⤥ Pricing Guide Preview Here ⤦
Knowing how to price your SMMA services is one of the most important parts of running an agency. Go a little bit over the right price and you can make it tough to get clients. Go a little bit under the right price and you’re going to start losing money.
But, if the price it just right, you’ll feel like you’re literally printing money.
Luckily, getting it right isn’t too difficult.
From email to PPC, there are a lot of moving parts in a social media marketing agency. In the following articles, I’ll go over how to price each individual service that your social media marketing agency might offer.
What you’ll see me repeat through all of these articles is a simple formula: cost + markup = price. What this means is that the price you’re going to charge your client is the price that you’re going to pay plus the money that you want to make.
For most agencies, the markup part is simple. You’re going to charge a 20% to 50% markup on all of your services. This part can be difficult to get right, but this is the variable that’s easiest to tweak. The general rule is that your markup should be equivalent to the amount of value you’re providing in the deal.
The cost, really, is the difficult part. When you’re working with contractors, the number on the cost is right in front of you – it’s whatever they’re charging you – but that isn’t always the cost that you’re going to plug into this equation. You need to figure out your cost for the entire service you’re offering.
So, if you’re charging hourly for the service, you can leave the cost in the equation as hourly. However, if you’re charging weekly, monthly, or quarterly, for example, you’re going to have a more difficult time, because you have to figure out how many hours of work are going to go into that week, month, or campaign.
Your cost might also be more closely tied to the client than the contractor. For example, some services are best charged as a percentage of ad spend when compared to other variables (these deals are easy to mess up though, so be sure to check out my article on PPC to see what that’s like).
In addition, your cost isn’t always tied to just one contractor. Consider how many hands are needed for a social media ad campaign. The Ads Manager is the first person that you need to think about, but potentially you’ll need a copywriter, a video editor, and a graphic designer, among others.
This can make your calculations pretty difficult. Then, you need to figure out how you’re going to charge for your services. Are you going to do it hourly? Are you going to do it by campaign? What’s best for you? What’s the standard?
These are the questions I’ll answer for you because it’s vital to get it right straight out of the gate. The following guide will provide the answers you need to get started on a pricing table right away..
Knowing how to price social media marketing services is the key to running your social media marketing agency. You need to understand how much you pay your employees or freelancers in order to provide value to your clients. This shows you how much you need to markup the cost of the services to bill your client. Most agencies will use a “Cost Plus” pricing structure and will markup 20% to 50% of their cost, though premium agencies go much higher.
Before you learn how to price social media marketing services correctly, you need to understand the costs and roles associated with those services. Your company might need to hire out designers, video editors, content managers, or a variety of roles to complete the projects for your clients.
To price your services correctly, you’ll need an estimate of your cost to complete a job, plus the desired profit margin to the job cost. This will result in your desired cost to the customer.
The same goes for your social media ad services. Ads have a lot of costs involved with them and you have to account for budgeting the advertising campaign. While this is most likely to come out of the client’s pocket, it could affect your pricing table. You’ll also need ads managers, designers to build the creative, and various other roles.
Simply put, there are really only two factors to consider: How much you’re going to be paying for labor and software (cost of labor) and your desired profit margin on your services. Once you have the cost per hour of the freelancer, you can figure out the second part pretty easily.
What Is Included In Social Media Marketing Pricing?
So, let’s discuss the different services that are included in your social media marketing pricing. These are all aspects that should be included in your hourly rate. The first of these is social media content management, which is the sort of default service that most social media marketing agencies are going to offer. Social media content management is the process of analyzing social media audiences, then developing and executing a strategy to reach that specific, niche audience.
Social Media Management
- Social media content management includes:
- creating content
- monitoring conversations
- working with influencers
- community management
- Some of the positions you will need are
- creative director
- video editor
- analytic reporter
Additional costs would include any necessary employees/freelancers as well as any tools needed to complete the tasks. But, the most important service is ads management, which I’ll talk about more below.
