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Last week I was discussing SEO with a small business owner who thought that the £60 a month he paid for optimising his website was expensive.

When I explained that a lot of companies (mine included) charge £500 - £1000 per day for consulting he came to the conclusion that his £60 per month was quite reasonable.

The issue is that some businesses still don't regard internet marketing as a professional activity in the same way as financial or legal advice.

If you would happily pay £100 per hour for a decent law firm why not pay the same for SEO?

Recently we audited a site and fixed a technical issue that had been preventing a certain part of the site being indexed for some time.

This took perhaps 5 minutes to fix and yet the income generated from those pages will be huge.

Search Engine Guide has a fantastic article today about why SEOs cost so much. The article gives the example of a factory with a broken machine who employs a consultant to fix it:

Repair of equipment..... $10,000

"Ten thousand dollars?!" sputtered the factory owner. "All you did was whack the machine with a hammer! That's outrageous! How could you possibly expect me to pay ten thousand dollars for five minutes of work?"

The man took back the invoice, extracted a pen from his shirt pocket, and scribbled a few words on the paper. He handed the invoice back, and the owner could see what he'd written:

Whacking equipment with hammer........ $100
Knowing exactly where and how hard to whack... $9,900


Published 27 February, 2008 by Patrick Altoft

55 more posts from this author

Comments (12)

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Ghanshyam Shah, Asst Manager (e-Commerce) at AMG Business Solutions

Well, I would say that any business should take Search Engine Optimization for the business website as a fruitful investment.
With the advancements so much in Technology, Internet Marketing is at the peak and SEO, SEM activities not only give your good ranking in the search engines but give you good leads.
You may have some good information here: http://www.semaphore-software.com/seo/search_engine_optimization.htm

One should remember that making a website gives you presence in the virtual market but SEO gives your presence a visibility.

over 8 years ago


Nikki Pilkington

It amazes me how many businesses will invest in a website but then won't invest in the promotion of it afterwards. It's like paying to have brochures printed and then sticking them in a drawer and refusing to pay for postage.

I even have people telling me my ebook is too expensive for them to 'invest in' :)

over 8 years ago

Ciaran Norris

Ciaran Norris, Chief Digital Officer at Mindshare

I really like the metaphor regarding refusing to pay for postage. I used to work for a publishing company and would ask magazine publishers how they would feel if one of their delivery companies dumped 50,000 copies of a magazine in a ditch rather than sending them to subscribers...

over 8 years ago

Richard Hartigan

Richard Hartigan, Industry Manager at Google

To continue the metaphor, I think most businesses would prefer to buy a brochure that is good enough to deliver itself.

Short term SEO work is only effective at resolving problems with existing websites. Everyone wishes they had a search engine friendly site to begin with, especially if they have invested significant sums in development. SEO should be briefed in from the start.

over 8 years ago


Peter Young, SEO Manager at Mediavest

Some great analagies there - but to a certain degree I think much of it comes down to the lack of awareness in the general public. Online Marketing as a whole and SEO in particular has always been sold as 'cost-effective' and to be blunt cheap advertising (until recently), and whilst the industry as a whole has evolved, I don't think public perception has.

over 8 years ago



Gamble is always there. Only thing that matters is how bold you are and how far you want to go to fullfill the objective.

over 8 years ago


Kaya PPC, Internet Marketing Manager at Optimised Media

This post really hits the nail on the head as do the comments. The public hasn't grown with online marketing at all. When it comes to small business awareness of SEO and PPC is very low. It's also very difficult to educate potential clients who automatically assume everything on-line should be cheap if not free. The thing is if its hard enough to explain what SEM is to friends and family then its almost impossible to explain that spending a small part of your marketing budget with me is going to get you far more returns than spending thousands buying mailing lists and sending mail shots.

over 8 years ago


Paul Burani, Clicksharp Marketing

I think most of this can be traced to measurability, and the lack of a guarantee. It's incredibly difficult to base an SEO contract on raw results. Business owners tend to want everything apples to apples... and thus they tend to lowball their estimates of SEO's contribution to the bottom line...

over 8 years ago


Adido Web Design

Interesting post. I've met a lot of clients how know the true value of good SEO as it generates them tens of thousands of pounds of business so are more than happy to pay a reasonable rate (£500 per day) as they get huge returns on their investment. There are still those though who are sceptical or view online marketing as a 'cheap' medium who will not spend more than a few hundred quid. Gradually I think people are realising the importance of SEO but only a small percentage are actually prepared to pay for it. It really comes down to the business model, the market and the business owner.

over 8 years ago


Kate Smith, Online Communications Manager at Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health

If you were a charity rather than a commercial enterprise, and had just a grand to spend on SEO, how would you spend it?

over 8 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@ Kate

I'd set up a blog, if you haven't already. You'd need to commit to writing unique content, and thinking about keywords before you set it up, but apart from an ongoing time commitment (work that can be shared) the costs are pretty miniscule to kick it off. And blogs can do wonders in Google.


over 8 years ago

Alan Charlesworth

Alan Charlesworth, lecturer / researcher at University of Sunderland

I am reminded of the time when I worked for a living [I now teach in Higher Education - it's not like real work] and I 'sold' web site design in the early days.

When potential customers baulked at the cost [anything form £100 upwards] I would ask how much the sign outside their building/plant/factory cost. You know, the one that was rarely seen by customers. The comparison usually brought the message home to them.

More seriously, I think we are still plagued by the 'curse of the amateur' in all aspects of web site design - including SEO. Every 'computing' course at every school, college and uni includes a module on 'web design', which in turn has a lesson on SEO.

As a result, many organizations [still] have their 365/24/7 online marketing communications strategy actioned by the owner's golf buddy's daughter's boyfriend's mate. Who charges, of course, next to nothing because he/she can add it to their CV.

It's hard to compete against those prices, but that's where the '£60 a month is too much' might be coming from.

BTW - the 'knowing where to hit it' anecdote is sooooooo true.

over 8 years ago

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