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What Does SEO Cost - Should I Hire a Professional or Do it Myself?

Every small business owner knows that marketing is a critical and important factor in the overall success of your business. Although traditional marketing methods such as; newspaper ads, billboards and radio spots still deliver results, it is becoming clear that online marketing is beginning to overtake them in terms of overall effectiveness.

In fact, the average person now spends more time online than with TV and all other media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) combined and with over 100 billion Google searches a month, online marketing is definitely the place to be. But this begs the question, who should be doing the online marketing for your business?

Should you hire a professional SEO company to handle your online marketing or should you learn how to do the work yourself? In this article, we aim to answer those very questions.

The Premise

We are aiming to compare the average monthly retainer fee for SEO agencies in the UK with the average hourly cost of a small business owner and compare the 2 to find out which one is more cost effective.

The Methodology

The Monthly Cost of a SEO Professional

in 2011, Moz.com ran a survey asking consultants and agencies of all sizes and geographies to contribute their SEO prices and cost structures.

We used the resulting infographic to work out the average monthly retainer fee for SEO agencies in the UK and the figure we arrived at was; $251 - $500 for a small to medium business.

The average cost of SEO services monthly retainer

The Hourly Cost of an Average Small Business Owner

Finding out how the hourly cost of a small business owner was a little trickier than finding out the hourly cost of a SEO professional. To find out the hourly cost, we went about trying to calculate how much the time of a small business owner was worth.

Using clear thinking's tool (What is your time really worth to you), we worked out;

  • The average amount of hours a small business owner will work per week in total, which according to this article from accountingweb.com is - 50 Hour Per Week.
  • The average amount of weeks a small business owner will work in the year, which according to this article from Inc.com is - 50 weeks a year.
  • The average weekly salary of small business owner which according to this article from businessnewsdaily.com is £1038.46

This works out at an average hourly figure of £20.77

What Does a SEO Professional Actually do to Improve your Site's Ranking?

Due to the ever changing nature of SEO, the day to day tasks of a SEO agency aren't going to stay the same however, there are some tasks that traditionally are always done to help rankings and these are the ones we are going to focus on in this article.

Keyword Research

Keywords are the words and phrases your potential customers are typing into the search engine to find your website. This is why it is important that your website is ranking for and promoting the right keywords so that your customer can find you. If you are a plumber in Leeds, it's no good ranking for "Plumber Essex" because 99.9% of people who find your website won't be interested in your services.

So an SEO agency or professional will do keyword research to determine the keywords that your customers are searching for in Google and then implement them on your website's meta titles and meta descriptions.

How Long Would it take a SEO Agency or Professional?

This process would be included within the monthly retainer fee for a SEO professional or agency: $251 - $500

How Long would it take for you implement it yourself?

The steps involved in conducting keyword research would be;

  • Learning how keywords work - 1 hour
  • Learning how to use the keyword tools - 1 hour
  • Finding the most relevant keywords for your business - 2 hours
  • Learning how to check what your site is rankings for currently - 1 hour

Total time - 5 hours

Total hourly cost - £103.85

Meta Titles and Descriptions

A website's meta title and descriptions are important, not only for your websites performance in the search engine results but also for attracting any potential customer thinking about clicking through to your website. A meta title is a very important factor in positioning your web site within the search engine result pages because it is the first factor Google will take into account when submitting your site.

The meta description tags appear in the search results below your page title, a good meta title and description should look like this;

meta-title-examp

You can learn more about Meta title and descriptions here: Optimizing your Meta Description Tags for Google Searchers

How Long Would it take a SEO Agency or Professional?

This process would be included within the monthly retainer fee for a SEO professional or agency: $251 - $500

How Long would it take for you to learn how to implement it yourself?

The steps involved in conducting learning and implementing meta title and descriptions would be;

  • Learning how meta title and meta descriptions work - 1 hour
  • Create new meta tags from keywords in previous step - 3 hours
  • Replace all existing meta tags on your website - 2 hours

Total time - 6 hours

Total hourly cost - £124.62

Google Analysis

First thing a SEO agency or professional will do is check to see whether your site has Google analytics and webmaster tools installed.

You can find more about Google analytics and Google webmaster tools here:

If they haven't, then they will install them on your website via a HTML code inserted into your site's header. If they have been installed, they will check to see how you website is performing in the following areas:

  • How many people have visited your website in the last month
  • Where the visitors that visit your site are from
  • Whether or not you need a mobile friendly website
  • Marketing tactics that drive most traffic to your site
  • What pages are the most popular
  • How many visitors have you converted into a lead or customer
  • Whether or not you can increase your website's speed
  • What content do your visitors engage with the most
  • what keywords are you visitors using in the search engine to find you

If any of the above factors are underperforming it will be taken note of so it can be corrected at a later date. They will also check how you are ranking already on Google for various keywords and build upon that base.