Community management is a time consuming task that can steal your time very quickly. Community managers handle all audience interactions, and because of their direct contact with the audience, the Community Manager will need to the following skillsets:
- Understand the business
- Relate to the customer
- Respond quickly and appropriately
That said, there are two additional factors to consider before submitting your proposal: The size of the audience and the reach of the business.
In this sense, the term “reach” regards to time zones. If the business is national (United States), then you will need to include the cost of additional Community Managers to ensure there is no lapse in communication. And, when it comes to the size of the audience, you will need to use your best judgment for what your current Community Manager can handle.
Social Media Content Strategy
When you sell your social media marketing services, you will need to provide options in your proposal based on what you think the business needs. Creating and implementing a social media content strategy is the service that will provide the greatest benefit for most businesses. This includes…
- Creating the ideal client profile
- Organizing a content calendar
- Auditing the business
- Auditing competitors
The next service that will provide a huge boost for your client is monitoring services. This includes watching relevant hashtags and influencers within their niche. Additionally, monitoring keeps track of mentions and tags of the business, as well as relevant conversations happening live, so you can use to increase your reach by joining the conversation.
Monitoring programs can actually eavesdrop on individuals discussing your business or trends in your industry. Social media monitors help businesses discover conversations about their brands so they can monitor discussions, check in on trends, and be a part of the conversation.
Some web and social media monitoring tools check in on how often your social media channels are mentioned with and without hashtags. This way, businesses can see what target keywords are being used when discussing the brand.
Monitoring services can also track topics and send notifications directly to your inbox. A lot of celebrities set up this feature, even if they’re not particularly involved with social media. That said, it’s not just for the narcissistic. You can track companies, people, products, and topics to stay in line with trends and filter out the clickbait.
One Time Setup
In addition to recurring services, every account has a few one-time setup needs. You might include this under strategy, but understand every account can incur additional costs for you. There’s also a possibility that you’ll want the fees to be additional options, as not every business will need them.
Some businesses will need basic landing and social set-ups, while others simply need a reboot from fresh eyes. This means not only creating the customer-facing page, but also setting up their Business Manager account. You might also create a Facebook group or multiple groups for them.
These pages need to be optimized, which includes featured images, a profile image, and cover image. You might offer creation of a video cover, which you’ll need for video heavy strategies. It’s also a good idea to bring on a copywriter to create short and long bios for each platform.
What Is Included in Social Media Marketing Pricing For Ads?
Social media ads management is an important service to consider when establishing how to price social media marketing services. Ads management is the process of managing ad spend, building out the campaign, and fitting it into the greater social media strategy.
To run social media ads effectively, you’ll need a full team. On the creative side, you need a copywriter, a designer, a video designer/editor, and proofing. Outside of creative, you need a strategist with Ads Manager experience, and you need data analysis and reporting. Usually, the campaign manager for the ads can handle reporting.
If you want to know how we price our social media ads management, it’s pretty simple. We charge a $500 flat rate + 30% of ad spend on campaigns spending less than $3,000. Once the client is spending more than $3,000, we take away the flat rate and replace it with a percentage. Then, we lower the percentage of the rate as the ad spend increases.
Overall, we set our floor at 12.5% of ad spend. Then, if stock photos aren’t available, we charge separately for shooting and editing photos or videos for the campaign.
Billing Services for Social Media Advertising
When pricing your social media advertising, you should charge for the following:
- Campaign strategy starts with targeting. Determine the ideal audience, then create a plan on how to find and target that audience. You will also need to create custom audiences. Strategy also includes determining the message and goals of a campaign, as well as mapping it out. You might offer the option to determine how much ad spend is necessary to reach the specific audience in an effective manner.
- Analytics includes monitoring, optimizing, and reporting. This can mostly be handled by the strategist, as every ad platform will give you easy access to analytics.
- Execution can also fall on the strategist, but if you’re developing the creative, it’s crucial to provide clear instructions to the team. There is also the possibility that you might need to hire multiple strategists to oversee and implement the strategy for each platform.
