SEO Search Ecommerce

How much should you spend on SEO?

By Dave Colgate, Head of enterprise SEO

Vertical Leap


The Drum Network article

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August 24, 2022 | 7 min read

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) often has a reputation for being a cheap marketing strategy, but high-value work can require substantial investment. Dave Colgate of agency Vertical Leap looks at how to invest properly.

Vertical Leap on how marketers can improve their SEO capability. Image: Souvik Banerjee/Unsplash

Vertical Leap on how marketers can improve their SEO capability. Image: Souvik Banerjee/Unsplash

Unsure how much you need to spend on search engine optimization (SEO)? Let's look at how to set the right budget, considering how much other companies are spending; the factors you need to budget for; and the minimum recommended spend for small businesses just starting out with SEO.

How much do companies spend on SEO?

Marketing budgets suffered from Covid-19, but industry reports show companies are on their way to returning to pre-pandemic levels. According to Oracle’s top marketing trends report, 64% of companies planned to increase their budgets in 2022.

Meanwhile, Gartner's State of Marketing Budget and Strategy 2022 shows companies are spending 9.5% of revenue on marketing this year, up from 6.4% in 2021.

The same study shows companies are spending 8.5% of their marketing budgets on SEO, topping the list of “unpaid channels”.

Gartner’s insights are largely backed up by The Marketing Budgets Report 2022 from StrategiQ, which finds companies spending 10% of total revenue on marketing in 2022. It also finds companies are spending 10.5% of their marketing budgets on SEO, up from Gartner’s 8.5%.

StrategiQ's report found that small companies dedicate a greater percentage of revenue to marketing.

StrategiciQ includes fewer channels in its report than Gartner. This is an important point because the fewer channels you spread your marketing across, the greater percentage you’ll spend on SEO. So, if you’re not spending any marketing budget on live events, digital audio advertising, or other channels, you could spend far more than 10.5% of your marketing spend on SEO.

What does your SEO budget get spent on?

When you’re setting an SEO budget, it’s important to understand how your spend will be spread across key activities:

  • Analytics: The insights that inform every part of your SEO strategy and reveal your biggest opportunities.

  • Content production: Every piece of content you create and optimize to rank in search engines.

  • On-page SEO: Optimizing your web pages and content to maximize search visibility.

  • Off-page SEO: Optimizing off-page signals with link building, content placements (eg: guest blogging), reviews and other factors outside of your website.

  • Technical SEO: Optimizing and maintaining the technical performance of your website (loading times, link profiles, URLs, etc).

  • SEO tech stack: The tools you use at every stage of your SEO strategy: analytics, competitive research, content planning, content production, etc.

  • Agency/consultancy fees: SEO services you require from agencies or consultants.

  • Outsourcing: Tasks you outsource to freelancers or external talent, such as content creation, copywriting, web design, etc.

That Oracle report found something else: 82% of companies were planning to change their marketing tech stack in 2022.

In today’s data-driven marketing environment, this is one of the most important aspects of your SEO budget. With the right tech stack, you can drastically increase the ROI of your SEO spend by improving the quality of insights, automating tasks and seizing opportunities before your competitors.

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If you don’t have the budget or resources to build a competitive SEO tech stack, it’s worth looking at agencies that have already developed their own. By partnering with the right agency, you can tap into class-leading SEO technology at a fraction of the price.

Maximizing ROI with a high-impact SEO strategy

In 2019, Backlinko published a survey asking US business owners about their experiences with SEO services. The survey revealed that companies spending a minimum of $500/month were 53.3% more likely to be “extremely satisfied” with the results.

As a rule, we advise smaller companies that it’s difficult to gain meaningful SEO traction for anything less than £800/month (about $1000). This doesn’t stretch too far when you consider all of the expenses we looked at in the previous section (analytics, content production, SEO tools, etc.).

Obviously, larger companies should expect to spend significantly more but it’s not simply a question of spending more for better results.

Spending wisely is just as important as setting the right budget. Every business can maximize ROI with a high-impact SEO strategy using data science to identify and prioritize opportunities.

If you want to increase your visibility online, we can run a free analysis of your current SEO status and provide a quote. Click here for more information.

SEO Search Ecommerce

Content by The Drum Network member:

Vertical Leap

We are an evidence-led search marketing agency that helps brands get found online, drive qualified traffic to their websites and increase conversions/sales.


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