How Much does SEO Cost for a Small Business?


You’ve probably heard the old adage “you have to spend money to make money,” and nowhere does that ring truer than in the competitive world of online marketing.

But, as you may have guessed, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward. The cost of SEO can fluctuate quite a bit, influenced by a plethora of factors unique to your business needs, goals, and yes, the depth of your pockets.

In this article, we’re going to unravel the mystery by shedding light on the actual costs you might encounter on your SEO journey.

Understanding SEO Costs

Understanding the cost of SEO services can feel like navigating through a maze without a map. However, with the right perspective, you can start to see a clearer path.

The range of SEO service costs is quite broad. On the lower end, small businesses may find basic SEO packages offered by freelancers or small agencies ranging from £500 to £2000 per month. 

For more comprehensive services from seasoned professionals or larger SEO firms, these costs can escalate, stretching from £5,000 to upwards of £20,000 monthly. It’s a broad spectrum, and where you fall along this line typically correlates with the size of your business and the scale of services you’re after.

But it’s not all about the size of your business; it’s also about the specific needs and the competitive landscape of your industry. A local bakery may require less intensive SEO work than a niche e-commerce site competing on a national level. 

Your SEO costs will fluctuate depending on how specialised your market is, how ambitious your growth targets are, and how aggressive your competition is in the digital space. The key is to align your SEO investment with your business objectives and required rate of growth.

SEO Tools Costs 

Let’s kick things off with the freebies: Google Analytics and Google Search Console are the go-to tools for anyone dipping their toes into SEO waters. 

Google Analytics provides invaluable insights into your website traffic, user behaviour, and performance metrics. 

Google Search Console, on the other hand, gives you a peek into how your site is seen by the search engine, highlighting areas for improvement and potential issues affecting your search presence.

But as your SEO needs become more sophisticated, paid tools like SEMrush can offer the advanced features necessary to elevate your strategy. 

ahrefs pricing

Ahrefs, for example, starts at about $99/month (£79) and is a powerhouse for backlink analysis, keyword research, and competitor insights. SEMrush, with plans beginning at $129.95/month (£103), boasts a comprehensive suite for SEO, content marketing, and competitive research. 

Moz Pro starts in a similar price bracket at $99/month and is well-regarded for its site audits and SEO metric tracking.

If you think these SEO tools are expensive, you can try cheaper alternatives such as SE Ranking, which I tried extensively for a few years.

These paid tools provide deeper analysis and more extensive data that can be crucial for a refined SEO strategy. The investment in such tools should be weighed against the potential return in terms of improved search rankings and web traffic.

SEO Agency Costs 

When considering external help for your SEO, you have a couple of main avenues: engaging freelancers/consultants or hiring an SEO agency. The path you choose can greatly affect your cost.

Freelancers and independent consultants typically charge anywhere from £40 to £175 per hour, depending on their expertise and the complexity of the tasks. 

For example, a solo SEO consultant like Marie Haynes charges premium rates for specialised services such as penalty recoveries and algorithm consultation, reflecting her advanced skill set and recognised expertise.

Marie Haynes Consulting

On the agency side, smaller SEO agencies might offer monthly packages ranging from £400 to £1,600. These agencies, like Main Street ROI, often target local businesses looking to improve their regional online presence. They offer services like local keyword optimisation, content creation, and local citations.

main street ROI

Larger firms, however, might charge substantially more, with prices going beyond £16,000 per month. 

Agencies such as WebFX offer expansive services including global SEO strategies, multilingual SEO, and advanced analytics. Their case studies, like the one highlighting a client’s 3,000% increase in traffic with a comprehensive SEO campaign, underscore the potential value delivered for the higher investment.


Whatever the scope of your SEO needs, there’s an expert out there that fits the bill. Consider how the breadth of services provided by freelancers, small agencies, or large firms correlate with your business objectives and budget.

The Cost of Doing SEO In-House

Building an in-house SEO team has its own set of costs that go beyond just salaries.

When you decide to hire an SEO specialist, you’re looking at an average annual salary that typically ranges from £25,000 to £39,000. This varies widely based on experience, location, and the specific demands of the role. 

SEO salary UK

For instance, an SEO Manager in a tech hub like San Francisco may command a salary towards the upper end of this scale or even higher.

But salaries are just the starting point. You should also factor in the costs associated with training and ongoing education. 

The SEO landscape is ever-changing, and staying current is crucial. Budget for conferences, webinars, courses, and certifications. The expense here can vary greatly, but investing a few thousand dollars per year on professional development for your SEO team is not uncommon.

Additionally, you’ll need to consider the price of the tools your team will require. Premium versions of SEO tools like 

Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz Pro are essential, but they also add to the overall cost. Depending on your needs, you could be investing anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars per month on software subscriptions alone.

So, when planning for in-house SEO, don’t underestimate the total investment. Salaries, training, and tools collectively make up a significant part of your SEO budget which needs to be planned from the outset.

In-House vs. Outsourcing

Deciding between optimizing your SEO in-house or outsourcing to a specialized agency comes down to weighing initial costs, long-term investments, and the specific needs of your business.

Building an in-house SEO team involves significant upfront costs: hiring expertise, setting up systems, and securing tools—all of which translate into substantial initial outlay. 

Long-term, you’re investing in salaries, continuous training, and renewing tool subscriptions. 

There are ongoing costs, but the advantage is having a dedicated team fully integrated into your company culture and aligned with your business’s unique goals.

Conversely, outsourcing to an agency might mean lower initial setup costs and zero worries about long-term commitments to staff. Retainer fees for an agency can sometimes be more economical than maintaining a full in-house team, especially when SEO isn’t your only or main marketing channel.

Outsourcing offers access to a broader range of expertise and can quickly scale efforts up or down. However, potential downsides include less day-to-day control over SEO activities and a quality of service that could vary depending on the agency chosen.

The decision often hinges on your business situation. For those with more limited resources or those seeking a broad skill set from the get-go, outsourcing can be advantageous. 

Meanwhile, businesses looking for a highly customised SEO approach tightly woven into their operations might prefer an in-house team, despite the greater initial investment.

As a compromise in the middle, you may also look into fractional marketing: outsource only certain aspects of your business while doing other ones in-house.

SEO On a Budget

For small businesses with a budget ranging from £500 to £2,000 per month for SEO, there are still plenty of impactful strategies that can be implemented. Here are some key activities that can be prioritised within this budget range:

  • Local SEO Optimisation: Focus on optimising your online presence for local search results. This can include creating and optimising Google My Business listings, obtaining local citations, and targeting local keywords relevant to your business.
  • Content Creation: Investing in creating high-quality, relevant content for your website can help boost your SEO efforts. This can include blog posts, articles, or other forms of engaging content that target specific keywords relevant to your industry.
  • Building Backlinks: Building a strong backlink profile is essential for improving your website’s authority and search engine rankings. Allocate resources towards acquiring quality backlinks from reputable websites within your industry.
  • On-Page SEO: Ensure that your website is optimised for search engines by focusing on on-page SEO elements such as meta tags, headings, and keyword optimisation. This can help improve your website’s visibility in search results.

All of this can be done with minimal man/hour investment or delegated to existing team members without outside hiring. 

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, the cost of SEO for a small business is highly variable and can range from a few hundred to several thousand pounds per month, depending on the level of service and expertise required. 

Free tools exist for those just starting out, but more advanced paid tools and services likely become necessary as your strategy evolves. 

Whether you choose to hire in-house staff, work with freelancers, or engage with an SEO agency, will depend on your business goals, budget, and the degree of control you desire over your SEO efforts.