- One Time Setup is one of the most overlooked fees in social media advertising. More than likely, you will need to set up a business page or at least tweak the current page. Once the page is complete, you also need to set up a Pixel. Pixels are important for tracking the effectiveness of an ad and it will provide insights as to how well your marketing efforts are resonating with your target audience.
Why Social Media Marketers Undervalue Services
Marketers tend to under-price themselves when they aren’t aware of how much value they provide to the client.
Social media marketing helps businesses and brands connect with their customers, and build a community. This is a powerful tool for creating brand awareness, and leveraging that awareness to boost sales.
Social media marketing brings in more, higher-converting inbound traffic. You can also improve brand loyalty and customer satisfaction significantly.
What Roles Do You Really Need to Fill?
Finally, you need to figure out what roles you’ll need to fill, and what that’ll cost. Determine how much time you’ll need to get the job done, and what the hourly cost will be. For recurring costs and tasks, you’ll need to know how long the campaign will run.
Your numbers might not be exact at the start, but that’s how you’ll get started. When you figure that out, you can follow it by figuring out how much to mark up for these services. Again, most agencies will mark up between 20% and 50% of their costs. It’s best to give yourself some cushion in case unexpected costs occur.
- A contractor is $45 an hour
- Agency charges $65 to $70 an hour
- This is a 45-50% markup, so we’ll make $25-30 per hour in labor costs. The premium agencies charge 75-150% markups, but the quality of work needs to be extremely high.
Of course, you also need to curate and disseminate content. You need to create platform specific posts for driving a business’ needs on a given platform. You might offer this service for a particular platform – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or YouTube – or a select group, if not all. A content plan might also branch out to Reddit, Tumblr, or Medium.
Also, the better your work is, the more you can charge. Experience is the best way to show a client your work is good, so you’ll either need to start towards the bottom or hire very experienced contractors.
To price web design services, you need to know what tasks and job roles are included in web design. The formula is still cost + markup (or desired profit margin) = price, but web design is a multi-part process with many variables, which can make creating a pricing table difficult.
The first aspect of web design is understanding the difference between website design (User Interface or UI for short) and website development (User Experience or UX for short).
These two are not the same, even though many people assume these two roles can be filled by the same person (we will talk about the differences more below, but we’ll include some information on pricing website development here as well).
Understanding the amount of work that goes into web design, and the amount of value it can provide to the client, is an essential part of selling and pricing web design services. Website design and development are important for different reasons, and the quality of a site can make or break the marketing campaign. Essentially, the work is more than just choosing fonts and color schemes, so a random freelancer with minor Weebly experience isn’t going to get it done right (no offense to Weebly, y’all just popped in my head first).
As a social media marketing agency owner, you need to know website design and development are complementary to all good marketing campaigns. Even if you do not offer web design services, you need to have a website designer and website developer that you can go to for necessary collaborations.
Frequently, you will have a client with a website that is unworkable because it was built so long ago. Having a website designer or developer on hand can be a good way to make your work look consistent from client to client. Otherwise, a future client may ask for a reference, and you are only able to show a poorly designed site you had nothing to do with. Meanwhile, good website can also be the key to ensuring you get the desired result (traffic that equals conversions) once customers land on the site.
Why Website Design is Important
Generally, UI is what we think about when we think about website design. The UI of a website is the color scheme, logo placement, typeface, and layout. These are the parts of the website that are customer facing and need to be built to look both professional and clean.
UX refers to things like functioning buttons, content management systems such as WordPress, widgets like a Messenger popup, font size, spacing of content, etc. UX development is the art of creating a fast, interactive website that functions the way we expect. UX might also need to be designed sequentially, so that the typical user path through the website is as appealing and simple as possible.
Often, the designer will work on both, UI and UX, where a developer will spend their time on the UX to guarantee the website runs efficiently.
A good designer will provide your website with a look that enhances and compliments the brand. A website that looks great can push a brand toward any goal, but you need a designer to make that happen. A template can work for a little while, but most come off as amateurish, even if you find decent paid templates.
Likewise, templates are not good for SEO, either. SEO falls largely on the developer, because Google prefers websites that load quickly (and so do users). Template landing pages tend to be poorly developed for anything but the most basic functions, which lead to Google red flags for poor user experience.
