Being in the field since 2004, I have insight into to what the average SEO Consultant or Specialist rate is in the 2016 market. If you are a small to medium size business, you can expect the average rate to pay an experienced SEO Consultant between $28 and $55 per hour, depending on the market.
SEO Consultant Fees and Rates
Most SEO Consultants rates are flat fees ranging from $100 to $7,500 per month. It depends on the type of website you have: small business all the way up to enterprise-level SEO. Consultants are typically compensated based on a predetermined amount of hours agreed between the SEO consultant and the business owner. Sometimes consultant fees can get very high if you’re using an out-of-date, or otherwise unfamiliar website management system. What if you have an old website from 2001 with 1,000 individual HTML files that the consultant would need to individually optimize? Your rate will ultimately depend on the amount of resources (hours) the consultant needs to accomplish your goals and complete the project. Keep this in mind when looking for a fair consultant rate on the open market (tip: WordPress is a very easy website management platform for SEO consultants to use, and most are familiar with it – so if you have a WordPress website, you can get a good SEO consultant for about $500/month).
SEO Firm Fees and Rates
Forbes has their own results of what an SEO costs, but they focus on retainers. Retainers are meant for business owners who want an on-going SEO campaign (e.g. a content strategy for their blog, an on-going SEO improvement campaign, link/citation building, etc). They tier them out based on project difficult and volume:
- $250-$500 per month for small businesses in a limited geographic area.
- $700-$1,500 for larger population areas like metropolitan areas (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, etc.)
- $2,000-$6,000 per month if you’re a regional brand or even a national brand selling a niche product with little competition, you can expect $2,000/month.
“The more mainstream the product, the more you’ll have to pay to rise above your competitors.”
- $10,000+ per month for national or international SEO campaigns not focused on a niche audience. You get what you pay for at the end of the day and if you’re willing to spend $10,000 is resources to fund your SEO campaign, you can expect quality content if you find the right firm or consultant. You need to pay for a quality SEO strategy.
SEO firms between $76-$200/hr. In my personal experience working with agencies and firms, $150 per hour is average for a firm.
SEO Consultants versus SEO firms/agencies
SEO Firms are corporate entities looking to make a profit. SEO Consultants are also looking to earn a profit, but coupled with trying to earn a living. I believe it is important for people to realize that you really get more out of a personal, individual SEO Consultant versus a stale, profit-driven SEO corporation. It comes down to quality, and I believe consultants have more of a drive to provide quality service to clients over firms or agencies.
SEO firms are sometimes even restricted from putting forth their best effort when optimizing your website. Firms use a business model focused on client hours, revenue and profitability. If you only pay $1,000/month to the firm, you only get X amount of hours from their worker drones. Firms limit your capabilities to achieve critical mass in your SEO campaign. SEO consultants have the incentive to make you #1 in the search results because they want the accolade to prove to future clients that they are successful.