Cost of SEO – Average Rates & Economic Model of SEO Providers in 2018


Cost of SEO - Average Rates & Economic Model of SEO Providers

Today, because of the proliferation of competition on the Web, working on its natural referencing has become indispensable. SEO has a cost, but a cost often difficult to anticipate. In this article, we will try to see more clearly in answering this question both simple and complex: what is the cost of SEO? We will focus first on the average cost of traditional SEO services, namely: SEO audit, creation of content (articles or product sheets) and backlinks campaigns. We will then discuss the various economic models practiced by the service providers (package, day, performance, monthly subscription). This article should allow you to get a pretty good idea of ​​average SEO rates.

Average cost of classic SEO services

Natural referencing is a mysterious object for many. Most people now know what SEO logic is and what its purpose is. SEO is the set of techniques that allow a website to appear prominently in Google (and search engines in general). Having a good place in Google is the assurance of better visibility and more traffic. The ultimate goal of SEO is this: increase the traffic of its website. On the other hand, few people know what these techniques consist of, and especially what exactly is the work of an SEO provider. It is at the level of the means implemented that the SEO appears as a foreign object and a mysterious activity. By the way, by the way, the work of an SEO professional is not the only one that is difficult to understand. We all know that the goal of the auto mechanic’s job is to repair motor vehicles, but who actually knows what his job is technically. Not everybody.
We will use several times in this article the results of a survey conducted in 2011 by AYTM Market Research and Moz (formerly SEOMoz) and covering 500 SEO agencies and consultants around the world. The results of the study have been condensed into a very beautiful infographic. All the graphs in this article are from this infographic. The graph below provides a complete view of the main SEO services. As in all the graphs we have selected, the data for France (or rather France, Germany, Italy and The Netherlands) are framed in red:
cost SEO natural SEO benefits
Search for keywords, content creation, SEO recommendations, content promotion, link building, social media recommendations, community management, position tracking and web analysis, competition analysis, etc. The services likely to be proposed by a SEO professional are very diverse. Some are even peripheral to natural referencing itself. Community management is not, strictly speaking, an SEO service. But social networks can indirectly promote natural referencing. Moreover, if you are interested in this topic in particular, we invite you to discover the article we published on the impact of social networks on SEO.Once said that the activities of an SEO professional are characterized by a great diversity, focus our attention on the three main benefits, that is to say that most often offered by SEO experts. The three classic SEO services are:
  • The SEO audit, which provides SEO recommendations based on the existing (= the site as it is at the time of audit).
  • Content writing. A central activity as Google and other search engines value sites rich in relevant content.
  • The generation of backlinks, that is to say links anchored on third party sites and referring to your content.
But before, remember very quickly the difference between natural search and paid search, to avoid any confusion.

Focus: natural referencing and paid search

Do not confuse natural search and paid search. The difference is simple:
  • Paid Search: You pay Google to appear first on keywords you buy. You buy your location. Paid Search is managed by AdWords. Your site will appear in the sponsored links displayed at the top of the results pages in yellow.
  • SEO: you want to appear in the first results, naturally, that is to say without buying Google. Which assumes: to have quality content, good backlinks, a well-designed and well-structured site, popular, etc. In this article, it is only natural referencing.
To learn more about Paid Search and how AdWords works, learn how to create your first AdWords campaign . We talk about SEO for SEO, and SEA for paid search. SEO and SEA can be combined, but the techniques used are very different in both cases.
cost referencement natural referencement paying

Average Rates for an SEO Audit

The audit SEO consists, like any audit, to take stock of the existing and set guidelines. This is an analytical work that leads to the submission of a report giving recommendations. If you have already created your website and want to work on your SEO, it is recommended to start by doing an SEO audit. This will help you get started and build your SEO on solid foundations. There are two types of SEO audits: basic SEO audit and detailed SEO audit.
natural referencing cost audit seo

