Affordable SEO Services: A Business Guide to Cost-Sensitive SEO Strategies and Agencies for 2023

woman counting money beside calculator
Sabrina Dougall

Boostability is our pick of affordable SEO services for growing American businesses today. Our research found it’s the best for website optimization and content creation – a salient strategy for attracting online customers.

When it comes to choosing who to outsource your search engine optimization (SEO) workload to, it can be a real challenge to balance quality and cost. In this guide we’ll outline how to approach affordable SEO hiring and give you our top recommendations.

We’ll even throw in some tips on free SEO tools if you fancy taking the reins yourself. To save yourself the hassle of recovering from poorly executed SEO work, why not request contacts from our little black book of SEO agencies?

If you could do with personalized recommendations, let us know your basic SEO needs and we’ll match you with our trustworthy professional partners.

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Can SEO Services Be Affordable?

Absolutely. The important thing is to be realistic about your timeframe and expectations. SEO is a marketing function that improves brand visibility and attracts more traffic to your website(s).

We recommend a minimum timeframe of six months to one year before you’re likely to start reaping the rewards of SEO investment. You should invest steadily throughout, rather than work in sprints.

There are quite a few factors that will affect the level of investment into SEO services:

  • How mature your company is
  • The age of your domain(s) (live website(s))
  • The number of territories your business operates in
  • How much audience data you already have
  • How heavily your business depends on your website(s) for revenue or lead generation
  • Whether you need to commission content creation or you have in-house resource

What Does SEO Cost?

Fortunately we’ve written an entire guide on how much SEO costs, so there’s no need to keep you guessing. The average monthly cost to hire an SEO agency is $3,594 – excluding enterprise pricing. That gives a ballpark figure for small- to medium-sized businesses.

The above, of course, assumes you want to outsource. This would be the best option for a startup looking to keep a nimble operation, for instance. A scale-up that is committed to investing in a long-term web presence may consider looking to hire in-house. The average annual salary of an SEO specialist in 2022 is $51,058.

However, there are tens of thousands of vacancies for this type of role in the US today – it’s a very sought-after skillset, and you may struggle to recruit quality candidates in the current market.

What Does Affordable SEO Look Like?

We can look at “affordable” SEO services in three ways:

  1. Costs on the lower end of the market average

  2. A small proportion of your business’ marketing budget

  3. What your company can actually afford to spend on SEO

The first way appears tempting because everyone loves a bargain. You could go with the Basic SEO package of an agency like Uplers, which is priced from just $600. Yippee, that’s almost half of the monthly average SEO agency cost, I’m already winning, right?

The answer is: not necessarily, no. You have to consider what you’re getting for that price. And, more importantly, what your company really needs in the first place.

In the case of Uplers’ Basic SEO, you’ll get a technical audit and report, keyword research, a guest post and up to 15 pages of your website optimized. That’s a decent start for a website that is starting from absolute zero, but it’s hardly a long-term strategy.

If you’re looking to build credibility in your niche as an online retailer, services provider, insurance broker, or another type of business, it’s going to take a lot more than one guest post and some alt tags. You can truly boost your web traffic with engaged viewers if you focus on the future; you need a robust long-term strategy.

hand pointing to laptop screen
Your SEO expert will run tests on your Core Web Vitals.

What about if you’re trying to keep SEO costs relatively low compared with your overall marketing budget? There’s merit in this approach because your business has a lot of costs to balance.

After all, SEO often works best in tandem with search engine marketing (paid advertising on Google, Bing, Baidu et al). And you shouldn’t neglect your social media marketing either, particularly if you’re marketing to millennials and Gen Z.

But, if you’re trying to keep SEO spend low for the sake of it, then there’s a chance you don’t fully understand the potential return on investment (ROI) it can deliver. For an ecommerce company, the average ROI per dollar spent is $2.75. How many of your marketing initiatives currently deliver ROI of 275%? That’s the value of SEO.

It’s therefore better to keep an open mind about SEO costs, and prepare to allocate a reasonable proportion of your marketing budget without setting a concrete limit too early.

We'll help you find a trusted SEO services partner

Why Opt for Affordable SEO Services Rather Than the Cheapest?

SEO involves a huge amount of trust in the service provider because you’ll be handing over access to your website, online listings, and, potentially, social media. It’s incredibly important to choose a trustworthy and reputable SEO agency.

Hiring the cheapest SEO provider you can find is highly risky. At best, you’ll end up paying for near-useless services that deliver no tangible results for your business. At worst, you could end up hiring a bad actor who uses your website to feed scams.

