How Much Does SEO cost? (Why Real SEO Can’t Be Cheap)


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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…

Cardboard signs are, of course, a ubiquitous example of the poor man’s hard times.

Personal injury attorneys do NOT advertise with cardboard signs. (If they do, steer clear!)

Neither do surgeons, or dentists, or plumbers worth their proverbial salt.

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?”

To better drive home the point, we must remember the first Marketing Law:

You should be able to spend and make predictably. Then scale.

There are around 2300 monthly searches for Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, worth about /click on average, or around 7,900 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 35% will stay above the fold.

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 /click = ,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 k 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 hot dog cart, plumbing business, or dental practice 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.

The Federal minimum wage is sitting at .25/hour (though higher in some states). The average fry cook at McDonalds, who works part-time (20 hours/week), makes (before taxes) about 0 per month.

Now, I have had numerous business owners tell me that they thought that SEO wouldn’t be very expensive, maybe around 0/month. And every time I walk them through the above calculations.

And then I ask them: Do you think it’s fair (let alone possible) that I deliver business-changing value that can mean ,000 to 0,000 or more every month in their pocket for less than a part-time fry cook at McDonalds makes?

Can I pay you /hr to generate a quarter of a million dollars?

That’s paying someone .05 to .005% of the value that they bring you.
Then I ask what they think it would cost to get on page one when others are spending k-k/month to get there themselves – what is the cost to compete? Do you really think 0 could compete? What kind of service do you think you would get for that kind of price?

Why would someone who can generate 0k online through their skill even want to work for 0? (Answer: they wouldn’t)

“Sir, would you like a soda, some fries, or some business altering SEO with that Chicken Sandwich?”

And then they get it, and they usually hire me.

The Moral of the Story:

SEO isn’t cheap; anyone who tells you that it is cheap is probably trying to sell you something (and that something isn’t SEO).

FACT: Outdated SEO Techniques that may have worked 10 years ago are literally website poison today. Want to know how to tell if an SEO is using outdated techniques? Ask them “How many links are you going to build for me?” If they answer “Hundreds,” be wary – and if they answer “thousands,” run for the hills!

FACT: Staying on top of these trends, using clean, non-spammy, “white hat” methods isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap. And overpowering people who are using short-term exploits using legitimate, long-lasting strategies can be even harder.


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