How to Charge for SEO Services

If you do something well, never do it for free. That may be something you heard from your father or grandmother at some point during your childhood or adolescence, but it doesn’t really set in until you truly get out into the workforce. In other words, whether you’re an SEO working at a large firm or a small company, you’re not going to do projects just out of the goodness of your heart. You’re going to want to make some money. But the problem is…how exactly do you charge for SEO services?


Tips for Knowing What to Charge for SEO Services

Given that the SEO niche is pretty specific, the most important part will be figuring out the form of payment you will be charging, and there are several options to choose from:

Monthly retainer

You set up a fee each month for your client. Oftentimes a contract is involved for a set number of months.

Just like a lawyer is always on hand for clients who can afford to foot the bill, an SEO can always be available for their clients and charge a monthly fee in the same way (even if you don’t get to charge nearly as much as a lawyer).

By choosing this avenue, you can set up a fee each month for your client to pay and in return, you help them out regularly instead of just popping in and out on different projects or at various periods of time. You would be counted on to supply regular information, reports and updates while keeping your client up-to-date with the latest trends and research.

A monthly retainer is the most common way to charge for SEO services.


Usually you will charge per project, but occasionally you can charge an hourly rate depending on your system or your client.

It’s entirely possible that a company only needs an SEO for a certain project, such as the release of a specific product or other newsworthy item for their company. It may only be a one-time thing, like helping a company build their Twitter followers or increase their online presence just before a sale. You’d have to get all the information from the company on the project and what their expectations are and then work out the pricing from there. Project-based services may be a one-and-done thing, or it could be something where the company employs your services every now and then.

You can also charge hourly instead of a project-to-project basis, but it’s often very hard to determine how long some of these jobs will take, which means an hourly rate is the most unpredictable cost.


Here you would charge per service, so costs may differ.

This is pretty much the in-between from projects and monthly retainers. Companies that don’t need an SEO every week or every month can instead employ an SEO agency for specific services, such as analyzing the company and providing a report on ways to improve in SEO or on social media.


So Exactly How Much Should You Charge?

As you might imagine, how much you should charge is completely dependent upon the client, your company, the work that is put in, and the agreement decision (discussed above). Nonetheless, it helps to have a few numbers in mind so that you know where to even begin. I recommend checking out your competition to see prices and get an idea of what is going on in the industry.

Below breaks down the three different types of partnerships with a few concrete numbers to help you:

The cost of monthly retainers is affected by a lot of variables. Last fall, Forbes wrote this article and broke down the price ranges of monthly retainers into four groups:

  1. $250-$500 per month
  2. $700-$1,500 per month
  3. $2,000-$6,000 per month
  4. $10,000+ per month

Obviously that depends on how big or well known your company is and how large the target demographic is, among other variables. National or international campaigns would clearly take more effort, thus the cost would increase. If you’re just starting out or still relatively unknown, figure to be charging at the lower end of that scale.

Forbes also documented how much companies should expect to pay for certain projects, not on a monthly retainer. For a basic SEO audit, which would take an estimated 5-10 hours, a range from $600 to $2,000 is recommended depending on the volume of work. For a more detailed SEO audit, $3,000 to $20,000 as a better range.

As for hourly, Forbes found that most wages would fall in between $125 and $200 per hour.

As with anything involving money, make sure to set expectations at the outset. Don’t promise something you can’t deliver, and make sure the client is not under a false sense of security, expecting immediate success on Google or social media. The quality of your work will speak for itself and it’s not necessarily about having the lowest price or best deals around. Regardless of how large or well-known you or your firm are, you’re selling a service many people are unfamiliar with. Gaining a handle on SEO is far from easy, but it’s a vital part to any business with a website, so companies understand services won’t come cheap.

What are some of your experiences with charging for SEO services? What have you found that works the best? Share your story with us in the comments section below.

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