5 Reasons to Avoid Affordable SEO Services

Falling for affordable SEO services can wreck your small business.

Let’s avoid that.

This guide I’ll show you:

  • Why you need to avoid these services (like the plague)
  • What to do if you have a limited Search Engine Optimization (SEO) budget

But first:

Free On-Page SEO Checklist – Follow this 80-point checklist and start ranking (fast).

Why Affordable SEO Services Don’t Work

Think about this in any other context. How often is the cheapest option of something the best?

It’s pretty rare.

Think Mcdonald’s meat quality vs a steak house.

They don’t compare. But you pay a premium for quality.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the same way, and I’ll prove that right now:

1. The Math Doesn’t Work

Let’s say you pay $99/mo for cheap SEO services from this advertiser:

example of affordable SEO services

Well, first, to get the $99/mo, you need to commit to an annual contract.

But then you’ll realize that:

You’re Just a Number

For affordable SEO services to work (for the SEO company), they must focus on volume. Which means they must make sacrifices at your expense.

quality vs quantity steve jobs

You can’t expect an amazing experience with these low-budget Search Engine Optimization (SEO) solutions because it’s not feasible.

bad customer experience meme

Even if they paid $5/hour for outsourced labor, that’s only 20 hours a month. But 20 hours invested in SEO packages are not equal.

For example, my 20 hours would be substantially more effective than someone with less experience.

Therefore, my 20 hours are worth way more.

Read this story:

knowing where to hammer

In short, these companies can’t afford to give you an awesome experience.

You’re just another number in their churn-and-burn game.

Now that’s my opinion, but the math disconnect is undeniable:

You Need SEO Content

According to this massive SEO study, the average ranking page on Google has 1,447 words.

Let’s assume you want to rank for five different keywords.

That means you would need five dedicated pages with unique content.

Let’s use Loganix as an example. They offer two tiers of content:

One is standard, and the other is a bigger investment.

So let’s just focus on their cheapest option.

So one 1500-word article is $180.

But you need five.

That means the total SEO content investment is $900.

And this is affordable content, by the way.

But that’s not all.

You must also perform on-page SEO and technical SEO and acquire backlinks to rank on Google.

You Need On-Page SEO

Optimizing a single page for SEO can take up to two hours.

But I’ll be conservative, and let’s say it takes only an hour to perform on-page SEO on a single asset.

That adds five hours to the campaign.

So now, let’s do the math on that:

  • $5/hour (below minimum wage in the US) = $25
  • $25/hour (entry-level SEO specialist salary in US) = $125
  • $100/hour (top 25% SEO expert in US) = $500
  • $1,000/hour (top 1% SEO expert in US) = $5,000

So to review.

At this point, you have created five new, fully optimized pages.

The total is anywhere between = $925 – $5,900

Are you starting to see how $99/mo isn’t feasible?

Of course, but I’m just getting started!

You also must consider:

You Need Backlinks

You can create perfect SEO content and optimize it like a pro, but without backlinks, you won’t get the desired results.

In fact, according to an industry study, “the #1 result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2-#10.”

You need backlinks.

But there’s a problem.

Backlinks cost time, effort, and capital.

One link placement on a decent site can be $100 or more.

To put into perspective even further, getting a link on a site like Huffington Post can cost $1,000.

But wait, I’m not done yet.

You Need Technical SEO Tools

A single subscription for Semrush is $119/mo.

That doesn’t include other tools like Screaming Frog, Yext or Bright Local, CallRail, etc.

Last but not least:

You Need People

All of the work I mentioned above requires labor.

The average entry-level SEP specialist in the US is $56,063/year. Or $4,672/mo.

How does this math work when paying $99/mo for SEO?

It only works if the SEO business is outsourcing and exploiting cheap SEO labor.

2. You Will Lose in the Long Run

I get it:

As a small business owner, 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:

Would you try to find your wife the cheapest engagement ring?

Of course, you wouldn’t because you know the consequences.

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 cheap SEO services isn’t as black and white as getting your fiance a cheap engagement ring.

The reason is that the “cost” isn’t immediate.

It takes months of working with a bad SEO business to realize the cost to your small business.

This “cost” comes in many different forms.

First, cheap SEO services will likely land you a penalty.