Basic SEO Audit – between 500 and 2000 €

An SEO audit requires between 5 hours and 10 hours of work, depending on the number of pages in your internal site and the volume of content. The work of the service provider consists of examining the overall structure of your URLs, inspecting the quality of your HTML code (the main computer language in which your site is written), analyzing your content (their structure, their optimization), the organization of the site (its layout, its design, its tree) and your links ( internal netlinking , backlinks, anchors, redirects, etc.). Once the audit work is complete, the SEO provider gives you a report with two types of information:
  • An audit report that specifies what the provider has analyzed and the problems he has identified, with concrete examples to support.
  • A list of SEO recommendations to optimize your website at the level of its SEO.
We must be aware that in a “pure” SEO audit the service provider does not implement the recommendations he recommends. He’s just saying what’s wrong and what to do. Then you have to do the work and follow the guidelines. There are two possibilities :
  • Either you have someone internally able to put in place the recommendations contained in the SEO audit report.
  • Either you have no internally trained enough to support this work, and in this case you will have to call an SEO provider again. If you are satisfied with the work done by the audit provider, you can suggest that you continue to collaborate and implement the recommendations. Which, of course, is not free and requires an extra budget. You can also contact another SEO expert who can take charge of the implementation of the guidelines. In these cases, you will need to submit the SEO audit report.
Tip: If you do not really know about SEO, the provider responsible for the audit must be able to explain in clear terms the problems he has identified and his recommendations. If it does not succeed and is hiding behind technical terms, it reveals a lack of professionalism and possibly a lack of skills. If this is the case, we advise you to choose another person for the implementation of the recommendations.

Detailed SEO Audit – between 3,000 and 20,000 €

An SEO audit takes a lot more time – several weeks or even months depending on the size of your website or even its nature (an ecommerce site is usually longer to audit than a content site). In a detailed SEO audit, the provider does not just give you general recommendations such as “Create a Sitemap”, “Change the structure of your URLs”, ”  Switch to HTTPS  ” or “Make 301 redirects”.
This is a “detailed” audit, so the service provider explains in detail all the changes to make to optimize SEO , page by page, item by item. The audit report is much thicker and can easily be more than 100 pages, or even several hundred pages. In order for the provider to do its job, you will need to give it all access to your site (including linked accounts: Google Analytics , Search Console ).

Rates for writing articles / product sheets

A website can not be well referenced if it is poor in content. Google and other search engines show in their results pages sites that have quality content. But still it is necessary that the site has contents … It is also for this reason that the sites showcases often have difficulty to be well referenced and that one recommends more and more the creation of a part blog to give him more weight. To know more about the subject, read our article ”  Well referencing a site showcase: mission impossible?“. This is the reason why content writing (what is known in the jargon as “content marketing”) plays such a central role in SEO and SEO. One distinguishes the contents of the type “articles of blog” for the sites vitrines in particular, contents type “fiche-product” for the ecommerce sites.
The fee for writing content varies considerably. The range is between 30 euros and 200 euros per article. The three essential factors in determining the price of an item are:
  • The length. An article of 300 words does not cost the same price as an article of 2000 words.
  • The quality of the writing.
  • The complexity of the subject treated. The more complex a subject is, the more it implies work and especially expertise on the part of the editor. Expertise, like everywhere, has a price.
Content creation can consist of writing new content or translating already existing content. Translation of content costs between 0.05 cents and 0.15 cents per source word, depending on the complexity of the text to be translated, the reputation of the freelance, the volume of words to translate, etc. To find providers for writing or translating content, you have several options:
  • Use freelance platforms like Hopwork or . This allows you to access in a few clicks hundreds of profiles of writers or translators and make your choice.
  • Use platforms such as Textmaster or Textbroker , which acts as a quasi-agency to find you the best providers according to the needs expressed in the form.
Textmaster’s Fee Schedule:
translation website costing organization textmaster rates

Average rates for SEO campaigns / generation of backlinks

Content (with keywords) and backlinks are the two keys to SEO. These are the two main criteria used by search engines to reference websites. To be well referenced, a site must have rich and relevant content on the one hand, and secondly backlinks. The generation of backlinks is therefore one of the main activities in SEO. The backlinks, for those who are not familiar with the term, are links anchored on a third party site that return to one of your pages. For Google and other search engines, having a lot of backlinks is a guarantee of popularity and relevance. If a site makes a link back to yours via a link, it’s because the content on your site is relevant.
It’s hard to give the average cost of a backlinks campaign. The models are very varied. The backlink generation services are generally billed monthly by web agencies, as part of a monthly package. The cost of this package can range from 500 euros per month to more than 10,000 euros depending on the size of your site and your ambitions / objectives. Take the typical case of a monthly fee of 1,500 euros – 2,000 euros. The content of such a package usually includes:
  • Writing 2 or 3 articles.
  • The creation of a hundred low quality backlinks. Examples: links posted in blogs or on forums, registration on site directories.
  • The creation of a dozen qualitative backlinks. Example: writing a journalistic article proposed for publication on the Nouvel Obs site.
  • Tracking positions on about 50 priority keywords.
It is very rare to find agencies with services that are limited to creating backlinks. The creation of backlinks is almost always included in service packs including content writing. Which does not mean that it does not exist. The proof, La Fabrique du Net offers a service to 299 euros to create 10 to 15 quality backlinks .
You can also find freelancers who can create dozens of backlinks in two hours. But be very careful about one thing: low quality backlinks are not worth much and will not bring you anything in terms of SEO. On the contrary, you risk penalties from search engines. The good quality backlinks are those coming from sites close to your sector of activity (or your theme) and which themselves have a certain notoriety. If you have a site that talks about cars, the must is to have one or more backlinks from If you are using freelance, please specify that you want to create quality backlinks only.

