5 Reasons to Avoid “Affordable” SEO Services

affordable SEO

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

I don’t want that to happen to you!

This guide will explain why you need to avoid these services (and what to look for).

Then, I’ll show you what you can do if you have a limited SEO budget.

Let’s jump in.

What is Affordable SEO?

Everyone has their own perception what “affordable” means. For example, let’s say your business is generating millions in revenue every year. Then, $5,000 per month may seem affordable to you. If your company is making below six figures, then $5,000 per month would seem ludicrous. It’s all subjective.

There is one element of this argument that is true:

Good SEO isn’t cheap.

Let me show 5 reasons why hiring an affordable Search Engine Optimization company isn’t a good idea.

1. You Can’t Do Much Without Money

There are only so many actions you can take on a low SEO budget. The only actions you can take are those that are time-dependent and not capital-dependent.

Some time-dependent SEO actions include keyword research, page-level optimization, and some technical optimization. I say “some” technical optimization because you may need a developer for larger issues. Developers cost money.

With that said, you won’t get far with keyword research, optimizing pages, and doing some technical optimization.

It’s better than nothing. But, those are not the high impact activities that drive organic search growth.

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

This is the point where affordable SEO services break down.

Since affordable 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 on quality sites

This results in two things:

1. They have to go cheap on SEO content creation, which will end up embarrassing your brand.

2. They will use gray or black hat backlinks that will get your site penalized.

Here’s the truth:

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. But there are some things in life that you never want to go “cheap” on.

SEO is one of those things.

Think about this way… would you try to find your wife the cheapest engagement ring?

Of course you wouldn’t because you know what the consequences would be.

The cost here is clear: your future wife won’t be happy!

And if you don’t already know this: happy wife = happy life.


Get used to these marriage analogies since I’m married now.

With that out of the way, the cost of working with a cheap SEO company isn’t as black and white as getting your fiance a cheap engagement ring.

The reason is because the “cost” isn’t immediate. It takes months of working with a bad SEO company to realize the 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. Once your site gets a penalty, it’s a long road to recovery. In fact, your previous traffic levels may never recover.

And these are only the 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.

You know the value of time, money, and business assets.

Now here’s another part that stinks if you decide to go the cheap SEO route:

3. You Won’t Get Assets

Quality content and backlinks are ASSETS for your business. This means they will continue to bring your business value for the long-term.

Here’s the bad news:

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.

4. Scalability = Cookie Cutter

Most affordable Search Engine Optimization companies have to use cookie-cutter strategies. That’s because these companies won’t be able to scale if they have to do any creative work.

SEO is a dynamic skill. While the principles of quality SEO never change, every single campaign is different. Every client is at a different point and will have different needs.

A cookie-cutter approach rarely works and will almost always be low quality.

On top of that, cheap SEO companies will also be unresponsive. That’s because they do not have the time to communicate.

These companies allocate most of their resources to front-end sales. As a result, this leaves little resources for getting your business results. They are fine with a high client churn rate because of their front-end sales model.

Good agencies understand that SEO requires creativity and strategic pivots. No two campaigns are the same.

And unlike scale-based models, quality agencies value client RETENTION. For example, my SEO agency allocates most of our resources to testing and improving our services.

My philosophy is simple: if we focus on improving our service and getting results, then we don’t need to be as aggressive with front-end sales.

Here’s the takeaway on this point:

Most cheap SEO companies focus heavily on front-end sales, which leaves little resources for client fulfillment. Quality agencies allocate most of their resources to getting results and improving their service quality.

5. Experience is Priceless

Companies that offer affordable SEO services have to employ cheap labor. Cheap labor often equals inexperience.

The point is:

Good agencies aren’t cheap because they employ legitimate, proven experts. These experts are confident in their ability to get your business results. Therefore, they would never work for entry-level pay.

Do you know how to spot inexperienced workers in an SEO agency?

Look for any type of bragging about how large their staff is.

A single SEO expert like Brian Dean, Neil Patel, or Ryan Stewart can run circles around entire SEO teams.

Experience, skill and tested strategies and systems are what get SEO results. Not large staffs of entry-level workers.

What Affordable SEO Packages Look Like

It’s pretty easy to identify low-quality SEO services once you know the basics of SEO. Here are a few things to look out for:

Convoluted Proposals (and Full of Fluff)

Cheap agencies take advantage of business owners by injecting technical jargon into their proposals. This is an attempt to make it seem like they are doing a ton of work. In reality, 80% of the tasks they list either A) take a little time to complete and B) will have little or no positive impact on your campaign.

Content and Link Acquisition Get Little Attention

If you don’t see sections for content and link acquisition in an SEO proposal, then stop reading it. Content and backlinks are the two most impactful elements of a successful SEO campaign. If an agency doesn’t know this, then they don’t know how to get you results.

