Navigating SEO Pricing Strategies with an Expert SEO Consultant in Singapore

A rather disheartening discovery in the survey shows that the act of pricing and selling SEO services is second to the daunting task of finding new clients. It is possible that SEOs are unable to find clients based on pricing an overly expensive ideal search marketing campaign. This further enforces the idea for SEO services offered to start with a low budget so clients are able to ease into a campaign investment and, in turn, result in a long-term client relationship.

Given the diversity in SEO jobs and services, pricing all of these under a single specific price is a difficult task and more often than not may result in a packaged custom price. According to the same survey, the most common payment model is monthly payment via check.

A recently published SEO pricing survey also shows that the majority of SEOs only offer services with a monthly retainer of $500 or more. The results of the study also included data that shows relative ease in selling project-based SEO services. This could mean that clients would like a defined scope of work and results when purchasing an SEO service. In turn, clients may be more comfortable with occasional SEO task work priced on the lower end, such as link building and content development.

The ability to price and package SEO services varies as much as the services offered in the SEO industry today. Your potential clients are likely to be on the lookout for SEO services amongst the thousands of SEO providers around. SEO consultants offer exceedingly different services, and there is a wide range of options for clients to consider. Starting with an estimated budget for your prospective clients could be the deciding factor on whether they will go through with an SEO project.

Factors Influencing SEO Pricing

The scope of work will also have an impact on the cost of any given SEO campaign. A website that is generating significant revenue and traffic from natural search results, yet “suffers” from under optimization, will be far more costly to improve the situation than a brand new site that is merely starting to build search engine traffic. The business owner of the site needing more work will be keen to secure top search engine rankings and may already have an understanding of SEO. However, due to the site’s complex issues, it may be more prudent to utilize an SEO expert Singapore.

Another important aspect to consider is the level of competition in a certain industry and the targeted geographical market. Typically, search engine optimization pricing varies according to the level of competition in a particular industry. Put simply, the more competitive the market, the more effort and time it may take for an SEO consultant and his team to execute your campaign. This can translate to higher costs in the long term. It will also take longer to see results, so this must be kept in mind. Though numerous top rankings for highly competitive terms and phrases will greatly increase leads and sales.

Level of Competition

Finally, take into consideration any technical constraints that may exist on your website. SEO has a large technical component in the initial phases, and it’s very common to uncover major issues that may negatively impact organic search performance. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that these issues are best addressed sooner than later. Failure to do so can greatly hinder or nullify the SEO efforts that follow.

Third, consider how aggressive you want to be. Do you want to take over the search rankings, or are you just looking to gain some visibility in a less competitive market? Often there are alternative strategies for different levels of aggressiveness, and it’s important to weigh the ROI of different efforts when making this decision. There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s best to decide this up front so it can be used as a guideline for the rest of the campaign.

Next, you need to understand what it will take to reach your goals. If you’re in a particularly competitive industry or are targeting a very competitive keyword phrase, it will take much more of an investment in the short term to see real results. This can be done on a trial basis, or for a smaller scope of work, over a longer period of time. But as a general rule, the higher your goals, the more resources it will take to accomplish them.

There are a few concepts you should first understand before getting started. First of all, is the level of competition in your industry and target market. As a general rule, the more competitive the industry and the target market you’re going after, the more resources it will take to obtain and maintain high search engine rankings. This is a crucial consideration when defining an SEO budget. Because the level of competition is so crucial, I’ll devote an entire section to it in part 2 of this document.

Scope of Work

SEO consultants have often used the terminology “man hours” to explain to clients the amount of time that will be spent to achieve the best results. For example, a website needing a total SEO overhaul will require 3 consultants working for a period of 12 months, 8 hours per day to get the best results. An industry standard calculation for SEO work is usually priced at around $100 hourly for “man hours” work, so you can see it can be quite costly. High competition-SEO Pricing Results National or global results that have high competition are even more costly. Take, for instance, a new study which shows that online “pay per click” ads are a lot less cost-effective in generating sales than previously thought. Often companies are spending $3-$4 per click with only 1 in 10 clicks generating a sale. This is due to the high prices in competitive industries such as finance and gambling. Similar results are often found when trying to achieve high organic search engine rankings in these industries. With high competition, there is a need to spend more time and effort to achieve results. As previously mentioned, it is still a cost-effective advertising method once the sales increase is quantified, and SEO pricing is still around 1/5 to 1/4 the cost of pay per click.