When you combine good design and good development, the benefits will eclipse the investment. Again, it’s very important that you understand the benefits of web design. When learning how to price web design services for the first time, you might not understand the monumental weight of these benefits.
An optimized website creates instant trust when a user visits the page. This idea of simple presentation is the same reason you avoid sketchy gas stations. Website design is the first impression customers have of the company, and this impression can make or break the sales process. Businesses can’t afford not to pay top dollar for web design services.
What is Included in Web Design Services?
Website design and development include a lot of services and costs, and it’s important to know all of them when learning how to price web design services. In addition to the upfront work, the website will need ongoing maintenance. Of course, the upfront work is the bulk of the cost.
For website design, there are three factors to consider:
- UI Design is what most people think of when they think of website design. Again, UI design is the type of stuff you did when you first learned how to customize a website, such as designing a color scheme, layout, and so on.
- UX Design is under the UI design, and it requires a lot of effort to ensure the website works for the user and company. UX design is the slower part of the process for most website builds because most websites have a few difficult functions that need to be designed.
- Graphic design will also be a factor in the overall website design process. Graphic design during the website design process isn’t about logos, as much as creating assets needed for the website. These can include banners, logo variations, images, videos, and a host of other things to make the page user friendly and appealing to the eye.
That said, website development encompasses just as much as website design. Coding the website itself is the most obvious service, but there’s more to do beyond that. Coding widgets and pixels is an important piece, as is building in a content management system. Of course, optimizing the website’s speed is one of the most important parts of website development. And again, there’s a lot to be done after the initial creation of the website.
For long-term clients, design maintenance is relatively simple and does not need to be part of a recurring monthly cost, but it is something to keep in mind. Making sure that the website design stays current with trends is very important. Your design might also need to be altered to account for a new mobile device having bigger or smaller dimensions, or for any other technical behaviors that changes how people view the site.
But, code maintenance is arguably more important than aesthetics. With the backend of the Internet changing rapidly, making sure you’re up to date is key to continued traffic growth. Code maintenance involves continual optimization for speed, as well as the removal of any bugs or errors that might crop up. Google does not like non-optimized websites, so it’s important to consider this from month-to-month.
Finally, you might consider hosting as part of your web design services. This will usually be done through a company like BlueHost, but it is something you need to account for in the pricing. You or your web developer should be familiar with web hosting services and be ready to manage them as an additional service.
The Formula to Price Website Design Services
For web design services, I recommend charging an hourly rate with some upfront fees. These fees include web hosting and domain registration. You can choose to charge the client for these or take them as a cost of doing business. You might ask the client to handle whatever service you’re using, but it’s often easier to do it on the agency side. I would not recommend marking up service fees like this unless you’re putting in a significant amount of work.
Beyond the initial cost, determining the hourly pay of the designer and developer should be pretty simple. You only need to know how much your contractor will charge you hourly. If your contractor charges a flat fee, you might want to change your pricing or you’ll have to break down the fee hourly.
Also, you will need other contractors beyond a designer and developer, like a copywriter. Generally, you will price this out as a different service. With those costs in mind, you can choose how much you want to markup these services.
Knowing how to price email marketing services can be tricky, but once you know what is included in email marketing, you can easily estimate the cost. The key to pricing is always knowing your costs and the value of the service you provide.
I’ve noticed an upward trend in new agency owners undercharging for their email marketing services. You don’t want to set your price too low for services that provide this much value. Email marketing is seen, by some business and agency owners, as outdated, but emails are still responsible for a large percentage of sales for most businesses.
Email marketing is an invaluable marketing service. Emails allow you to broadcast messages to a wide, warm audience, and there’s no social media regulation between you and your audience. Whether you’re using email marketing as a branding tool or to cap off a sales funnel, it will grow your business.
In email marketing, every email that you send to your audience has a purpose or goal. For your company to succeed, you will need to send emails ranging from simple receipts to company digests. Email offers flexibility and this is why it is an invaluable tool for marketers.
