If you are a small business with a tight budget, or if your organization’s marketing dollars are watched very closely, you know how important it is to keep costs down. However, if your website requires SEO services, you may not see any way to avoid breaking the bank. Many major SEO companies charge thousands of dollars per month for their services, and you may not even know how beneficial they will be before signing a contract.

Here’s what you should take into consideration when you are researching the cost of SEO services offered by the companies on our list.

Initial Investment

If your website has never had any SEO work performed on it, the initial investment may be steep. Depending on the size of your site and the kind of work desired, your initial SEO investment could range anywhere from $1,500 to $20,000! However, most initial SEO packages are a few thousand dollars, and this price could even be bundled in with the cost of additional services (for example, if you are having a new website designed at the same time).

Reputable SEO companies will have the price of their initial or starter SEO packages right on their website. This kind of transparency allows you to know up front exactly what you will be paying for, what services are included, and how much time will be spent working on optimizing your website.

Monthly Costs

A reputable company will also list the monthly costs of their SEO services on their website. Again, this will tell you right up front what you are paying for, what services are included, and how much time will be spent on improving your website each month.

Many SEO companies have “tiered” packages that allow you to pick how much you want to invest in SEO on a monthly basis. Avoid companies that only have “one size fits all” plans, or don’t guarantee a set number of hours devoted to your site each month. You should look for a company that allows you to pick the plan right for you, or even personalize a plan that is custom to your needs. The right SEO company will be willing to grow with you, or even scale back their efforts as required.

Additional Services

If you invest in a specific SEO package that only includes the production of and optimization of content, but one month decide you need some links built to your site, how would you expect your SEO company to react? Most companies offer an hourly rate to cover any services that fall outside of your plan, or go over your allotted monthly hours. Depending on what is done, this fee could range anywhere from $50 to $300 per hour.

Look for a company that has reasonable hourly rates, or is willing to work with you to adjust your plan to cover additional services. You should ask up front what hourly or non-contract fees are charged, and also request bills that are itemized so you know what caused you to go over budget.

These are three important things you should keep in mind when researching the cost of SEO. Although cost is incredibly important, it isn’t everything. Sometimes, you may feel that is is best to pay a little more for the quality work the company will produce, especially if you are certain that the ROI will cover your initial costs.