I recently read a very good article by Jayson DeMers over at Search Engine Land (How Much Should You Spend on SEO Services? May 13, 2013).  I think he gave a good and comprehensive set of tips about shopping for SEO consultants.  The part of that equation I’d like to focus on is price.  DeMers rightly points out that you should be suspicious of costs lower than $750 per month.  I would probably put the warning light on at anything under $1000, but that’s a quibble.

However it’s amazing how many “SEO” firms are still convincing people that $250 per month can purchase them real SEO.  For example, one of my clients just received a solicitation that included this tantalizing offer:

Picture of flea market to illustrate unrealistically low SEO pricing

Cheap SEO? Sure we have it. It’s in the box at the back of the tent.

Our Starter SEO plan details:

Cost: $250 USD per month.
Reporting Hours: 40 per month
Keywords: 10

Note: Discounts closing on 30th April.

Here you have it.  SEO at Walmart prices.  And an ambiguously worded offer at that.  What does “Reporting Hours: 40 per month” mean?  If it means that they are offering you 40 hours of SEO services per month, that would be an hourly rate of $7.50 per hour.  In other words it’s either unbelievably low or it’s outsourced to India.  (No offense to India, which is a technologically robust country, but in this age of quality content and informed link-building, I have yet to see an Indian SEO mill produce anything like quality work.  Certainly there are Indian companies doing just this, but I doubt if even they are doing it for $250 per month).

Additionally, who gets to select the “10 keywords”?  Naturally it doesn’t take much effort to rank a website for the client’s company name, or an obscure, low-traffic, low-conversion, long tail keyword phrase (think “flaming hot pink golf shoes” as an example).  Essentially this is a meaningless feature.

Typically once we take students through our Master SEO Class, they come out on the other side with a new level of respect for what contemporary search engine optimization and marketing entails.  I don’t think there’s a student who’s graduated at any level from the Search Engine Academy who would be willing to quote a price of $250 on a genuine Internet Marketing project.  For one thing, because it would be dooming the hopeful client to disappointment.

If you’re a business person who is shopping for SEO services, I would recommend that you take DeMers advice, and mine, and beware of the low-ball price.  A decent SEO program will require a monthly investment of $1000, $2000, $3000 or more per month.  And at the same time, that’s still a far sight less than traditional advertising, and usually more effective.  So bite the bullet, pay for what you need, and resist the temptation to go cheap.

If you’re interested in consulting an SEO professional but are still unsure about what exactly they do, read more about the services they typically offer here.