Just how much DOES SEO cost per month?
So many of my clients wonder what SEO costs per month, what does it cost me, why is it so expensive, etc. And every time I answer this question, I have always wanted to pull out a cardboard sign to emphasize why SEO is expensive. Why a cardboard sign?
Cardboard signs are, of course, a ubiquitous example of the poor man’s hard times. So beaten down by asking, he resolves to merely inscribe his need and desire for all to see (like an early form of display advertising) and hoping someone will lend a hand.
Personal injury attorneys do NOT advertise with cardboard signs.
Neither do plastic surgeons, or dentists, or most plumbers.
If they did, you’d have to wonder – is this guy so hopelessly terrible at what he does that he can’t afford to get his message out properly? What would it cost to get the message out properly, and if it was out and it converted people into clients/customers, what would he make in return.
To better drive home the point, we must state the first Marketing Law:
You should be able to spend $1 and make $2 predictably. Then scale.
The ultimate truism of marketing is oddly one that so many seldom have if ever experienced from their own marketing – marketing is not an expense. Or, rather, it ought not to be! Marketing should be a predictable way to find business, where you pay $X, and you make $Y such that Y > X, and ideally substantially greater. Spend a buck to make a buck and a quarter, and you can scale that (heck, that’s a 25% Return on investment right there!) – Spend $100, make $125. Spend $1000, make $1250. Then you tweak and test and improve that ROI so that $1 in ad spend equals $2 in ROI. Then $4. Then $8. Etc.
Nobody wants to spend $1000 on “a hope and a dream”, and that’s the ultimate hurdle in sales (and why we have so many testimonials and reviews featured on our website – to help overcome that skepticism and doubt!). But EVERYONE would spend $1000 to make back $2000. And most people, having made $2000, would then spend that $2000 right back and make $4000, etc.
The point being, marketing generally should behave as a predictable multiplier of investment.
Now, consider that attorney mentioned above. If you were to go to Google and place a bid so that your ad would show up in front of people who were actively looking for you, you could expect to pay around $70 to $140 per click. Bear in mind it may take 10 to 50 clicks to get a lead (i.e., someone raising their hand and saying that they’re interested in your services), and it may take 10 to 20 leads to get a client. So that $70 x 25 clicks on average x 15 leads on average, or just a bit above $26,000 per client. (and before you wonder too much, the prices DO go up beyond $300 per click!)
Why, oh why, would an attorney be willing to pay $26k+ for a new client? Because personal injury attorneys make BANK. Many PI lawsuits can win mid-six figures easily, and the attorneys take a fair cut of that (often in exchange for “no up-front fees” and “we only get paid when you get paid” which often means it’s a hefty split – a split that may have cost way less if you just paid their regular fees (when that’s even possible).
And because one lawsuit can be worth that much, the invisible hand drives up the cost of clicks to a point where it makes financial sense to pay because of the law of averages, which says you’ll make it back and then some (provided that you’re not a terrible attorney, and you know how to cherry-pick a winner).
Now let’s just look at one of those terms: Personal Injury Attorney Los Angeles (and it’s corollary, Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyers)
There are around 2300 monthly searches for the two variants, each worth about $73/click on average, or around $167,900 in advertising value per month (were each of those searches to click on an ad, which admittedly they don’t – in fact it’s usually fewer than 10%.)
Now, being at the top of page 1 for a search like that could get you as many as 40% of all of the clicks for that search term. Nearly 90% of the searchers will stay on page 1, and about % will stay above the fold (i.e., they won’t even scroll down to see more results on page 1!)
A hot dog vendor in Atchison, KS will never sell as many hot dogs as he would in Times Square.
So what would it be worth to be in spot 1? From a PURELY ad-cost basis, 40% of 2300 is 920 clicks, at $73/click = $67,000/month in “free” advertising clicks by being in the organic, un-payed, section of the search engine results.
Now, if you were an attorney, what would that be worth to you? At least $60k per month! And so what do you think an attorney is willing to invest to get there in his city? So how much do you think you’ll have to invest to beat him?
That’s the heart of the matter – that space is VALUABLE.
Is it worth less for other niches, like dentists and plumbers? Sure. But it’s still worth thousands of dollars in advertising, which is worth 2x or more that in ROI.
And it’s worth a lot because it’s an investment that, once completed, continues to pay for months or years (as opposed to pay-per-click marketing where stopping the paying is like shutting off the firehose instantly). SEO is more akin to real estate – I can move your taco-store/Plumbing Business/Dentistry to your location’s online-version of Times Square – which is valuable because of the traffic that is generated in that spot.
So how much should SEO cost?
First, let’s talk about the minimum wage.
That’s paying someone .05 to .005% of the value that they bring you.
I have had numerous business owners tell me that they thought that SEO wouldn’t be very expensive, maybe around $500/month.And every time I walk them through the above calculations.
And every time I walk them through the above calculations. And then I ask first: Do you think it’s fair (let alone possible) that I deliver business-changing value that can mean $10,000 to $100,000 or more every month in their pocket for less than a part-time fry cook at McDonalds makes? That’s paying someone .05 to .005% of the value that they bring you.
Do you think that, if someone could deliver 6 to seven figures of value to their clients, that they’d ever even need to consider taking a job for $500/month?
And then I ask this: Do you think that, if someone could deliver 6 to seven figures of value to their clients, that they’d ever even need to consider taking a job for $500/month? (And bear in mind, tone of voice is hard to convey in written text, and I’m not trying to sound condescending, but why would you think that someone who can command the sway of millions of dollars in revenue for scores of clients would even have time to put in such an unfair amount of value, effort, and work would need to scrounge for customers that pay 0.01% of the value that thy are given?)
And then they get it, and they usually hire me.
(Of course, we do have some services that we do for $500/month, to be fair, and some of them are amazing – but they’re not the same kind of thing as SEO).