How Much Should You Pay for Quality SEO Services?

This graphic from Moz is a decent guide on SEO pricing. It is outdated and doesn’t factor inflation or the rising costs of SEO campaigns. Just remember, the lower the price, the less they can do and lower the quality will be.

3 Solutions for a Limited SEO Budget

Are you someone who wants to see the benefits of SEO, but have no budget to hire a good agency? That’s okay. There a few solutions to your situation.

1. Do It Yourself

Believe it or not, doing some of the SEO basics is often safer than hiring a cheap SEO agency. This gives you control and you are responsible for the success. It will also force you to learn more about SEO.

At the same time, your business is your baby and you want to do what’s best for it. That’s why you will want to use the safest, and most effective strategies. You can see results from SEO if you have the right guidance. Read, digest, and implement tactics from my blog.

2. Dip Your Toes

Once you understand the structure of an effective SEO strategy, you can start investing in the right components. For example, instead of you having to write content, you can hire a writer.

3. Wait

Don’t make a rash decision and hire an affordable SEO agency. If your budget is tight, then build up funds and wait to hire a quality agency down the road. Plus, there is so much you can do on your own that can help you grow your organic search traffic.


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.

Have some questions for me? Please leave a comment below because I answer every single blog comment.

Nathan Gotch
Nathan Gotch

I’m the founder of Gotch SEO and my mission is to help you get the SEO results you’ve always wanted. Check out my new SEO case study. It shows you how we increased organic search traffic by 342% using a stupidly simple method.

Join the Conversation

  1. I agree that CHEAP isn’t always GOOD. A good SEO company doesn’t provide affordable SEO services they provide working SEO services. The company which does SEO for me Stellen Infotech have both affordable and good SEO services. Thanks for guiding.

  2. Thanks for the useful steps. I usually pay good attention to how actively plugin is maintained & how often plugin supports questions are answered in the forum.

  3. Dear Nathan,
    I found your article very informative and very realistic and God only knows that if I had the money I would pay as much as the tech person is asking for and even more, to drive more traffic to my website, (www.undamerchandise.com) but I am a “newbie” and my funds are limited. I am very inexperienced when it comes to SEO; however, also realize that if I am going to be successful in monetizing my website SEO plays a very important role! I’m hoping that there is someone out there who will offer his/her services and make my website explode with sales for a fee that I can afford. I realize this is not going to be an overnight success and I also am aware of the fact that I am asking for “champagne taste with a beer budget” fee(s)”. I am a very patient person. My goal during the next 2/3 years is to receive a passive income for my retirement.

    Thank you for allowing me to understand SEO in a more detailed manner and if you can recommend someone who can assist me in driving more traffic to my website that would definitely be the “icing on the cake”.

  4. Nathan you are awesome, I know the SEO demand quality I would definitely prefer quality SEO service. Nice article

  5. Thank you for this!!! Thank goodness you ranked #1 when I searched for affordable seo. I feel like you saved me a lot of time and money!

  6. Yes, Sometime affordable can become a very expensive problem, But newbie people are looking for affordable

  7. I’m looking to hire an SEO company for my website a a a auto spa.com Do you offer full SEO service or any suggestion?
    My company is located in Toronto, Canada and we offer professional car detailing.

  8. I?m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that?s equally educative and entertaining, and let me tell you,
    you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something
    which not enough folks are speaking intelligently
    about. I am very happy that I came across this in my search for something regarding this.

  9. Hey Nathan,
    I agree with your point about SEO being dynamic. It’s a combination of art and science. Many business owners don’t understand that a good SEO agency will not apply cookie cutter tactics to all businesses. Yet, they want to hire an agency for the monthly equivalent of a minimum wage worker at McDonald’s. Great post. Definitely will be sharing with my clients.

  10. Hello Nathan
    You are right
    Sometimes something cheap can become a very expensive problem
    I think it is necessary to look for a good professional, if you want to achieve good results.
    Thanks for your work

  11. Hey Remington,

    Thanks for the comment! You can certainly train them, but it’s challenging when some companies get used to using questionable tactics. White hat SEO is hard and therefore, it’s hard to train as well

  12. I’m currently outsourcing to a cheap indian seo company. Since they have the manpower I don’t and Im already locked into a low pricing arrangement with my client (who wont increase my fee), can I train the cheap indian SEO company to become “better”. For example:
    – Use a more natural backlink anchor text percentage (as you’ve taught)
    – Search competitor backlinks to find backlink opportunities
    – Seek out relevant sites to link to
    – Add backlinks to stronger sites: Quora, Redditt, etc

  13. Nathan, thanks for your post. As a one who has been in the business a few years, it is a real struggle to value our services high enough to where we do not cheapen the product we are offering. Thanks for the reminder that our services are worth paying for.