How Long Would it take a SEO Agency or Professional?

This process would be included within the monthly retainer fee for a SEO professional or agency: $251 - $500

How Long would it take for you to learn how to implement it yourself?

The steps involved in conducting a Google analysis would be;

  • Learning how to install Google analytics and Google webmaster tools - 1 Hour
  • Learning how to use Google analytics and Google webmaster tools - 1 hour
  • Creating a report with the relevant data - 1 hour

Total time - 3 hours

Total hourly cost - £68.31

In a link profile analysis, an SEO agency will have a look at all the back links currently pointing at your website. Links and the quality of links play a major role in how your website rank in the search engines. Once they have a list of the links pointing at your website, they will determine the quality of those links. If your website has deployed any techniques that are deemed black hat or spammy, these will need be disavowed straight away as they can seriously hurt your website's rankings.

Black hat techniques include such methods as;

  • Spamming forums
  • Blog comment spam
  • Links farms
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Cloaking
  • Link buying and link exchange programmes
  • Article spinning
  • Doorway pages

How Long Would it take a SEO Agency or Professional?

This process would be included within the monthly retainer fee for a SEO professional or agency: $251 - $500

How Long would it take for you to learn how to implement it yourself?

The steps involved in conducting a link profile analysis would be;

  • Learn how to distinguish a bad link with a good link - 1 hour
  • Subscription to a back link tool (Majestic) - £45 (basic subscription)
  • Check your back links and create a report - 1 Hour
  • Learn how to disavow bad links (If needed) - 2 Hours
  • Disavow bad links pointing at your site (If needed) - 1 Hour

Total time - 5 hours

Total hourly cost - £103.85 + £45 subscription = £148.85

Content Analysis and expansion

Google loves good quality content, without content, your website is going to struggle to climb the search engine rankings.

A SEO agency will have a look at the current content on your website and see if;

  • There is enough content on your website
  • If the content is of good quality
  • If the content is relevant to your website

To make it easier to get quality links, you need good content. You are not going to get quality links pointing at your homepage very easily, unless you are throwing a lot of money at it. It would be up to the SEO agency to determine whether or not the content you already have on your website is good enough to use already and promote or if they feel you should have some quality content published. Once that content is published, it is then their job to market and try and to get links to that content using the methods mentioned in the link building section.

How Long Would it take a SEO Agency or Professional?

This process would be included within the monthly retainer fee for a SEO professional or agency: $251 - $500

How Long would it take for you to learn how to implement it yourself?

The steps involved in conducting a content analysis and expansion would be;

  • Learn about quality content - 1 Hour
  • Determine whether or not your website is need of more content - 1 Hour
  • Define an article/articles to be written - 3 Hours
  • Cost of article being written - £98 - 2500 word article
  • publishing the content on website / formatting - 1 Hour

Total time - 6 hours

Total hourly cost - £124.62 + Article cost £98 = £222.62

Brand Monitoring

If you have a strong local brand, your company or website may get mentioned in the local press, local websites or social media. Sometimes, these mentions don't include a link back to your website. A SEO company will monitor brand mentions and contact those who forget to include a link back to your website.

How Long Would it take a SEO Agency or Professional?

This process would be included within the monthly retainer fee for a SEO professional or agency: $251 - $500

How Long would it take for you to learn how to implement it yourself?

The steps involved in brand monitoring would be

  • Mention subscription - £29 a month
  • Contacting any outlets who have mentioned your business - 1 Hour

Total time - 1 hour

Total hourly cost - £22.77 + Mention subscription = £51.77

Competitor Research

I'm sure you know the saying "keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer", well keeping an eye on what your competitors are doing can help your website's performance or marketing campaign. Although it isn't a good idea to completely copy what your competitor is doing, it may spark an idea or they may be doing something obvious that you have missed and let's face it, if they are above you in the Google rankings, they must be doing something right.

A good SEO agency will keep an eye things like;

  • Their social media campaigns
  • Their link building practises
  • Their overall marketing strategies

Sistrix is a good tool for monitoring your competitors.

How Long Would it take a SEO Agency or Professional?

This process would be included within the monthly retainer fee for a SEO professional or agency: $251 - $500

How Long would it take for you to learn how to implement it yourself?

The steps involved in competitor research would be

  • Sistrix subscription - £100 a month
  • Learning how to use sistrix - 1 hour
  • Conducting research on competitors - 3 hours

Total time - 4 hours

Total hourly cost - £91.08 + £99 sistrix subscription = £190.08

For a website to rank properly they will need good quality back links, the problem is that getting quality back links to a website is particularly hard. A good SEO company will always be actively trying to attract quality back links to a website and there are a number of well known methods out there including;

  • Broken back link building
  • guest posting
  • Link exchange
  • paid for links
  • sponsored links
  • influencer marketing
  • email outreach

More information on link building can be found here: The advanced guide to link building

How Long Would it take a SEO Agency or Professional?