Cheap SEO services are likely going to take shortcuts with your website. Shoddy practices such as low-quality link exchanges, thin content, and hidden links can harm your search rankings – the total opposite of what you’re paying for. If you’re tempted to pay per backlink because the pricing structure is clear, you’re likely to fall prey to link spam, which is against Google’s policies.

As with avoiding any type of business scam, you would be best off following some rules of thumb regarding hiring agencies.

It’s common for agencies to outsource SEO services to countries with lower wages, such as India. Sometimes these companies will also have US-based headquarters you can check in with.

Let’s take a look at a go-to guide for sensible hiring decisions:

Safety Checklist for Hiring Affordable SEO Services:

1. Check the registered premises of the business.
Why: You need to know where you can find the service providers you’re working with in case online communication goes silent.

2. Don’t hire anyone who promises to get you on the first page of Google.
Why: It’s impossible to guarantee; even the best SEO companies can't say “I can definitely do it.”

3. Ask to speak with previous clients.
Why: Anyone can fake online reviews, so you should take steps to verify the claims of a company’s SEO abilities independently.

Top Three Affordable SEO Services

Realistically, not all growing businesses have the budget available to invest richly in SEO services from the outset. We get it. When you’re trying to increase profitability, it’s painful to part with your capital.

For this reason, you may attempt a blended approach to SEO, using a mix of in-house and outsourced capabilities. We’ve gone ahead and researched the safest possible ways to cut costs when it comes to sharpening up your domain’s search engine rankings.

1. SEO Audit

An SEO audit reveals the amount of work that your website needs to rank better on search engine results pages (SERPs). There’s quite a wide definition of what an audit ought to include, but you can expect some, or all, of the following:

✔️ Core web vitals scores: understand your site’s speed performance
✔️ List broken URLs (broken pages that need redirecting to working pages)
✔️ Discover how much of your site is accessible to crawlers
✔️ Identify on-page optimization opportunities
✔️ Find errors in backend configuration, eg robots.txt file
✔️ Detect any search engine penalties
✔️ Flag duplicate content

Many companies offer an initial SEO audit for free. In general, a free website audit can be helpful. However, we advise against quickly hiring an agency just because they offered you an audit. You need to know how they plan to fix the issues identified. However, it’ll give you a great flavor of the agency’s expertise, indicating the kind of SEO audit tools they're using.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to start the conversation with a view to potential follow-up work, and find out whether they can clearly communicate an SEO strategy tailored for your business. For the price-conscious, we’ve written a comprehensive guide on SEO audit costs.

2. Competitor Analysis

Competitor (or “competitive”) analysis means assessing the landscape of other businesses competing for your online customers. If you run an online homeware store, you need to understand the alternative options your target market has for buying cushions and coffee tables from somewhere else.

Now the reason we list this as an affordable SEO service is because there’s quite a bit you can get done yourself.

Here are some free competition insight tools we like:

The value of using these tools is to arm yourself with some level of knowledge about the scope of SEO work your website needs. In all likelihood, starting to review the competitor landscape for your online business will reveal there’s a heck of a lot to do to build up your domain’s credibility.

The next level up in competitor analysis would be to invest in tools to equip your in-house team. This applies to larger or growing businesses that are ready to invest in SEO for the long term. The best SEO companies for small businesses would also use such software.

Our competitor analysis paid tool recommendations are:

  • Similarweb – view in-depth data on your competitors’ traffic referrals
  • Semrush – evaluate your organic search rivals’ keywords and traffic types
  • Ahrefs – dig into details on competitors websites’ backlink profiles and traffic

3. Local SEO

Local SEO refers to getting your business properly registered in online business directories and search tools. For instance, getting your physical location to appear on Google Maps and Bing Places.
Local SEO is often available as a standalone service, meaning you won’t have to invest in the full scope of technical SEO and on-site improvements. If you’re happy with your SERP rankings, and reckon your business simply needs more local search visibility, you can hire an agency to hone your web listings.