  14. A debt of gratitude is in order for putting this out there! I detest seeing individuals taken in by crappy companies and you’re correct it’s quite critical. we should avoid this kind of service i appreciate your way of talking about these kind of thing thanks for sharing this great information

  15. Affordable SEO is just good enough for short term results and won’t work in long run as the service won’t provide quality links which might affect ranking.

  16. Another great post Nathan.

    Everyone should ignore affordable SEO agencies if they really want to make their brand shine in the SERPS.

  17. Well I was once a great fan of affordable seo services and tried lot of them. But never got expected results.

    I utterly agree with all the points listed here.


  18. Couldn’t agree more. Experience and knowledge is definitely priceless. Nice addition of the infographic by the way. But I was wondering, what do you suggest then for small businesses if hiring affordable SEO services is not a good idea?

  19. #3 is the exact thing I tell every single prospect when I first tell them about what I do. SEO is a means to power up someones website, which is (or should be) viewed as an asset to that person. Yes, there are other means of marketing that can be effective, but the majority of those will involve never ending costs. When you stop paying you stop getting the results/benefits. With SEO when you stop paying you have an asset that’s now more powered up and relevant to whatever audience you want to reach.

  20. Awesome article, You’re absolutely right that we have to maintain a good budget for SEO services! Recently I bought a SEMrush tool , Let’s see if it’s work!
    Thanks for sharing .The way you described each and everything about SEO is really great. Thanks once again .

  21. Hey Gotch
    Right on Dot! You have actually spoken out for many hardworking SEOs and SEO companies out there who believe in working the proper way. It definitely requires a lot of efforts in the content, backlinks and other strategies for one SEO campaign to work.

  22. Hi,
    i just want to say thank that you have taken this action and saving many people from buying crapy service we should avoid this kind of service i appreciate your way of talking about these kind of thing thanks for sharing this great information…

  23. Nathan,
    I go through this, where potential clients have been burned with “affordable SEO”, some even falling for the India emails. If a large client makes multi-thosands per customer, it is inevitably a competitive niche that costs money to effectively beat out the competition for the “downtown” location in Google versus the “behind the tracks” location without good SEO.

  24. Great article Nathan.

    Sometimes I wonder if customers think that, because it’s related to computers, we must have some special software and all we do is push a special “Google No 1” button.

    One of the main issues that I usually need to explain to them is that SEO is to all intents and purposes a race. In order to win you have to work approximately as hard as your competitors (i.e. cost depends on the market). And train for the specific event your competing in. Additionally also need to have skilled coaches who refine your performance and training so you stay at the top and don’t burn out – or get penalized.

    “rank in 5 minutes, rank for 5 minutes”.

  25. i agree with your words, the word ” affordable ” sounds different to different people. providing low-cost seo will lead to penality, and it also it reduce the quality of the seo agency.

  26. Hey John,

    It happens to a lot of businesses. $500 isn’t enough capital to see substantial results in most industries.

  27. The worst part of using an “affordable” SEO service is the time lost hoping for results. I have fallen for these types of services in the past and never saw any results at all while spending $500 or so per month for at least 6 months.

  28. Awesome article, You’re absolutely right that we have to maintain a good budget for SEO services! Recently I bought a SEMrush tool , Let’s see if it’s work!
    Thanks for sharing .The way you described each and everything about SEO is really great. Thanks once again .

  29. The word “affordable” almost always has a negative connotation associated with it- in regards to almost any product or service offered. SEO is no different- trying to rely upon a company or organization because they are affordable is a surefire way to damage your website and result in even less traffic than you had before.

    For every SEO website or company that is reputable, experienced and trustworthy (albeit pricier,) there are probably three of them that will charge you half the amount and do less than half the work- for way less than half the results. Bear that in mind when researching companies/services and making the best choice for your business!

  30. Hey Nathan,
    Awesome Post. I appreciate you reinforcing the decision I took to stay on the right path to building assets for my business the right way. I’ve got a quick question though. In number 3 you said “Plus, there is so much you can do on your own that can help you grow your organic search traffic”.

    Can you give a couple of examples please? Thanks again 🙂

  31. Hello Nathan,
    Really a great post.. I was looking for SEO Services for my new business and your article help me lot.
    I was planning to go with cheap SEO Services for now and after getting some time go through with best SEO Services. Now I got the point “Now, I will wait for few months and after that I with go with good SEO Services.”

  32. Thanks for the comment Muller. Those are good points, but I don’t agree that people should stop paying for SEO services. They just need to invest in higher-quality services

  33. I think it is high time that we stop using any paid form of SEO Service. Google has been getting really intelligent. And can tell whether you’re going black hat, or white hat, or even grey hat. It can analyze whether or not a certain web page is authentic in linking out to other or whether it is just a link bait. Besides we should be focusing on creating useful and valuable pieces of content, which can help and serve the community. The traffic and search engine love will flow eventually. 🙂

  34. I try explaining this exact same thing to potential clients all the time. Now I have a great post to show them to explain it for me. Thank you for that! In fact, I’ve already sent it to one. I’ll be sharing this on my social profiles too.

