How much money should y0u spend on small business SEO? Super alert reader Emmerey Rose asked this great question in response to our discussion about ranking well in search. The true answer is, unfortunately, it depends. But here’s how I broke down my answer to her that I thought would help all of us:

SEO is one of those necessary practices that can be done internally with human resources who have the knowledge or outsourced to consultants for agencies that can perform them for you. The organic SEO investment can be as simple as making sure your website and blog posts are optimized for your keyword targets, but can also include influencer and PR outreach to cultivate organic links, article marketing to provide valuable content elsewhere that leads back to your content or website and certainly social media activations with do the same — drive traffic and links back to you.

Small business budget for SEO - Search results pageSmall business SEO – the organic kind – should probably start internally with optimizing content and the like, but include some time spent promoting the content. If you need a outside resource for this, you can probably find consultant who can dedicate a few hours a month to helping you for around $75 an hour or so. The more money you invest, the faster you should see results and the more broad your outreach efforts can be. An SEO firm performing strong organic results for you can run anywhere between $1,500 per month and tens of thousands, depending on how broad you want to go and how many search terms you’re optimizing for.

Then there’s paid search. You’ll need a resource (internal or a consultant/firm) to manage your keywords, campaigns, advertising creative/copy, bidding processes and the like. Then you’ll need the actual media budget to pay for the clicks or thousand impressions (depending on your model of purchasing clicks or exposure). So you might pay a consultant $500 a month to manage your media, but then you’ll have to pay, let’s say, $648.75 for the number of clicks they drove from the ads. That media buy sometimes sneaks up on people when the forget you are actually buying an ad, not just someone’s time to place and manage it for you.

So the real answer to how much you should spend on small business SEO is, “It depends.” Do you have an internal person that can do any of it? How much revenue can you realistically drive if people do click on a search result or even a pay-per-click ad in a search engine results page? Can you drive enough volume to justify investing $500 a month? $1000 a month? More? Can you identify a consultant or firm that will manage your SEO for you? Are you generating enough revenue from search to justify their cost and still make a profit?

That said, I would be hard pressed to think you shouldn’t be spending at least $100-$500 on paid search each month to drive traffic and perhaps conversions on your site. And that would mean you’ll need another $250-$500 minimum to pay someone to manage that if you don’t have an internal resource. And that’s just for a small PPC effort using a fairly cheap individual consultant. I know an advanced SEO consultant here in Kentucky who probably charges a minimum of $3-5K per month to do the same type of work, but he’s super advanced and can work multiple layers of SEO strategies for even enterprise businesses.

So for those of you who do spend money on small business SEO, what’s your budget? How much are you asked to invest in both ad spend and the management of that service? What are you spending on a consultant or firm to perform organic SEO? We’d love it if you can share just broad numbers and perhaps some scope parameters to help everyone better understand their investment.

And if you’re an SEO consultant for firm, help me set the record straight on small business SEO (if I over or under valued something). The clarification will help us, too!

The comments, as always, are yours!

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