How to Charge for Managing SEO Campaigns

How much you should charge from your client once you have interviewed them and understood their advertising objectives and other requirements?

Your SEO campaign pricing can depend upon the following factors:

  1. Competitiveness of the client’s industry
  2. Current ranking potential of the client’s site
  3. Size and complexity of the client’s website
  4. Resources required to achieve marketing objectives
  5. Your profit margin and business overheads
  6. How much risk you can take off from the client
  7. Your market value
  8. Client’s financial status
  9. Self-sufficiency
  10. Your geo-location

#1 Competitiveness of the client’s industry

If your client’s industry is something like insurance, finance, travel, telecom, web design, web hosting, etc then you can be pretty sure that you are going to work in an extremely competitive market.

Consequently, an SEO campaign will be very costly as a lot of resources will be required.

Another good way to determine competitiveness is through keyword difficulty tool. Determine the keyword difficulty of all the primary keywords which your client is targeting or wish to target.

If keyword difficulty is more than 60% then you are chasing highly competitive keyword. I use the SEOMoz Keyword Difficulty Tool.

#2 Current ranking potential of the client’s site

You can determine the ranking potential of the client site through the following metrics:

#1 Page authority of the home page (use Open Site Explorer)

#2 Domain authority (use Open Site Explorer)

#3 No. of unique domains linking to the home page (use Open Site Explorer)

#4 Total no. of links to the home page (including internal,external, followed and no-followed) (use Open Site Explorer)

#5 Age of the client’s domain (use Whois)

#6 Current ranking positions for primary keywords. (use Google)

If your client’s website is brand new or under construction then you may need to figure out the current ranking potential of the top 10 sites which rank on Google for the primary keyword.

The primary keyword is that keyword which describe the client’s business and which has the potential of bringing largest volume of relevant traffic to the website.

#3 Size and complexity of the client’s website

Every website is different. Some require more work than others depending upon their size and complexity. That is why there is no such thing as SEO packages. 

Use site: command on Google to get a rough idea of how many pages of the site are in Google Index. If you have access to Google Webmaster Tools, then you can get a more exact figure.

Complexity is something which you can determine by visiting the site and scanning its functionality page by page. ‘Screaming Frog SEO spider’ tool can also help you a lot in determining crawling and indexing issues.

#4 Resources required to achieve marketing objectives

If your client doesn’t have content writers, graphic designers, and/or developers to address website issues or implement your recommendations then you need to hire them on behalf of your client and it may cost you dearly.

Resources requirement is something that you can best determine through experience in the client’s industry. Other than this, you can make educated guesses. Competitors analysis can also help here.

#5 Your profit margin & business overheads

To improve your profit margin you can do two things: reduce business overheads and charge more.

Every business has a different level of expenditure and to remain profitable they have to charge accordingly.

Consequently big SEO agencies have to charge more than the smaller agencies and independent consultants. You charge for your campaigns according to your profit goals. If you want a higher profit margin, you will have to charge more.

#6 How much risk you can take off from the client

Many SEOs take the risk of only rankings. Once the desired rankings are achieved, their job is over. In this case risk involved is minimal as you don’t take the risk of generating leads or sales. Consequently, you can’t demand more.

If you could take the risk of generating leads in addition to rankings, you can demand more.

If you could take the risk of generating sales in addition to generating leads and getting rankings then you can demand the most from your client. In short the more risk you can take off from your client, the more you can charge.

#7 Your market value

Reputation precedes SEO. The more reputable you are in the SEO industry, the higher is your perceived value and consequently more you can charge.

#8 Client’s financial status

You can simply charge whatever you think your client can afford to pay. Many companies do that. I have seen big companies paying a ridiculous amount of money for work that is not worth that much.

#9 Self-sufficiency

If you already have a lot of clients then you can be as much selective as you want. This means you can decide to work with only those clients who can pay the fees you desire.

#10 Your geo-Location

Your fees depend a lot on the location you live in. If you live in one of the most expensive cities in the world like London, New York, Zürich, Los Angeles, etc then obviously your living costs and business overheads are going to be sky-high and you need to charge a lot just to stay profitable.

It is wise to relocate to a cheaper nearby location, if possible. This can greatly reduce your living cost and business overheads and you can pass these benefits to the clients in the form of competitive pricing or can just use it to increase your profit margin.

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Himanshu Sharma

Digital Marketing Consultant and Founder of

Himanshu helps business owners and marketing professionals in generating more sales and ROI by fixing their website tracking issues, helping them understand their true customers' purchase journey and helping them determine the most effective marketing channels for investment.

He has over 12 years of experience in digital analytics and digital marketing.

He was nominated for the Digital Analytics Association's Awards for Excellence. The Digital Analytics Association is a world-renowned not-for-profit association that helps organisations overcome the challenges of data acquisition and application.

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