The real secret with email marketing – and with knowing how to price email marketing services – is in making the right decisions. Obviously, you’re going to have a copywriter and maybe even a designer, but most people forget strategist, the builder, and the maintenance.
The Email Marketing Strategist is a person who structures an email sequence for a marketing campaign. They are responsible for ensuring the email campaign meets or exceeds the predetermined company goals.
The Email Marketing Manager / Automator is a role that can be filled by the strategist. Their responsibilities are to complete the full automation by implementing tagging and segmenting users into lists. They are also responsible for tracking the effectiveness of every email and every link within the emails. If an email is not performing well, this person will work with the strategist to reformulate the specific email or emails.
The Email Technician (I like to call them E.T…. like the movie) is the master of the list. They will scrub, clean, and update accordingly. This may seem like a small job but they are a crucial piece of your team. This role ensures you spend your marketing dollars wisely by keeping the list updated. No one wants to waste time and money marketing to a list that is mostly unresponsive.
What is Included in Email Marketing Services?
You need to familiarize yourself with all parts of email marketing to price your services appropriately.
Email services encompass more than writing and sending emails. The nuances of an email campaign can be easily overlooked if you have not previously created a campaign. Even services like MailChimp, which can make the process seem simple, require mastery.
Automation is key to producing a successful email marketing campaign. You must know “how” and “what” to automate, and the “what” will come from the marketing strategist.
For most email sequences, after you review the “what,” you will create the Automation Map.
Creating the Automation Map
- Review Email Links (Body Email Links & Goal Links)
- Setup Link Tracking (Attach A Tag If Beneficial)
- Add Tags
- Create Rules To Segment Into Lists
Note: When you add a rule to segment users into a list, be sure there is a corresponding automation for that list.
Once the automation is built, the email manager will continue to monitor and track the campaign results. When necessary, the email manager will work with the strategist to optimize the automation sequence or a specific email that is underperforming.
Similar to automation setup is segmentation management.
During segmentation management, the email marketing manager will divide the audience by tags or behaviors that make it easier to send emails to a specific group. This will streamline the process and make your targeting more effective.
The email marketing manager might also set up email broadcasts, which are digest style emails. These emails will deliver your current content as part of an ongoing campaign. These emails may seem trivial but they are an essential part of every content marketing campaign.
The email marketing manager will build a template for these emails and pass it off to a copywriter to fill them in each week. Also, this will keep the price from fluctuating week to week.
The final task in email marketing is copywriting.
Copywriting will make or break your email campaign, so it’s important to have someone dedicated to crafting emails that get opened and convert users into customers. The copywriter will work with the email manager and marketing strategist to A/B test (split test) subject lines and content to get the best possible results. The difference in a good subject line and a bad subject line is the difference between six figures and a failing business.
The price and time involved in all of these services will vary depending on experience and quality of the contractor. However, I expect to find a good email marketing manager for $25 – $75 an hour, and a good copywriter for $20 to $50 an hour.
Automation mapping will usually take a day or so, and the same for automation and segmentation setup. Digest setup should take 1-2 hours weekly, and campaign monitoring 1–4 hours every week. A copywriter should complete two emails within an hour unless your emails are particularly meaty. You will want to retain the copywriter for revisions or rewrites for a total of 1-2 hours.
How to Price Email Marketing Services
As with pricing every other service, the formula is simple: cost + markup = price. You start with your cost, then add how much you need to make your business profitable.
For most email marketing services, I recommend a flat rate based on the average hours I expect it will take to complete. To establish the cost of this flat rate, take the number of hours needed from each position (Copywriting, manager, analytics, design, etc.) and the corresponding hourly rate and multiply the two.
Now, you need to know your markup. Most social media marketing agencies markup email marketing 20-50%, but premium agencies go far above this. They can do this because the services are of a higher quality which leads to a substantial increase in cost.
When you’re learning how to price email marketing services, consider exactly what you want to offer. Does your general strategy require automation? Will you need digest emails and regular work from a copywriter? Answer those questions after you know what your client needs to establish your baseline cost for that client.