  35. My first reaction after reading this is just WOW..!
    It’s really a good reference for the clients who hesitate about the budget which they want to spent with SEO agency. It will help me lot to make my new proposal as well as SEO pricing plans.

    Quality efforts and resources are the best way to built good asset for your website.

  36. SEO is definitely harder than it’s ever been, but that makes the level of entry harder as well 🙂

  37. Hi Gotch, I’ve been following your blog for some time now and I find your new post very interesting and timely for me. I just launched my website and have started to build backlinks using your super web 2.0 method.

    In relation to your post, I would like to ask if buying cheap social bookmarking services on fiverr (for example, 100 fb likes, 100 twitter retweets, 100 stumbleupons, etc) is bad for my website?

  38. Hey Nathan,
    The book is How to Qualify, Present, and Sell Final Expense and Medicare Supplements to Seniors. There’s a huge demographic crisis going on right now, at a time when insurance agents are retiring and having a hard time hiring.
    We teamed up with over 35 agents in the ultimate round-up, never seen before in the insurance industry to deliver 300 pages of solid advice ranging from marketing and sales, all the way to online branding where you were mentioned.
    If you want a complimentary copy feel free to let me know. This book will be one of the top selling insurance agent resources, and this will give you an in to marketing to the insurance and financial services industry imo.
    We just appreciate the solid advice that you give away for free on your blog!
    We even had a 1 minute movie book trailer made, which you can see on the landing page http://www.leadheroes.com/sales-training-book/.

  39. Absolutely hit the nail on the head! And I am not sure if this is right to say but I feel that SEO is harder than say SEM or social media management and the skills required to produce great content and to acquire backlinks requires substantially more effort and along with it, investment.

  40. Hi Gotch,
    Once again, nice article. Brilliantly layed out. I rarely read an article all the way through. I hire content writers for my clients content, but you have a way of enticing people to read on. Thats a real skill in itself.

  41. Hey Carlos,

    Thank you for the comment. Look for testimonials, results, and case studies. Ask for samples of their link placements and content. As far as the minimum budget, it’s hard to say because prices are usually based on experience. For example, experienced agencies will cost more.

  42. Hello Nathan,

    Your content is just awesome.

    You’re absolutely right that we have to maintain a good budget for SEO services!

    Recently I bought a Fiverr Gig for SEO Backlinks, Let’s see if it’s work! 🙂

    Have a great day! 🙂

  43. A much-needed article. Might I mention one other point I’ve come across, namely the passing off of ‘white-label’ automated reports as an SEO agency’s own work. I work with smaller companies on small budgets and recently tried to recruit a low-budget SEO company using the client’s email address. I tried 3 companies. The first sent me an impressive report full of clever graphics. The only thing was that it was exactly the same as one I had downloaded earlier but they’d white-labelled. The second gave me advice such as ‘get more links’, ‘keep your content updated’…Yes… And the third was creative but in a PBN way, which is not my scene. I think your point of training people in-house to take on tasks such as on-page SEO is a good one.

  44. Joe,

    Thank you for the comment. I totally agree. I think in those cases, the SEO expert would be acting more as a consultant

  45. This is great, and very important for those new to the field. It’s unfortunate that there’s so many hucksters that cloud the field and make it difficult for people to determine who’s good and who’s not. Ironically, since SEO companies know the tactics, it’s better to trust referrals than whoever is ranking #1 for “[city name] seo”.

    The only caveat I would add is that while the advice rings true for most small businesses as far as SEO services, your statement “If you don’t see sections for content and link acquisition in an SEO proposal, then stop reading it.” doesn’t always apply to more established companies.

    Those established companies most likely already have a development, design, content, and PR machine in place and are hiring the SEO to focus more on the technical aspects of the site. While an SEO can add a ton of value on content promotion and link building, if the PR team is acquiring links from NY Times caliber publications monthly, then there has to be a realistic take on what the SEO should focus on. If the on-site elements and product page content is sub-par, that’s where time should be spend in the first phase.

    Great piece!

  46. Hey Justin,

    Thank you for the comment! Are you serious? What’s the title of the book? Thank you so much.

  47. Nathan,
    This is basically the best how-to present quality seo services to clients article if I have ever seen one. I also like Moz’s Rand Fishkin’s vlog about presenting PPC vs SEO to a business owner. Consider this bookmarked!
    I will also say this, we just published our book, and actually mentioned you in it! We are doing some comprehensive PR and promotion for this, so we hope this helps your brand exposure to our industry!

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