Understand the pricing of SEO agencies

You now have a fairly accurate idea of ​​the cost of the main SEO services. Let’s move on to an important point: the diversity of business models and SEO performance formats. There are basically four types of formats:
  • Pricing at the project. The tariff is drawn up on the basis of a specific service and takes the form of a fixed price.
  • The pricing by the day.
  • Performance pricing. The price of the service depends, in part, on the achievement of objectives set in advance.
  • The monthly subscription, for long-term benefits.
The diagram below shows the distribution of these different tariff models according to the geographical zones:
natural referencing cost economic models
For the Germany / France / Italy / Netherlands block, we find that the payment at the mission dominates, followed by pricing per hour. The monthly subscription is less frequent. Performance pay is marginal. Let’s go into the details.

Fixed price mission, the classic model

The project-based pricing is the dominant economic model in Europe. This model is even more prevalent in Asia. Cultural reasons may explain these differences between regions of the world. Asian companies are less inclined to outsource the management of part of their website, hence the relatively low use of the monthly subscription and long-term collaborations. With project pricing, we are clearly in short-term (or medium-term) and very precise services. The SEO agency evaluates the workload upstream based on the brief that you send to it, and then offers you a fixed price for carrying out the mission. The fixed price mission is the economic model par excellence for the SEO audit. Most of the time, payment takes place in two installments: a first part paid at the beginning of the mission (as a deposit), the rest at the end. If the mission takes several months, the service provider may require a payment per month.
This graph (always taken from the Moz / AYTM study) shows the average cost of an SEO project:
cost natural referencing project price
It is agreed willingly, this graph has little sense. Because everything depends on the nature, complexity and scale of the project. We invite you to refer to the first part of our article to obtain an estimate of the cost of your project.

Focus: which SEO agency to choose?

We have been talking from the beginning about “SEO providers”. It is to them that you must go to improve your SEO. But what is an SEO provider? Or rather, what forms do they take? There are two types of SEO providers:
  • Freelancers, who work independently and independently in an individual company.
  • SEO agencies – centered on SEO services – web agencies or webmarketing (SEO services, community management, emailing, SEA, etc.). Agencies offer a much wider range of services.
Here is the distribution of the providers according to the size of the structures:
natural referencing cost size agencies
We note that freelancing and more generally small structures are much more present in English-speaking countries (USA and UK), even though they are also in the majority in continental European countries. The operation is often different depending on whether it is a small agency or a large agency:
  • Large agencies more often offer turnkey services, standardized, meeting conventional needs (auditing, writing content, backlinks, etc.). They are generally cheaper than small agencies.
  • Small agencies are more likely to offer tailor-made, personalized services. Often more available, they are also more expensive.
Here is the breakdown of SEO / Web agencies according to the number of years of existence:
cost referencement natural age agencies
To end this little detour, here is the typology of SEO / web agency customers (depending on the size of the company):
natural referencing cost clients
There is no real surprise that very small businesses are less well represented than medium and large businesses. This is all the more flagrant because VSEs are by far the most numerous. This is explained by the cost of SEO, which nevertheless remains significant, as can be seen in this article. Moreover, not all TPEs have (yet) a website.