The amount of work in a search engine optimization campaign is usually a very strong determining factor in the level of pricing. This is a direct result of the amount of work that needs to be done in order to achieve the best possible results. Usually, a high-quality SEO campaign can be done on a website that already has high search engine rankings, but this is not usually the case. Most websites that employ SEO have had very little work done on them in the past in terms of SEO, and so it will be like constructing a house from the foundations up. This is an extremely time-consuming process as a lot of work must be done on generating backlinks, creating quality content, finding the right keywords, and much more. It should be noted that when first carrying out these tasks, there are no shortcuts, and each one must be done thoroughly and to the best of its ability.

Industry and Target Market

Now SEO is no small task. It involves a heavy amount of time, resources (whether it’s manpower or acquisition of software), and often times external consulting. Any right-minded business wouldn’t want these efforts to be put to waste, and may feel that cutting corners on an SEO solution only to find suboptimal results would in fact be more costly in the long run. In situations like this, it is generally recommended to aim for a moderately competitive package, in which the efforts more likely than not yield desired results. And then of course, some businesses are already Internet savvy and have a clear idea of exactly how much it would benefit to push their online promotion. But that’s just it, the competitiveness in an industry can make what is “necessary” vary from a few bucks to spending in excess. So with each step above, there are levels of both minimum and maximum costs. Knowing exactly what these are for your business is the first step into finding an appropriate SEO service. A legitimate SEO firm will often times give free consultation and analysis on what the best course of action is.

Broadly, a business looking at SEO will put money into this in terms of an investment. The simple reason being that if a site is not visible, that means it’s not carrying out search engine marketing – which results in less traffic. This can also mean that marketing and promotion has become too costly without the outcomes ever being evident. So when someone begins to contemplate this, the gears are set into motion for the explanations of various costs. The first step could be the research into the relevant information in terms of what areas are in fact needing to be promoted. Followed by a cost analysis and decision on how much to spend and where. This then is the prelude to the classic adage “you get what you pay for.”

Common SEO Pricing Models

Excluding any form of SEO work, a customer can track the increase of traffic over time and see whether it’s met the success levels promised using certain traffic analysis methods, such as Alexa. This can be a long-term ongoing commitment, and each month, better traffic will mean more money for your client.

Performance-based SEO is free of start-up fees. The SEO service gets paid after a pre-agreed period of time has elapsed, say three months, and confirming that a portion of the job may be to achieve an important improvement associated with the targeted website traffic. What’s more, it takes a good success level that can take the targeted traffic above previous levels, of a pre-agreed percentage increase. For example, 50% growth. If it does not meet these success levels, your money will be prorated in accordance with the level of traffic increase. If, for example, the targeted traffic towards the site isn’t improved, you do not pay at all. This system of payment for services may be more involved than other methods since it involves only a very small amount of risk for your client. With the exception of the fact that money is paid only on successful improvement, in comparison to paid advertising methods, virtually no more money can be spent trying to get the right results.

An SEO service provider will be paid some money upfront for the first month. This can typically be a higher value than the subsequent months. This can be as much as 6 months. A great advantage of a month retainer service tends to be that it is not too hard to terminate when the client isn’t happy with the rate of progress. This is because the stipulations of the retainer are typically defined inside a contract.

Although rare, hourly rates can be agreed upon by consultants in cases when there are specific small changes to a site. Hourly projects can be on-demand consulting or help with site architecture, and so on. It is also agreed upon for certain particular services, for instance, a niche link building campaign. An hourly SEO rate can vary tremendously based on the task at hand. It is not uncommon to pay more than $100 per hour for copywriting or market and keyword research. More technical and copy-focused tasks generally demand an improved rate. Some work, such as website and server technical problems, can involve consultants working with your on-site web developers to make sure the suggested changes are proven to be made. In this particular case, a one-off hourly rate could be agreed upon, say, to undertake a certain project over a couple of hours. This does not necessarily lead to a long-term retainer or possibly a further ongoing SEO service.

Hourly Rates

Before you agree to the hourly rate SEO service, it is essential to establish a clear array of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This will let you measure the service being provided against the cost being paid. It’s not uncommon for SEO consultants to work unmonitored and, in sensing the hourly cash cow, over service an incredibly large amount of hours. Specific KPIs will allow the rate of optimization to be measured and will provide you with an excellent understanding of the price/margin for return.

Ask the consultant to perform an SEO review of your website. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis about whether your site has the potential to reach top rankings on the search engines for the targeted phrases. By evaluating the ROI (Return on Investment) that the optimization of your site will achieve, you can determine an optimum amount to invest in hourly rates. Remember, with competitive SEO, there is no guarantee on ROI.

Getting SEO consultancy services based on an hourly rate is not unusual. A lot of companies and consultants have this payment arrangement. Before you decide to engage an SEO specialist using an hourly rate, you have to ascertain the fixed hours that you want the consultant to use. For many small enterprises that require successful search engine optimization, an absolute hour cap each month is a good way to ensure you are getting value for money. It’s beneficial if the hours include a two-month time frame as this will undoubtedly be usually enough to show some significant results from your SEO efforts.