This process would be included within the monthly retainer fee for a SEO professional or agency: $251 - $500

How Long would it take for you to learn how to implement it yourself?

The steps involved in link building would be;

  • Learning all the various link building techniques - 5 hours
  • Conducting link building outreach - 20 hours

Total time - 25 hours

Total hourly cost - £569.25

Summary

The monthly cost of a SEO campaign of a SEO campaign from a SEO agency or professional = $251 - $500

The monthly cost of a SEO campaign by doing it yourself = £1479.35

All in all, it is much more cost effective to hire a SEO professional to conduct your SEO campaign than yourself.

Other SEO Pricing Models

Fixed price services and SEO costs

Most SEO companies will offer individual services for fixed SEO prices or perhaps on a sliding scale depending on the size and scope of the service. For example, undertaking an initial site audit might be such a project, enabling the customer to assess the current situation before committing to long-term services.

If we were to look at the average cost of SEO services info graphic referenced earlier, we can see that the average monthly retainer fee for the UK is: $251 - $500 for small to medium business and $2501 - $5000 a month for larger companies with a bigger marketing budget.

SEO costs monthly retainer

One-off project services and SEO costs

It's also possible to engage the services of an SEO company for a specific project, such as a website launch, keyword analysis or a link building campaign among others. Looking again at the info graphic, we can see the average project based SEO prices for the UK is;

One off SEO costs

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hiring a SEO Professional

Access to a Large Array of SEO Tools

SEO tools are a necessity when conducting a successful SEO campaign. These range from tools that check the back links of a website to tools that check keywords rankings in the search engine results. Unfortunately, these tools aren't cheap, some of them running into the hundreds for a monthly subscription.

Majestic SEO

Majestic SEO is a must have tool for any SEO Professional, its features include;

  • Site explorer - lets you explore a domain/url in great detail, including backlinks and the quality of those backlinks
  • Backlink History tool - allows SEOs to determine the number of backlinks detected by our sophisticated web robots for given domains, subdomains or URLs.
  • Search Explorer - allows you to Search their index for a Keyword or more and see the page title and URL where it appears, as well as getting the Search Score for the URL.

Price

The cheapest monthly subscription starts at £44.99 and the most expensive subscription is £250 a month.

Sistrix

With the SISTRIX Visibility index the performance of more than one hundred million domains is viewable at a glance. Numerous data and analysis options reveal the secrets of success of all successful websites.

It allows you to;

  • Analyze and optimize organic Google search results
  • Analyze Universal Search Integrations within a search like news, photos, videos, etc.
  • Reveal your own website's, or a competitor's backlink profile and check for link risks
  • Analyze AdWords and banner campaigns for any website
  • Analyze social signals in the five largest networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and LinkedIn
  • On page analysis of your websites and creation of unique keyword sets.

Price

Price ranges from €100 a month for a basic subscription to €400 a month for the most expensive subscription.

You can find all the important tool for SEO professionals here: SEO Tools: The Complete List

Lack of Experience

A SEO agency or professional has experience.

There are a lot of techniques out there that purport to give you success and instant results and it's hard to know which ones to trust and which ones could ultimately hurt your site. Well a SEO Professional has undoubtedly tried them all, they know what works and what doesn't and they know which techniques to stay clear of which would take a lot of time for a small business owner to learn. 

But, more important than experience, a SEO professional keeps up to date with new SEO developments. SEO is constantly changing, what may have been really successful just 2 months ago may have been changed and is no longer effective. Along with experience, SEO professionals also have access to a large amount of..

Lack of Resources

A SEO agency or professional will have a wealth of resources that someone just starting out in SEO will not have.

They will have access to;

  • Contacts
  • link building resources
  • previous projects that have proved successful in the past
  • specific tools that fit in with your website's niche
  • guest blogging opportunities

Resources take a long time to gather and is something a new comer will not be able to acquire easily.

Disadvantages

So, we have gone over some advantages of hiring someone to take care of your SEO but what are the disadvantages?

The Experience of Running your own SEO Campaign

I know I listed experience as an advantage in the previous section but it can also be a disadvantage, let me explain.

Undoubtedly, the experience and knowledge gained from successfully piloting your own SEO campaign is invaluable. You will learn techniques and practises that can see you through not just this business but any other business you may start in the future and it will probably save you money in the long run.

However, the question you have to ask yourself is;

How much is your time worth?

Learning SEO is an incredible time sink, is your time better allocated elsewhere? are you able to run a small business and learn SEO?

Further Resources

Here are a couple of articles which are also on the topic of SEO pricing and the cost of SEO

 

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Sheffield, S9 4WG

Phone: 0114 2999 259
Mail: mail@vision64.co.uk

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