So, even if the low-quality tactics work in the short term, you will get nailed later.

If your small business 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. You will have wasted precious time and capital if your site gets penalized.

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 services route:

3. You Won’t Get Assets

Quality content and backlinks are ASSETS for your small business.

This means they will continue to bring your small business value in 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.

Technical SEO is a dynamic skill.

While the principles of a quality SEO strategy 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 few 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 a solid SEO plan 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 for testing and improving our services.

My philosophy is simple:

If we focus on improving our service and getting results, we don’t need to be 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 achieving results and improving the 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 small 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 can run circles around entire SEO teams.

Experience, skill, 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 SEO basics.

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 makes it seem like they are doing a ton of work.

In reality:

80% of the tasks they list:

  • Take barely any time to complete and:
  • Will have little or no positive impact on your campaign.

Content and Link Acquisition Get Little Attention

Stop reading it if you don’t see content and link acquisition sections in an SEO proposal.

Content and backlinks are the two most impactful elements of a successful SEO campaign.

If an agency doesn’t know this, they don’t know how to get 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 in inflation or the rising costs of SEO campaigns.

Just remember, the lower the price, the less they can do, and the lower the quality will be.

3 Ways to Avoid Affordable SEO Services

Are you someone who wants to see SEO benefits but has no budget to hire a good agency? That’s okay.

There are a few solutions to your situation.

1. Invest in SEO Training + Coaching

You don’t need an agency to get SEO results for your small business.

All you need is a proven blueprint to follow, a willingness to learn, and a bias towards action.

We have many small business owners and entrepreneurs doing SEO themselves inside our Gotch SEO Academy SEO training program.

You don’t need to dedicate all your time to SEO, and you don’t need to be an expert.

All you need is a process and some coaching. That’s what Gotch SEO Academy offers.

2. Put in Sweat Equity

You can dive into all of my free SEO training on YouTube or start with these resources on my blog:

Dig in and then take action. You can then learn from your actions and continue to get better SEO results.

This option is best for you if you are bootstrapped and have a tiny budget.

In this case, you’ll need to create content and conduct outreach.

Content creation is scary for most people.

However, it’s actually much easier than people think.

You can use a variety of tools to streamline your content efforts like:


Leverage the power of AI and let Jasper help you create content. We have used AI content on our websites and routinely outrank manually-written content.

Search “SEO for florists” for an example of 100% AI content ranking.

Read this thread I posted on Twitter to get a high-level overview of how to leverage AI.


Once you’ve created content, you need to use Hemingway Writer to improve its readability.

I use Hemingway for every word I publish online, including SEO content, social media, and even YouTube scripts.


After you’ve optimized your content with Hemingway, you need to run it through Grammarly for one final check.


The final step is to optimize your content using Natural Language Processing (NLP). Don’t worry about the geeky terminology.

Surfer crawls the top 10 results for your target keyword and gives you recommendations based on that.

It will tell you the exact keywords you need to include in your content.


Once your content is solid, it’s time to add unique visuals. Every single image in your content should be 100% unique.


Canva makes this possible without needing a graphic designer.

3. Work with a Competent SEO Company (When You Hit a Wall)

Hiring SEO agencies without getting your hands dirty leads to agony. I recommend using the methods above to get some early traction.

And then, when you hit a wall, it’s time to invest in SEO training and coaching before ever considering an agency.

That way, you’ll clearly see an effective SEO campaign.

Then if you decide to hire an SEO agency, you’ll be better equipped to make a great decision.

But more than likely, you’ll realize that you can likely handle the SEO strategy in-house or with an army of vendors.

What Now?

You’re now equipped to execute an SEO campaign without resorting to affordable SEO services.

But if you’re a business owner or marketing director who doesn’t even want to think about SEO strategy, then reach out to us.

We’ll handle your entire campaign and drive huge results (so you can focus on your core strengths within your business).

Free On-Page SEO Checklist – Follow this 80-point checklist and start ranking (fast).
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Nathan Gotch

Nathan Gotch is an SEO professional with over 10 years of experience. He's the founder of the #1 SEO training program in the world, Gotch SEO Academy. And the author of The SEO Entrepreneur. Nathan's SEO expertise is featured on Semrush, Ahrefs, and Search Engine Journal.