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The Price of SEO Is Rising: Is It Worth the Cost?

How do you know when your SEO is trying to scam you? The first indicator might be the price on the invoice.

seo costWhile providing SEO services has become more difficult in the last two years, Google struck SEO new blows in 2013. Yes, they had thrown a wrench in SEO plans with Panda and, to a greater extent, Penguin, but the updates in 2013 caused a seismic shift in how SEOs can continue operating.

As a result, credible SEOs have raised their rates. It’s hard to blame them. Tasks they could previously automate they now need to perform, step-by-step, at each interval. They also need to perform new tasks, such as social media monitoring and extensive metrics analyses.

A number of businesses have dumped SEOs, or gone with cheaper options, because of this rate hike. Again, this is understandable from a certain vantage point. Many companies don’t understand the value they get from SEO, and so feel that the higher rates aren’t justified. Yet there is a fundamental flaw in this thinking, and it all goes back to why SEO was so valuable when it first became a marketing practice.

Search converts

While Google has changed extensively through the years, the nature of search remains consistent. When people type a query into a search engine, they seek information. If that information is of a commercial nature, companies can benefit by putting themselves front and center. After all, if a prospect seeks a product, and yours matches their desire, they could very well buy from you. But they can’t buy if they don’t see.

Unless businesses want to lose sales to competitors who do employ SEOs and SEO tactics, they’ll do best to work with marketers who provide SEO services. As more and more businesses catch on, the stragglers get pushed further and further down the search results.


Seeing the rising rates of SEO, many businesses might think it shrewd to train their own employees to do SEO, or else hire people to do it. While this strategy could cut down on costs, it could also backfire greatly. One of the main reasons we’ll discuss below, but for now we’ll stick with the difficulty of performing do-it-yourself SEO.

In the past, this might have been possible. Savvy employees could scour the web for SEO practice and then go employ them, willy nilly, because Google wasn’t really penalizing the most effective SEO tactics. As long as you weren’t operating a major network that bought or sold links (remember TextLinkAds?) you could fly under the radar. But with the most recent changes, Google has automated the process of fighting link and page spam.

Today, even a short paper trail connecting built links can result in either a manual or an algorithmic penalty. Recovering from either can involve even more time and effort, and the employees or agency who got into the mess likely won’t be the ones to get out of it. That is to say: experimentation comes at a much higher cost.

The overall point is that SEO has gotten more expensive, because SEO has gotten more intensive. You can’t just scour message boards and throw things at the wall hoping they’ll stick. Doing so comes with major risks, and given Google’s penalty-happy actions in recent months, it’s probably a practice detrimental to your business.

Beware low-cost SEOs

As established SEOs have raised their prices and expanded their services, leeches have tried to fill the gap of low-cost SEO service. Many businesses, wanting to keep budgets in line, have opted to hire these lesser-known SEOs. Many of them have found peril.

Like any professional, an SEO won’t work hard for you unless he or she can justify the payment. Yes, this random SEO might have reasonable rates, but are they going to give you the attention necessary in today’s constantly changing search field? Probably not. Chances are they’ll employ a few practices they learned while reading message boards and let that be that. As we saw in the above section, that’s a recipe for disaster.

The same applies for assigning internal employees to SEO tasks. They’re not trained, and they don’t understand the changing environment. You don’t need a certification to become an SEO, but you do need experience and know-how. Internal employees might learn in time, but to put them on the project, with essentially no guidance, is probably worse than doing nothing.

Setting a budget for SEO

Big businesses have their SEO efforts covered. Even with the rising rates, SEO amounts to a rounding error in their yearly budgets. Smaller businesses are the ones that need to make careful evaluations before they hire an SEO. Again, leaving SEO alone is almost always a better idea than hiring a cheap one, or assigning an internal employee.

This process in itself could be expensive for a small business. For starters, it means not using a spreadsheet to keep financial data. The QuickBooks product line provides an affordable solution to getting your finances in order. Once you have that done, you can determine what SEO services you can afford, and what you should eschew.

Make no mistake: you don’t have to buy Cadillac SEO service. You can go for a ZipCar service, getting as much work as you absolutely need without paying for stuff that isn’t going to help your bottom line. The best of the best might not take your business, but you can still get a reputable SEO to work on your site for 20 to 40 hours per month. With that time you can keep up with the changing state of search without breaking the bank.

Written By

Joe has been writing and editing niche tech sites since 2007. Now the Marketing Team Lead at digital firm PushFire, Joe talks marketing and business at



  1. August

    November 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Hahaha, I like the very first question you asked. If you compare what’s on the invoice and it is way higher than the service rendered over a couple of months then yes, they are scamming you.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jeff

    November 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Nah, I don’t think you should invest too much on SEO. As long as you have consistent content, and more on advertising or promotion you would be fine. Google is constantly changing its search algorithm. There’s no guarantee anymore on what really works.

  3. Mark Ford

    November 26, 2013 at 7:23 am

    You know your SEO company is trying to scam you when they guarantee they’ll get you to the top of Google.

    Any decent SEO will explain that they don’t control Google or your competitors so cant guarantee where you will end up.

  4. Rich

    November 26, 2013 at 7:35 am

    There some very impressive points in your blog. I must appreciate your excellent work. I find the blog post very interesting and moreover very informative.

  5. Laura

    November 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    SEO is definitely worth the investment – research has shown the huge difference in visits & sales even between positions 1 and 2, so you can imagine the difference between page 10 and page 1!

  6. Harshil Patel

    November 30, 2013 at 5:24 am

    Hilarious points described in the article and its true that costs are increasing as the days are passing and setting the budget really matters the most for SEO

  7. suganm

    June 4, 2020 at 10:51 am

    As long as you have consistent content, and more on advertising or promotion you would be fine.

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