Well, That Depends on What You Want
Asking how much you should pay for SEO is kind of like asking how much you should pay for a car. There’s a lot of variation. I’m not paying as much for a 2001 Nissan Sentra as I am a 2014 Lamborghini.
You can technically get SEO for as little as $50/month, or you could be paying $30,000/month and up. Typically you get what you pay for, but you don’t always need to be spending top dollar to get good results. The three biggest factors that will affect your cost are the scope of work, who is doing it, and how much is automated. Just remember that wherever you try to cut costs, it will have a correlating impact on your results.
Most importantly, you need to adjust how you look at SEO. Although SEO is a basic necessity for any healthcare practice in the internet age, it’s a mistake to look at it as a “necessary expense.” There is a world of difference between looking at something as an “expense” as opposed to an “investment.” Spending money towards SEO can directly be attributed to income and should be viewed as an investment. Rather than trying to spend the minimal amount, practice managers should be trying to maximize their investment to bring in the greatest return for the practice.
For example, we have a client that spends roughly $4,000/month with us, plus another $5,000 in Google Ads. This sounds like a lot of money. However, he has averaged in leads through website and phone calls $140,000 in potential leads. If just 25% of those leads close (and we all know it will likely be more), that is $35,000 in revenue for a $9,000 investment. In one month. Do you have any investments that are currently bringing a 4x return EVERY MONTH? This is why we look at SEO as an investment, not an expense.
So what’s the real answer? How much should you be paying for SEO? The biggest answer depends on how much money you want to make in new patients as a result of your campaign. Spending $500/month as a healthcare practice just isn’t reasonable for significant results.
How much you pay is typically a combination of expected results and the tasks/services that are required of your service provider. Here are 4 questions that should give you a start for thinking about how much you should be paying:
Who Is Doing Your Work?
You have multiple options for work, and this will largely depend on the size of your business. If you’re a small company (many independent physicians are ideal for this), a freelancer may be all you need. Typically, the needs aren’t great and budgets are smaller and this could be a good way to cut costs. We do recommend going with an established freelancer for this though. College kids, while great interns, are not who you want leading your campaign or representing your brand. They will typically lack the experience necessary to create a great campaign.
Overseas firms can also do things very cheaply. However, we do not recommend this option, regardless of the size of the business. Language barriers and differing quality standards make this VERY risky, and often lead to more costs in the long run to undo poor quality work, and in the case of SEO, Google penalties.
Large agencies are also an option. However, the largest and often most “prestigious” agencies often have hourly rates of $250-$300. This is usually not necessary except for very large practices, and even then is not often necessary.
Most healthcare practices will benefit most from medium size agencies, who typically base their contracts on hourly rates of $130-$180/hour. Just make sure that you choose an agency that has experience in your industry. The learning curve alone of an agency that does not know your industry could significantly increase costs and/or affect the quality of work.
What is Your Competition?
Bottom Line: Competitive keywords need more work! If you’re a practice of 5 doctors and you’re trying to compete for rankings with a hospital system, you can expect that this will take a lot of work. Those beasts are tough to move! It can be done, but it’s not a low-budget option. Also consider how aggressive of a campaign your competition has. Have they been doing this a long time with a significant head start? Most SEO companies can do a competitive analysis for you and help you understand how difficult the competition is (we’ve actually turned away clients that were planning on spending with us because we didn’t believe SEO was the best option based on competition from government agencies, and pointed them in other more profitable directions).
So, if you’re in a space with relatively limited competition you should be able to get away paying a little less. If you’re in a competitive space, be prepared to get creative in targeting or pay a little bit extra.
How Much Content Is Going to Be Written?
Content has become a significant tool in helping a website to rank in search engines. This SEO Case Study documents how we incorporated WordPress into a website, and then additional content creation through a blog and how the website traffic quickly increased. It’s actually gone up significantly more in the time since this case study was done (search traffic is now up more than 2.5 times the beginning of our blog campaign, in only 9 months).
The cost issue: how much content needs to be written? Content actually takes more time than most people think. Strategic topics need to be chosen, content is researched and written, proofread, implemented into a website, and optimized. Yes, you can find freelancers who will write content for you for $50. However, they aren’t doing the full spectrum of work here, it certainly won’t be touched by expert content writers and SEO professionals, and I really don’t know any healthcare professional that would honestly be satisfied with that quality of work. If you’re using an agency, you can expect that a content piece will take about 3-4 hours of agency time to write at their standard rates. Although there are many elements to SEO, this is one of the single biggest factors in the pricing.
Automated or Not?
Automation in SEO can be a good thing or a bad thing. If automation is being used for research and/or reporting, it can lower costs or bring a higher level of service for the same cost. So, in some ways automation is good.
On the other hand, if automation is being used to execute SEO (creating content, distributing content, link building, etc.), it can greatly reduce costs, but can also create large problems (think Google manual penalty level problems). This is not an area to cut costs. Look for automation in reporting, analysis, and other “non-executional” services. Leave the execution of SEO to live people.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, nobody can just say “for a healthcare practice of 15 surgeons you should pay $5,000/month for SEO.” There are a significant number of variables that make those statements impossible. We can tell you that agencies offering $200/month SEO packages are selling something that’s worth nothing, and most medical practices won’t get a quality campaign under $2,000. However, when the ROI is factored in, it’s the wrong way to look at the spend anyway. Spending $3,000/month on SEO is nothing when you net $40,000 as a result.
Want to see what an SEO program would look like for you? Send us your website and contact information and we’ll get in touch with you for a free estimate, and show you how you can increase your practice’s ROI with some strategic marketing investment.