If you’re going to offer them, you need to know how to price PPC services.
You can easily break down your Pay-Per-Click marketing services by what they’re costing you, and use that to determine what you’re going to charge. The pricing formula for almost every marketing service is fairly similar: you need to know how much is coming out of your pocket, and how much is going in.
There have been many different pricing models for PPC services in the past, so I’ll briefly go over each of those and explain the pros and cons. There are nuances to pricing services you will miss if you have not done it before.
For example, most people default to hourly because that’s the employment structure that they’re familiar with – even though it’s not always the best for this sort of work.
Before we get into that, though, I think it’s important that we discuss what goes into PPC services and why they’re important for marketing agencies to offer. In the more sexy world of social media, people often skip over PPC and see it as something they can do without. For many reasons, this isn’t the case.
PPC services can help you get the results you need to make your marketing agency sustainable. If you aren’t currently offering PPC services, you should consider doing so. And, even if you aren’t interested in PPC, it’s good to be aware of how to price PPC services and other services like it, because you never know when a client’s going to ask of you.
If you’re just learning the business side of being a social media marketing agency owner, this is the type of thing you need to have on hand. You’re not always going to have to do this on the spot, but you need to know where this information is. The best way to succeed is to say “yes,” or at least avoid having to say, “I don’t know.”
What is PPC and Why PPC Services are Important?
PPC marketing (Pay-Per-Click marketing) is done mostly through AdWords these days. PPC is like paid SEO. Basically, a PPC manager will pay to have their product sponsored on Google, through AdWords, or on Google. For most of the early days of the internet, PPC was the dominant method of getting your website in front of people. This was especially true because it was underpriced for so long.
PPC services include strategizing, setting up, managing, and reporting on campaigns set up through Google AdWords. A PPC manager will start by working with the rest of their team to map out the keywords they need to target, and some strategies they can use during the campaign to target those keywords. They’ll also map out their keywords and their campaign at this stage.
Then, the PPC manager will set up the client’s AdWords account and begin to launch the campaign. Once things have been kicked off, the PPC manager will continue to monitor the success of the campaign and make tweaks in the AdWords account when necessary. At a certain interval – usually weekly, monthly or quarterly – the PPC manager will gather metrics to build a progress report for further investigation.
The Pros and Cons of PPC Pricing Models
There are a few main ways that people charge for PPC services, and you need to be familiar with each PPC Pricing Models to figure out how do you price ppc management. Obviously, each of the ppc pricing packages comes with it’s own bonuses and drawbacks, so you need to figure out what’s right for you. Some companies source a packages PDF for specific details.
Beyond yourself, though, all of the PPC Pricing Models have different implications for the client.
A lot of providers charge an hourly rate for their PPC services and bill weekly or monthly. This is okay, but it encourages the PPC manager to work slower than normal. Not that most would, but that’s the only way it makes financial sense.
The natural fix for this is to charge a flat rate or monthly retainer. This would include campaign set up and management, along with monitoring and reporting every month. This model works better, but it too can lead to price points that are too high for low budget clients and too low for those of you with higher paying clients.
Other people charge a percentage of the ad spend, which makes it easier to adjust for the client. However, this can lead to undercharging for work with a lower budget – or low need – clients. It’s important that you’re pricing your work in a way that functions for you and your client. A model packages template or packages PDF may be beneficial to you and your client.
How to Price PPC Services for your SMMA
The best compromise (the way I suggest you try when learning how to price PPC service) is charging a flat rate for clients under a certain amount. Once the client has reached that threshold, you start to charge a flat rate instead. For PPC services, I would recommend charging between $500 and $750 for client’s spending less than $3,000, then charging somewhere between 12.5% and 30% of ad spend above the $3,000 mark.
As I recommended for social media advertising, I recommend lowering the percentage of ad spend that you’re charging as the ad spend grows. This keeps the income that you’re making roughly the same from client to client, which is what you should be aiming for.
More ad spend doesn’t always mean more work, so you don’t want to charge too much.