Monthly Retainer

Monthly retainer is the most common SEO pricing model. Clients pay a set fee for approximately 80 hours of work. This monthly amount would not vary unless the scope of the project were changed. With the retainer model, the client is paying for the convenience of knowing they have secured the SEO’s services for the month and to budget for the expense monthly. It is the most favorable model for SEOs as it provides them with the greatest return on investment. SEO consultants taking on a new project will spend many hours upfront, generating and implementing the first set of improvements. In the months following, the bulk of the work takes the form of maintenance, analysis, and adjustments. This is obviously a more efficient process than most clients would want to acknowledge. Monthly retainer pricing will set a clear expectation in the minds of clients who will have a better understanding of how much work is being done and whether the consultant is working efficiently. Because this pricing model provides a consistent income to the service provider, it will often result in a discount. The benefit of this model for clients is the safety and the incurred savings, but it does not suit everybody. If a project does not require much ongoing work after the first few months, clients may feel like they are paying too much compared to the results received. SEOs will still be encouraged to do the most amount of billable work within the worth of their hours, regardless of the returns it generates. Monthly retainer pricing may lock a client into a long-term commitment before the effects of the work are visible. This can be a sunk cost for a small business or a risky investment for a larger company considering the dynamic and unpredictable outcomes of SEO. Clients should only consider the retainer model if the scope and duration of the SEO project are well understood. Try to set a feasible limit of hours per month. An hourly agreement limiting the number of hours may actually be better for monitoring the work being done, especially in the early stages of an SEO project.

Performance-Based Pricing

In theory, this sounds great, setting high targets for clients and greater results for SEO. However, for some, this has become a controversial pricing model. Clients may view this as a desperate attempt for SEOs to try and walk off with an entire day’s wages for a very small amount of work. This is because some clients do not understand the elaborate hard work that had gone into the SEO campaign and the value of it to get some of the best results. With the risk of losing the price of any small mistakes made, which could not be helped due to errors in the search engine’s algorithm changes and the nature of SEO, it can put the consultant in a position where they are trying to persuade the client not to terminate the contract despite the poor results due to the payment structure.

This is a relatively new concept, which is not yet proven to be a success. It has greater risk for the SEO consultant as they are paid only if they reach the client’s objectives, such as achieving top rankings for specific keywords. Some SEO consultants feel that this is the way SEO should be, as it sets tough targets both for the consultant and the client, agreeing to a pay cut if they don’t achieve certain objectives. A more advanced variation of this is to measure the value of the SEO to the client, which has a greater emphasis on increased revenue. In this scenario, the success of the SEO is determined by the increased revenue of the company due to a more effective SEO campaign.

Choosing the Right SEO Pricing Strategy

An informed decision about an SEO pricing strategy is important for choosing the correct SEO company. This is because a wrong choice in either of the two could cost a company its business. The wrong choice of an SEO company according to its budget often occurs in the case of larger corporations who are used to a certain standard of SEO service. Assuming that large SEO firms are better for them than small firms because they can pay more. This is not the case, and these corporations need to match their expectations to their budget by knowing it’s possible to get good SEO consultation ‘on the cheap’ but it isn’t ideal. Small SEO firms are often a good option for small to medium enterprises with a budget that will represent this. Quality can be very variable when dealing with these companies but there are some very skilled individuals there. A company looking for the ‘best’ SEO service would aim for a large firm usually with a good track record. This is somewhat a gamble, these companies are known to charge a large amount and employ beginner SEOs with little experience and giving an account to a company that isn’t a good match for their expertise. The results of this can be calamitous so it would be best for such a company to find an SEO consultant with a good track record for its size of company and industry. Going for long-term value is the best choice for all companies engaging in SEO consultancy. This means coming to an agreement on an SEO pricing strategy based on the value of the service to the client. A good SEO consultant should be able to advise on the business potential of various types of webpages. More importantly, the company itself should have a clear idea of where the new or existing SEO service will take them. A successful match in both these cases results in a great cost per click for the client. An extremely valuable part of SEO which is often ignored. This will allow the client to work out an hourly rate on the SEO service. A method that can often be used in the flexibility of an agreed contract to obtain cheap hourly rates. Higher rates will be expected for an expert in a successful industry and lower rates for fledgling companies with little competition on their targeted webpages.