Check carefully for which services are included in your Local SEO package. You want to aim for as many of the following as possible:

  • Set up listings on Google My Business and Bing Places for Business
  • Ensure accuracy and consistency of contact details across listings
  • Collect customer reviews
  • Create profiles on social media
  • Responding positively to customer reviews
  • Upload images of your business premises and goods/services

Affordable SEO Companies and Agencies

If you’re wondering where you can find the best value SEO companies, then fear not, we have the answers right here. As the digital marketing experts, we’ve gone ahead and sorted the superb from the scrappy. Here are our top picks:

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Boostability

Hibu

Thrive Agency

Best For

Website Optimization

Best For

Helpful Staff

Best For

Comprehensive SEO

Price Range

On request

Price Range

On request

Price Range

On request

Best for Website Optimization: Boostability

boostability logo
Best for Website Optimization: Boostability
Pricing On request
Quick overview

Our top pick for polishing up your website so that it shines on Google is Boostability. In our research, we found Boostability offers more on-site improvement services than its competitors. In particular, it was one of the few to offer content creation. This is a key ingredient in signaling to search engines that your website is useful to visitors, and usually companies have to outsource this.

Pros

Highly experienced in SEO

Clients praise flexibility and professionalism

Content creation offered

Cons

Some clients dissatisfied with results

Boostability had the most comprehensive customer service offering of the SEO agencies in our research. A knowledge hub, phone number, email, and live chat are all available to clients in need of guidance. That means you won’t be left adrift if you need an update on your SEO campaigns.

Unfortunately, not all clients were totally happy with their SEO outcomes. Unlike, say, dry cleaning or pest control, SEO is not a guaranteed success. Sometimes Boostability could not achieve the results that clients were hoping for.

Best for Helpful Staff: Hibu

Hibu logo
Best for Helpful Staff: Hibu
Pricing On request
Quick overview

Hibu will carry out a thorough SEO audit of your site, and implement the robust changes necessary to improve your search engine rankings. Taking your business’ specific industry into account, Hibu’s SEO experts will methodically carry out on-page and off-page optimizations.

Pros

Detailed SEO audit provided

Lower prices than some competitors

Social media posts offered

Cons

Trustpilot review score is 3.6/5

Some unhappy customers have struggled to see ROI

Their SEO services include white-hat link-building, which is essential for boosting the credibility of your domain for the benefit of Google search rankings. Off-site improvements include publishing online reviews, which lend more appeal to your business for prospective customers.

Clients praise the company’s helpful and knowledgeable team. Several service users mentioned their appreciation for the patience of Hibu’s account managers, and detailed how this eased the website improvement process.

On the other hand, their customer reviews are not the strongest overall. It seems Hibu has some ongoing issues with customer satisfaction that need addressing.

Best for Comprehensive SEO: Thrive Agency

thrive logo
Best for Comprehensive SEO: Thrive Agency
Pricing On request
Quick overview

Previous clients praised the agency’s professionalism, thorough reporting, and transparency regarding work completed. Many happy clients saw increased web traffic as a result of partnering with Thrive Agency.

Pros

Highly experienced in SEO

Clients praise flexibility and professionalism

Content creation offered

Cons

Some clients dissatisfied with results

Its digital marketing service includes many types of SEO, including local SEO, technical SEO, content production, and link building. Although the majority of their business is SEO-related, the agency will also carry out social media marketing, Amazon marketing, ecommerce marketing, as well as paid search.

In terms of costs, these varied greatly, although clients spent around $5,000 and $10,000+ for specific SEO projects.

On the negative side, some clients would have preferred greater certainty regarding when they could expect to see certain results. Yet this is impossible as SEO depends on outside factors such as algorithms controlled by Google and Bing.

Verdict: Can you Afford SEO Services?

Affordable SEO comes down to your long-term mindset. You should bear in mind that buying cheap is not always the same as securing good value for money. Unfortunately, hiring the lowest-priced SEO agency may deliver unwanted results: spam links and search engine penalties.

If you want to hire trustworthy SEO professionals, you can rely on us to recommend the best. We’re happy to introduce you to reliable SEO agencies at no cost to you. Simply let us know what kind of website you’d like improving and we’ll work out which SEO experts to pair you with.

Once again, our favorite affordable SEO services are:

  • Best for Website Optimization: Boostability
  • Best for Helpful Staff: Hibu
  • Best for Comprehensive SEO: Thrive Agency

If you apply your due diligence, and hire the right SEO agency, you’re sure to see better targeted web traffic through search engines over time.

Written by:
Sabrina Dougall
Sabrina Dougall Web Marketing Expert

Sabrina is a business journalist whose career began in news reporting. She has a master’s in Investigative Journalism from City University London, and her work has appeared in The Times, The Daily Express, Money Saving Expert, Camen New Journal, Global Trade Review, and Computer Business Review. She specializes in writing about SEO (search engine optimization). Having run her own small business, Sabrina knows first-hand how critical digital marketing is to building a client base and local reputation.