Pricing by the day, the model of SEO consulting agencies

Some agencies operate as consulting firms, on a day-men model. The SEO consultant is at your disposal and carries out the missions entrusted to him, giving before the beginning of each mission a forecast of time. The provider is paid for the time spent on the project basis. It is an economic model often used when the SEO consultant leads the implementation of SEO audit recommendations, or for the preparation of a redesign project of the website . The daily rate is fixed in part according to an implicit or explicit hourly rate. This price is very variable and depends on several factors (complexity of the project, experience and reputation of the consultant, etc.):
natural referencing cost hourly rate

Natural referencing performance

Natural referencing to performance is a very marginal economic model. It consists of negotiating with the agency a remuneration based (partially or exclusively) on the position obtained on target keywords initially defined (a few dozen keywords in general). On this kind of performances performance, the agency focuses mainly or exclusively on the generation of backlinks on certain pages and the optimization of anchors links. It is very rare that the SEO provider intervenes, in this model, on the website or at the content level. The focus on the links allows you to go faster and quickly boost the position of your website on the target keywords. The risk of this model is that it encourages some agencies to use risky techniques, so-called Black Hat SEO , which can lead to Google penalties. If you choose this type of pricing, make sure that the service provider will not use any risky optimization techniques. Escape those who promise you a first place in two months on competitive requests.

Monthly subscription, the model of full service SEO agencies

There are two types of SEO services:
  • “One-shot” services or in any case not exceeding a few months. This implicitly assumes that you already have a SEO strategy and that you know where you are going. Fixed price (project), day (or time) or performance fees are the most common in these cases.
  • Benefits over the long term, spanning several months or even years. In this case, the monthly subscription makes sense.
The monthly subscription is the model of SEO agencies full service, that is to say, agencies offering all services that relate directly or indirectly SEO. As we saw at the beginning of this article, the benefits can be diverse: writing articles, backlinks, monitoring positions, press release, etc. The monthly subscription allows the agency to pilot a true overall SEO strategy comprising several coordinated actions between them.
The monthly subscription assumes some outsourcing of the SEO management of your site. Full-service agencies usually handle everything, and offer you a regular report at the end of each month or at time intervals set in advance. As with any long-term collaboration, this requires first of all taking the time to choose the provider and to have great confidence in him. A board, choose a transparent agency, able to keep you regularly informed of the progress of the work and the actions carried out, at your disposal and available.
Note: SEO takes time and requires regular, long-term work. It is very difficult to obtain immediate results in the field of natural referencing. This is the reason why this economic model is completely justified.
Here again, according to the same study, the distribution of rates for monthly subscriptions:
cost natural referencement price monthly subscription
Let’s go into more detail about the price of monthly subscriptions. There are four main price ranges:
  1. Between 200 and 400 euros per month. This monthly rate is suitable for small businesses or SMEs interested in local referencing . Example: a small law firm, a doctor, a restaurant, a car mechanic, etc. The agency will manage your showcase site, will target some keywords “local” (type “Italian restaurant blois”), you will register on the directories, on Google MyBusiness, etc. Beware, it is in this price range that we find the most “scams”, that is to say unscrupulous providers and not always as competent as they claim themselves.
  2. Between 600 and 1 400 euros per month. With this budget, the agency can manage a local search for a geographic area with high population density and strong competition. Example: an Italian restaurant in Marseille. A budget above 1,000 euros even allows work on your SEO at the national level, provided that your business sector is a niche, with little competition. Example: the museum of torture of Carcassonne.
  3. Between 2,000 and 5,000 euros per month. It’s starting to be a big budget. With this one, the agency will be able to manage your strategy of natural referencing at the national level, provided that you are not in a sector too competitive.
  4. More than 10,000 euros. It is with a budget of this size that your agency will be able to set up a national SEO strategy on very competitive requests. Examples of very competitive sectors / requests: real estate, insurance …
The torture museum of Carcassone manages to be at the top of the results on the request “museums of torture France”. Note that this is also the case on the request “museums of torture”. This is a national request, but not very competitive:
national natural referencing cost


Two remarks to conclude. First, SEO providers are (most of the time) experts. Expertise has a cost. If the rates in this article surprise you, do you say they do not match a cost, but rather an investment. Natural referencing is an investment that, if done intelligently, can result in a very significant return on investment.
Secondly, natural referencing is mainly concerned with the issue of acquisition, as we saw at the very beginning of the article. SEO is primarily to increase the traffic of its site. But the question of conversion is at least as important as that of acquisition. Conversion is what turns visitors into customers or subscribers to the newsletter. To complete this article on the cost of SEO, we invite you to discover our 10 simple techniques to increase the conversion rate of your website .


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