Assessing Budget and Goals

It may be helpful to get clear on what the dollar value of an organic visitor is. Particularly if you are paying for clicks in competitive search engines’ AdWords programs, this information can be calculated by dividing the monthly cost of your SEO campaign by the estimated amount of clicks an optimized site will get within the major search engines. Often times SEO is not fully understood and it is commonly seen as an added expense. Comparing the value of the campaign with the projected results against other marketing methods is a good measure to illustrate how cost-effective SEO work can be. This can also ease any uncertainties about the total spending of a particular campaign.

The reality of the current SEO field is that unless you have a large budget, you probably won’t be able to retain a quality firm. Most reputable SEOs have many demands on their services and good SEO is not something that can be rushed. Estimates for smaller, less aggressive campaigns range between $2,500-5,000/mo. With this, you can acquire the services of a quality SEO consultant who will also have the ability to outsource for additional labor if the project requirements deem it necessary. It is best to aim for a campaign that is a little above the minimum range for effective results and get your site or new project to a point where it is more competitive. A more competitive site will require less money to maintain its search engine rankings and it is generally easier to maintain than it is to rank up. Step one translates to results, and the more significant the results, the more attainable your future goals.

Assessing budget and determining achievable goals are essential to make the best choice when it comes to the type of SEO campaign you’d like to invest in – whether that’s an attempt to do search engine optimization on your own, with a mid-range campaign, or one of the more aggressive campaigns.

Evaluating Expertise and Experience

And finally, with future goals always in mind, a seasoned SEO will often recommend aiming for higher goals once initial ones have been achieved, as opposed to starting new goals before the initial ones are completed.

A seasoned SEO consultant will often be able to compare potential short-term and long-term SEO strategies and explain the benefits and drawbacks of each. Typically, going with the more costly long-term strategy usually brings about the most effective results. This being another parallel to investments, higher risk often equals higher return. However, it is important to consider the consultant’s experience in… the industry and their track record of success in implementing SEO strategies.

With a well-experienced SEO working with a historically similar site, you can easily forecast the future results. A site owner considering any form of SEO must also evaluate the costs of the various services in correlation to the rate of the potential increases in revenue. This is done by weighing the potential returns versus the potential costs. Any SEO service with a strong track record will provide its potential clients with a straightforward cost versus return analysis. This analysis will identify the amount of money it would take and the time required to make it worth the client’s while. Then it will identify the potential increase in revenue and the expected completion date for the project. This sounds quite similar to a loan. SEO is an investment, but an investment with the intent of long-term returns.

By hiring an SEO with a strong background in successfully optimizing websites of businesses similar to yours, you can be confident that they will be able to improve your site’s search engine standings. High search engine rankings are like good returns, a successful investment. Both directly correlate to more money for you, be it through website advertising or increased sales of your services or products.

Considering Singapore’s current state of affairs, it is safe to say that we are a nation firmly rooted in technological savviness and progression into technological advances. As former track record is a good predictor of future performance, searching for a veteran in the field of SEO is akin to searching for the perfect investment. With good investments, whether it is in stocks or SEO, returns are always the main goal.

Considering Long-Term Value

All of these options can be compared quite simply to various forms of transport. The starter pack is much like a short bus journey; it’s easy to do, small, and doesn’t require much thought. Ad hoc services and maintenance are akin to having a car; it’s ready and available whenever you want to go, and full campaigns are like booking a long-haul flight; it’s likely to be a good investment and will take you to many places, but it needs a lot of planning for maximum benefit.

The final option is a full SEO campaign. Companies often associate this with starting SEO; however, even superior SEO can result in increased rankings. Improved website visibility and rankings can lead to more visitors, and it is often a case that the prior rankings were limiting traffic levels. Increased traffic is a very broad goal and can have varied levels of success. The most direct form of increasing traffic is attempting to increase rankings for the same keywords, and a more varied and intricate approach is often changing the target market or increasing the market size for the company with increased traffic from branding and exposure in niche media. Stepping up from maintenance and ad hoc services, the SEO company can be tasked with the overall increase in traffic to and ROI from the website.

The maintenance phase for keyword rankings can differ from industries and website to website. It could be a case of ranking number one for the target keywords and staying there, or just as beneficial could be page one rankings with number one rankings being the new target. Usually, it is advisable to contract an SEO company on a continuous basis as changes in rankings can take place in just a couple of hours due to the competition. This can be viewed as a relative insurance policy that the company does not lose hard-earned rankings. This depends upon the competitiveness of the industry and the relative cost.

Once keyword ranking has been employed for an adequate period of time, any reliable company should have developed solid rankings for those keywords. It essentially means that they have the blueprint and are reaping the advantages of limitless traffic. However, they shouldn’t rest on their laurels. The competition is continually undertaking SEO and internet marketing actions, and the competition’s ranking will increase or decrease around that of the company. This is why the next step might be maintained ad hoc SEO services.

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