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Budgeting for SEO: How Much Should You Be Spending On SEO Marketing?

Your SEO marketing budget is specific to your business. Reading an article telling you to spend $3,000 per month on SEO isn’t the answer you need.

You need to know how much *you* should spend on SEO, based on what SEO success looks like for you, how much you can afford right now, and what type of hire fits your business best.

That’s where this article differs from the others online (trying to answer the same question).

We’ll avoid giving you generalized advice and replace it with 3 questions that will tell you how much to spend on SEO marketing.

Because marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all.

How Much You Should Be Spending on SEO Marketing

Question #1: What does an SEO success story look like for you?

SEO success means something different to each company. If you’re making $100,000 a year, SEO success could look like another $20,000 in profits. → But, if you’re making $5,000,000 a year, your SEO strategy needs to bring in high 6-figures to be worth your resources.

To figure out what your SEO success story is, you’ll narrow down how much you’d like to make from your SEO strategy if all goes well. As tempting as it is wanting to make $100 billion trillion from it, let’s keep our feet on the ground.

How many more products or services can your supply chain or team realistically handle?

  • Can you add 10,000 more units to your ecommerce store?
  • Are you able to work with 15 more agency clients?
  • Do you need 5,000 more membership sign-ups?

Your SEO strategy has one job: get more traffic and conversions. Knowing how much more traffic and how many conversions you can handle is the first step to figuring out what you should invest.

Question #2: What can you afford to invest for a long-term ROI?

The best part of your SEO strategy is that it will be around for a long time. The worst part of an SEO strategy is that it takes a few months to get it rolling. SEO isn’t like paid ads that pop out conversions after a week. With SEO, you’ll tap into your inner meditation guru while you wait for the results to come in a few months down the line.

That means you need to invest what you can afford to wait to see an ROI on.

With paid ads, you can invest $1,000 and get ready to see conversions within a week or so. But, with SEO, that $1,000 investment isn’t coming back to you for at least a few weeks. You don’t want to invest more than you can afford to while waiting to see it boomerang back to you. 

For an experienced SEO specialist working full-time, Glassdoor averages a salary of $46,658, but depending on experience and location this is (of course) going to differ.

SEO specialist average salary

If you’d prefer to bring on a freelance or hire an agency, you won’t want to hire anybody for less than $1,500 per month. If your business is making 7+ figures, you’ll want to look for someone priced higher.

So, if you hire an SEO agency and pay them $1,500 per month, you’ll prepare not to see your money for a few months. To be extra conservative, let’s say you don’t see an ROI from your SEO strategy for 4 months (which is normal). That means you need to invest $6,000 before you see that money come back.

Is that reasonable for your business right now?

If the answer is yes, we’ll explain how to choose whether you should hire a full-time employee, freelancer, or agency below.

If the answer is no, don’t worry. You can come back to your SEO strategy when you feel comfortable investing at least $6,000 towards SEO before you get an ROI.

Question #3: Does it make sense to hire in-house or a freelancer or agency?

Hiring an SEO specialist comes in 3 forms:

  • You bring someone on full-time to your marketing department
  • You hire a freelance to work with your team on SEO
  • You work with an agency

Which type of hire to make depends on your business. 

→ For some businesses, bringing on a full-time employee might have great tax benefits and makes the most sense.

→ Working with a freelancer is the best fit for other businesses because they can easily integrate into your team.

→ And other businesses need an agency to have maximum SEO support as they build out their strategy.

There isn’t a right or wrong answer for how you hire an SEO specialist(s). It’s just based on what makes the most sense for your business.

Here are our suggestions on who you should hire based on your business needs:

You should hire a full-time Head of SEO if: you want a long-term SEO strategy that spans at least 2 years.

You should hire a freelance SEO expert if: you have a small business or a simple business (with only a few products) and a single SEO expert can handle all the work needed. Note: They’ll be working with your content team or outsourcing content creation.

You should hire an SEO agency if: you want a robust SEO strategy and are willing to work with the agency’s workflows and processes.

The Right Way To Budget for SEO

Budgeting for your SEO strategy comes down to the numbers inside of your business. 

To figure out how much you can afford to spend on SEO, ask yourself these 3 questions:

Question #1: What does an SEO success story look like for you?

Question #2: What can you afford to invest for a long-term ROI?

Question #3: Does it make sense to hire in-house or a freelancer or agency?

That first page of Google is calling your name, and we know your business can acquire one of those coveted spots.

It just takes the right SEO strategy, which comes from budgeting and working with the right SEO specialists.



The lovely content team here at DigitalMarketer works hard to make sure you have the best blog posts to read. But some posts require a group effort, and we decided to stop the rock-paper-scissors tournaments that decided the byline so that we had more time to write. Besides, we all graduated from kindergarten: we can share.

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