By Published On: August 13, 2019Categories: SEO

Falling into the “affordable” SEO services trap will wreck your business.

Don’t worry. We are not going spend 500 words on bashing providers, nor bash low budget businesses. Rather, we want to help by showing you what your alternative options are even if you have limited funds in your budget.

We want to keep you from throwing away money.

What is Affordable SEO?

Of course, everyone has their own definition of what both “affordable” and “expensive” mean, so pretty much ignore those words. But for this blog, we will operate under the assumption that “affordable” means low cost (say $350 per month and below). Affordable is relative – for example paying $5,000 per month for SEO may seem like an affordable investment to someone due to high potential revenue or product price points, but if your company is making below six figures per year, then $5,000 per month would seem ludicrous. It’s all subjective.

Even if we take away the perception of what is affordable to one or another, there is one thing that is universal:

Simply, good SEO cannot be cheap. As in, under $350 per month. 

Here’s why:

1. You Can’t Do Much Without Money

There are only so many effective SEO actions you can take without the right SEO budget. The right budget for SEO will vary by size of the company, the industry as a whole and the local market.

(Bonus: Now you know to run if they have given you a price before they know what you do and where).

Without enough money, the only actions possible would be those that are time-dependent (read: quick and easy tasks) and not capital-dependent (read: longer term SEO that builds over time). SEO that actually has a lasting effect is very capital-dependent by either staff ability and/or purchases.

A good example of cheap time-dependent SEO actions includes: keyword research, page-level optimization, and some technical optimization. I say “some” technical optimization because you may end up needing software and a developer for larger issues. While time-dependent activities can be effective alone in rare circumstances, 9 times out of 10 you won’t get far with these.  They are only the base. An important base, but just a base. A free plugin or a blog can’t create miracles… only a start (no matter what they promise).

The two biggest drivers of growth are content and backlinks. These two activities are also the most capital-intensive.

The difference between effects from time and capital is the point where affordable SEO services start to break down.

Since low cost SEO companies don’t have the capital, they:

  • can’t create quality content
  • can’t spend time doing link outreach
  • can’t pay for placement (or create backlinks) on quality sites

This results in two things:

1. They have to go cheap on SEO content creation, which will end up not being worthy of your brand and persuade very few people on your expertise.

2. They will use gray or black hat backlinks that will get your site penalized (See #2). The penalties will come after a matter of time and many times the cheap SEO company (if you can even get a hold of them) will just suggest starting a new website with a new name.

2. You Will Lose in the Long Run

I get it. You want to squeeze as much profit out of your business as you can or even keep your doors open. But there are some things in business that you never want to go “cheap”. SEO is one of those things.  You may not realize it up front because the evidence that you actually over-spent isn’t immediate. It takes months of working with a bad SEO company to realize the bigger cost. This “cost” comes in many different forms.

First, cheap SEO will likely land you a penalty.

So, even if the low-quality tactics work in the short-term, you will end up getting nailed later on. If your site gets penalized, you will have to hire another agency just to get the penalty removed without starting over.

Once your site gets a penalty, it’s a long road to recovery. In fact, your previous traffic levels may never recover.

In addition, with traffic way down, how do you pay the bills now?

And these are only your visible costs!

You also have to take into account opportunity and time costs. If your site gets penalized, you will have wasted precious time and capital that was already spent.  You know the value of time, money, and business assets.

It gets even worse if you decide to go the cheap SEO route:

3. You Won’t Get Assets

Quality content and back links are ASSETS for your business. This means they will continue to bring your business value for the long-term. They will keep on giving value for a long time. Even when they disappear, Google sees and rewards the consistent pattern of growth.

Affordable SEO services won’t give you any tangible assets. That’s because they do not have the capital to create quality content assets or acquire quality link placements. Without these assets, you are better off doing paid search because you just created temporary assets; so why not control what you rent?

4. Scalability = Cookie Cutter

Most affordable Search Engine Optimization companies have to use cookie-cutter strategies. They can’t afford to treat each company as individual creative problems and solutions.  They will try to sell you on price and/or their special Google-beating technique. They will even have examples of people that succeeded (remember how I said rarely you can win big – but some do). Every client is at a different point, with different problems and obstacles. SEO is a dynamic skill. While the principles of quality SEO never change, every single campaign is different. SEO professionals are constantly learning and evolving.

The take away? A cookie-cutter approach rarely works and will almost always be low quality.

Good agencies understand that SEO requires creativity and strategic pivots work with and counter Google’s little surprises. No two campaigns are the same and no campaign stays the same!

Unlike scale-based models, quality agencies value client RETENTION and ACQUISITION.

Most cheap SEO companies focus heavily on front-end sales, which leaves little resources for client fulfillment – making the above problems worse. Quality agencies allocate resources to getting results and improving their service quality. Cheap SEO companies do not have the resources for this. My philosophy is simple: we focus on improving our service and giving you value for your investment.

5. Experience is Priceless

Companies that offer affordable SEO services have to employ cheap labor or cheap outsourcing. This often equals inexperience and shoddy work. Good agencies aren’t cheap because they employ legitimate, proven experts. These experts are confident in their ability to get results. Therefore, they would never work for entry-level pay.

As well, ignore agencies bragging about their large staff. Having a low budget and large staff means low quality workers doing cookie cutter actions. A dead give-away!

Here are 3 Solutions for a Limited SEO Budget

I wouldn’t leave you high and dry, because some people really want the benefits of SEO but just really don’t have a budget at the moment. Money doesn’t come from the simple desire to invest or spend. That’s okay. So, here a few solutions to get you started making some money, so you can ramp up to proper market-beating SEO later.

1. Do It Yourself

Believe it or not, doing some of the SEO basics yourself is often safer than hiring a cheap SEO agency. Any good blog on will steer you right. But, make sure the blog or article is current. Old information may sound great and may have worked in past algorithms from Google, but much now won’t work or may earn you a penalty. To be safe, stay with articles and blogs written in the last month or two. At the very worst, stay within the same calendar year.

Doing it yourself gives you control, teaches you the basics to lookout for later and you are responsible for the success. It will also force you to learn more about SEO as a whole to better understand it’s value. Your business is your baby and you want to do what’s best for it.

2. Dip Your Toes

Once you understand the structure of an effective SEO strategy, you can start investing in the more components. For example, instead of you having to write content, you can hire a writer – but be careful. If they talk about keywords too much versus just writing what’s effective for your audience, run!

3. We can get you just started to stop the bleeding (No big SEO sell).

Don’t make a rash decision and hire a low cost SEO agency. If your budget is tight, then build up funds and wait to hire a quality agency down the road.


If you truly don’t have the funding and the thought of doing SEO yourself scares you or you just don’t have time, contact us. We will discuss what we can do to get you out the starting gate while you raise funds. The longer you stay in a bad position with Google, the more bad history builds up. Just like if a spouse acted poorly for years, you wouldn’t believe them quickly if they were suddenly loving and kind. They would have to spend time earning your trust. The same goes for Google and your website.  They are building a history every day your site is live.


Hiring an SEO agency is an important decision for your business. Don’t take it lightly and most importantly, avoid falling for the “affordable” SEO trap because you will end up throwing away money.  You are better off doing it yourself, saving up for a real professional, or even doing nothing, rather than giving your money away to low-cost companies.

SEO doesn’t have to cost a lot (Remember the differences between industries and markets) but it should never cost a little!