more work per month can increase the likelihood of generating faster results. If this is what is needed, then a SEO firm can contribute more time/labor/resources to a campaign for more $$$.
  • Specific Strategy? Do you just need a Boost an optimization? Link building only strategy? Just one keyword to promote? Promoting an offer or event? These are some examples of custom SEO strategies. If they are simpler or have “less competition”, then this can permit a lesser price.
  • Does the SEO Agency Implement or Recommend? Generally, there are three types of SEO agencies. Those that implement SEO work, those who consult only, and occasionally, those who do both. Depending on what type of agency, these can generate different costs.

In Summary:

Hiring a professional is highly recommended for any SEO campaign. Unfortunately, there can be a lack of consistency in price points while vetting different agencies or service providers. Like many products or services, it is not always wise to settle on the lowest bid. SEO is an investment and the success of the campaign is heavily influenced on the relationship of the provider. Therefore, it is best to hire someone trustworthy over a lowest bid.

This post was originally posted on