small_business_seo_costsIf you’re new to the art of managing a business online, the world of SEO can appear daunting.

How do you know what are reasonable small business SEO costs, which features are necessary, and which are a scam?

Here are a few different ideas of how to budget for reasonable SEO costs for your website, and what you might expect for different budgets.

Small Business SEO On a Budget: $100 or less

If you’re looking to update to site and have a very tight budget, the sad truth is that you’re going to be doing most of the work yourself.

While self-done can be a good learning exercise to help you as you grow your business, you should set a firm time budget before you begin any SEO work, because it’s important to factor in the soft costs of implementing updates yourself just as you factor in hard costs for someone else’s time.

If your budget is under $100, your best investment is going to be your own education. Spend some time reading blogs to get a sense of the landscape, and if you’re in it for the long haul it may be worth to invest in a primer course from a site like Udemy, which offers affordable courses and micro-courses on specific topics.

If you have a tight budget for both time and money, you should focus your efforts on easy on-site fixes, and if you’re running your site via a prominent do it yourself platform (WordPress, for example) you should invest in a plug-in that will automatically optimize many of your pages.

A good plug-in will usually have a free option to start, with upgrades that run in the $5-20 range.

SEO Costs on a Moderate Budget: under $1,000

The next step in your SEO development comes when you have a few hundred to a thousand dollars to invest. In addition to the on-site tips mentioned above, you’ll want to consider doing some off-page SEO.

At this price point, you may want to hire an experienced and recommended SEO-service provider to do an SEO-audit of your site. The deliverable here is a specific list of recommendations for you to implement.

At this level I would hesitate to hire anyone to physically go in and alter your code, but you can take the recommendations and implement them via your SEO-plugin, or by altering some basic html, such as header and title tags.

This is the level at which you’ll also want to start paying attention to off-site SEO. Budget a few hundred dollars to outsource (via sites like Odesk, Freelancer, or Elance) some of the nitty gritty work.

Beware with these sites that you often get what you pay for, and it’s usually best to find someone who shows experience and confidence by asking for a reasonable wage.

With off-page work, you never want to buy backlinks. Instead you should hire someone who will find relevant blogs and forums to comment on, and list your site in blog or article directories. These can be simple, but time-consuming tasks.

Small Business SEO on a Strong Budget: more than $1,000

If you have a strong budget to work with, you’re able to afford a complete SEO audit and implementation from a reputable online marketing agency.

Before you start pricing out firms to work with, be sure to list out your objectives for the project so you can start the conversation with the agency with specific terms. SEO-firms are infamous for throwing in everything and the kitchen sink, taking advantage of the fact that many small business have little or no clue what goes on in the SEO-world, nor how much things should cost.

Beware of anyone trying to sell you links, or who wants to improve your SEO through massive backlinking.

A few thousand dollars should get you a package combining on-page and off-page work, with all of the details of implementation handled by the agency. For an introductory plan, don’t spend more than $5,000, spread out over a period of several months.

Regardless of your budget, keep in mind that SEO is an on-going, long-term process. Before starting any new project, make sure you understand the basics of SEO so that, at the very least, you can start the conversation with some background knowledge. You might also want to check out my post on SEO analytics training for information on how to interpret your results.