When determining what exact price you’re going to use, there is always one simple formula that you need to know: your price plus your markup equals your client’s price.
So, to turn that equation into a number, you need to fill in two of the variables. You might be able to start with what people are willing to pay and work backwards, but it’s best to start with your cost.
There are a lot of factors to consider here, the first of which is whether you can perform the task in-house or if you need to hire from someone outside.
Generally, hiring out is the way to go for tasks like these, but you might be able to find someone currently on your team to get it done. Using sites like FreeeUp or UpWork, you can easily find a contractor to work with.
The starting hourly rate for a capable contractor is $50, but if you choose to charge hourly, you can take this number and run with it. However, a flat rate requires a bit more work, so you need to determine how many hours the campaign will take. This means how many hours it will take to get started up, and how many hours it will take to monitor, tweak and report. If you’re able to find a person to manage $3,000 worth of ad spend for $400 a month, your agency should charge $500 to $600 for that management.
That’s not it for cost, though. You also need to consider if you’ll need to bring other people into the project. For most PPC campaigns, the PPC Manager will need to work with a Marketing Strategist and a Copywriter. Consider these costs in the rate that you charge to clients.
Finally, determine your markup. For most agencies, this will be somewhere between 10% and 25% of how much the campaign will cost you for PPC. The higher quality work you produce, the more you can markup – some premium agencies will markup 150% or more, but it will take some time to get there.
That’s the basic rundown of how to price PPC services. It’s really as simple as just that one formula, which I’ll repeat when telling you how to produce anything. The hard part is figuring out how to charge, not how much.
To price SEO services, you need one formula: cost + markup = price.
Know what tasks are involved in the completion of a project, and you will know your price. But, in order to do that, you need to understand everything that’s involved in SEO management.
SEO management is more than producing content. Even if you were only focusing on the content, there are things you need to get right to get the SEO right, such as putting your keywords in the right place is important, as well as making sure the images in the content contain the appropriate metadata.
Beyond that, SEO management is mostly about what’s behind the content.
An SEO manager should be involved in every aspect of a business’s website, making sure that everything is designed to make Google happy.
Because the nature of SEO management can be malleable, pricing your SEO management services will be difficult at times. However, working with an SEO manager should make it fairly obvious as to how you need to price your SEO management services.
Below, I’ll discuss the nuances of SEO and everything that goes into creating content to help you rank for keywords.
You will not know everything about SEO because it’s easy to overlook some of the many things that fall under the umbrella of SEO. However, to learn how to price SEO services, you will need to learn as much as you can about what goes into SEO services.
If you are not offering SEO services or are not sure what SEO can do for a business, I’ll cover that below. I do want to stress to you how important it is for you to know the value that you’re providing when you’re offering a service. Otherwise, you’ll end up undercharging and running a losing business.
What is SEO?
The first thing you need is an understanding of what SEO is and what it means. So, to put it simply: SEO is the art of making your website visible on Google, or any search engine. When referring to SEO, it is usually in regards to Google – but it might also apply to YouTube, Facebook, Bing, or alternative search engines.
Within SEO, there are three main subtypes.
Local SEO, which is best for, you guessed it, local businesses. This SEO type refers mostly to the Google Maps index, which is where most people go for recommendations on restaurants, services, attractions, and activities. Local businesses need to appear in “near me” searches.
On Page SEO is the practice of ensuring all aspects of a website meet (or exceed) the rules universally acknowledged by search engines. The rules for On Page SEO encompass every aspect of a site. Search engines recommend sites with relevant answers and best user experience. I do not want to go to deep into SEO (this is a pricing article after all) but I do want to quickly summarize On Page SEO: it includes images, keywords, URLs, linking strategy, and user experience.
Off Page SEO is everything not on a site (And yes… I know that is a lot). To put in plain terms, Off Page SEO is composed of links to your site from external sources. This is why every content strategy includes some form of creating content that is socially shareable. Also, creating content that is of a high quality and is a valuable resource, which will create links naturally (like this article – don’t you want to hit that share button?).
If you want more in-depth information about SEO you can check out my other SEO articles.
Now… Back to pricing SEO services.
What you need to know about pricing these SEO services is the amount of time it takes to complete, which is actually a trick question because SEO is an ongoing service with no real end.
This means the cost for your client will add to your MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue). I would recommend that you work out a project pricing chart with your SEO specialist. This gives you fixed costs for onboarding a new client regardless of the services the business that client will need.
What’s Included in SEO Management?
There are a lot of services included under SEO management, and you need to account for all of them when you’re first figuring out how to price SEO services.
From the website structure to the content you’re going to post every week, there’s a lot that goes into keeping a website optimized. Generally, I would expect to pay an average of $50 an hour for all of these tasks, though you can move up or down a bit when looking for contractors.
SEO is a long process with a lot of nuances, but it begins with the website structure. First things first, an SEO manager will insure that your website is on a secure HTTPS, as Google will push people away from your site otherwise. Then, they’ll setup analytics – usually through Google Analytics – and a Robots.txt file.
Later on, the SEO manager will be constantly auditing for site errors and keeping the index status of all the pages up to date. The SEO manager will make sure that the sitemap is optimized for Google’s algorithm, as well as for people to not bounce. SEO manager’s will build the site’s meta elements to be easily readable.
Most importantly, an SEO manager will always check on the page speed of the site. This is one of the more important ranking factors on Google, and it’s something that needs to be optimized regularly. The SEO manager can be very hands on with these tasks, even going so far as to tweak some of the website’s code.
Also, the SEO manager should audit the content on the site or elsewhere on the Internet to guide the content marketing. In 2019, most SEO managers are optimizing for voice keywords, as well as pointing out places where keywords have been poorly targeted. They’ll make sure necessary elements of the content – such as contact info – are on the site in an easy to find place, and remove any content that’s outdated or otherwise not optimal.
An SEO manager can work with the marketing manager to build out a keyword strategy, and should be involved in the content planning for the website. They might remove or rewrite duplicate content, and suggest ways to bolster content on the site. They should be overseeing website content to make sure that the keywords are in the right place, and that all images have keywords in their alt text.
SEO managers will also alter the website to optimize for page conversions, as these are important during Google’s rankings. They might also build out an internal linking strategy and create topic clusters to help the site perform better.
Finally, they’ll make sure that all of the major details are right to give Google a favorable impression in it’s initial quickscan.
Modern SEO managers will also optimize your website and content to be viewed on mobile, as Google is largely recommending mobile-friendly sites before anything else.
Outside of the website, SEO managers still have some work that they might be doing. SEO managers might work with outside sources to develop back links to your content. They might also work with publications to write about your site in a way that tells Google to associate your company with a specific keyword. Basically, SEO managers will do anything they can to build your page authority.
Finally, SEO tasks will continue and require maintenance throughout your website’s entire lifespan. Beyond the initial push and overseeing content, SEO managers will monitor rankings and traffic, and analyze your next steps. SEO managers are likely to catch flaws in your strategy very early, which is beneficial for the longevity of your website.
How to Price SEO Services
Again, in case you missed it at the top, the formula for pricing SEO services is: cost + markup = price. This is also true when understanding how to price SEO Services.
The amount of money you’re paying and the amount you want to make are the two parts of how much you’re going to charge. For SEO average price you will be charged about $50 an hour.
Most agencies will markup their SEO services 20% to 50% on average. I personally mark up by 45%, and pay $50 an hour. So, the final cost to the client is $72.50 per hour. We make an average of $30 an hour on SEO services, not including any software costs we provide during the process. Premium agencies will charge a 75% – 150% markup, but you’ll know when your business can afford this type of markup.
When you’re learning how to price SEO services for the first time, I would suggest charging hourly. The nature of SEO can be volatile – some businesses will take a full week while others will take a few hours at most. Flat rates are either going to hurt your wallet or the client’s piggy bank, so hourly is my preference.
If you’ve read this far, you’re off to a great start, but make sure to download our Complete Pricing Guide HERE to get a jumpstart on the best pricing practices for your new business!