How To Set Client SEO Budgets

How to decide what a clients budget should be?

So, this is another one that I’m asked often. How you’re setting your client budgets, or whatever, you know, how do you get clients on board. Well, a client has to come to you for your skills and services, and there’s obviously a cost to those services. I think a lot of people have the misconception that SEO is free, and it’s time-based, or whatever. I once had a client who said to me, “How many man-hours goes into my campaign for the monthly retainer I’m paying you?” And I’m like “It’s not man-hours you’re paying for. You’ve got costs for content, costs for links, potential cost for logos, graphics, infographics, and anything else that is going cost you to rank well.”

SEO Package Prices

And this is something that I’ve struggled to understand, you know, where agencies and the like have set packages because a client just can’t be assigned to a set package. What I would say to anyone who says, “Well how do you set a client budget?” Says, “Find out what the client’s got and then tell them best how to spend it.” So if a client, for example, has £10,000, you may say we need £2,000 for a link budget, we’re going to hit it with £1,500 worth of content every month. We are then going to do some PR work that costs X, Y and Z, infographic stuff, some social media stuff, whatever it may be because SEO is one of those things that can be manipulated by click-through rate, and things like that.

And that’s where paid social may come into play, it’s really up to you too, you know, with a bigger budget you can do a hell of a lot more than you can with, say, 500 quid. And obviously, people don’t understand that you’ve got to pay for outreach, or pay for link costs, or pay for pitch bulks to do your outreach or MailShaker, or whatever it may be. So, it’s not a case of, a client comes to you, saying, “How much does SEO cost?” It’s how much they have, and we can tell you the best how to spend it. That’s how I would set client budgets.

You Find out what the client has to spend

By all means, you can get a client on board, and tell them that if they pay £500 pounds a month as a starting point it will get X, Y and Z, and if they spend £1000 then they would get double the amount of effort, and things might happen a bit quicker. More keywords are pulled through a lot quicker because you get more budget for content and the likes. So, how do you set client budgets is really an impossible question to ask, there is no real rhyme or reason.

When I was doing it, when I had an agency myself, it was trying to gauge how much a client thought SEO should cost, and how much they would have to spend, and then, going in from there and explaining what we could do for that budget. In a lot of cases it was, clients come in with budgets a lot smaller than what their competition, and what not, we’re paying, and you have to kind of fit into that campaign accordingly. As I say, the more you’ve got to spend the bigger return on investment you’re likely to get. If you’ve got a low budget then it’s just going to be a bunch of long tail keywords, and some citations, and some local SEO.

So, it’s not up to us to set client budgets, it’s up to us to tell the client how best to spend the money, that that’s my opinion on it. And I found the whole dealing with clients and budgets, and everything else, quite frustrating because of that. Because clients, no matter whether it’s just SEO clients, or whatever, we all want the best value for money and we always go into things.

Quick Example of Poor Expectations

You know, for example, I was getting my decking done in my back garden, and we bought the decking from B&Q, which is a place where you buy this thing, you know, the decking, in the UK. So, we bought this whole big bunch of decking, we got the guy round and what we didn’t realize is there was an underlying issue, you know, that there had to be a structure to the decking, and it had to be all levelled off and stuff. So my wife came home the next day, and the guy who had built the structure levelled it all out, the garden was a mess to be quite frank. So she came back, and it was like two lengths of the actual decking laid by the time that guy went home that night, and the wife came home, and went, “Is that all he’s done?” And it’s pure naivety in our part because we don’t understand what goes on with building a decking, you don’t think about what’s under there, and the structure, and everything else. You just think it’s bits of wood, and they’re slammed down, and off you pop.


So, client expectations and the people’s expectations are outrageous at times ( my wifes was too in this instance ) and I think that is something you need to educate your clients a lot and tell them what they can get. By all means, give them some kind of package options and stuff, but, for me, it’s about finding out all your costs, you know, find out what the client’s budget is, and then tally that up with your costs, and then obviously you’ve got to make a profit as a company, and you’ve got overheads and staff, and all that kind of stuff to pay, and figure out the budgets from there. There is no right or wrong answer to this question.

But it is something that I do get asked a lot and it’s still one of those ones, the answer is always, it depends. And I hate giving an answer where it says it depends, but, for the reasons I just explained, that’s how hard that is to set client budgets, so do consider what you’re doing and what your costs are. You know, with a lot of agencies, I think a lot of the client’s money is not going into the cost of content links, infographics, outreach, tools, or anything like that. I think a lot of the money’s actually going into director’s back pockets, and that’s where SEO gets a bad name because the budget’s not being spent accordingly.

So I think agencies… And I’m not saying that for every agency, I know there’s a lot of good agencies out there doing a lot of good work, but the good agencies charge accordingly and provide results, but there is a lot of agencies out there who are just charging willy-nilly, crazy packages, and you know, those packages, quite frankly, would be lucky to buy you five links, let alone anything else.

So, yeah. So be careful when you’re setting client budgets, don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Make sure you’re charging for everything you need to be charging so you are able to provide good results this method will work better in the long term.

If you need some help with your SEO campaign, feel free to get in touch!



author avatar
Craig Campbell
I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 19 years. In this time I have gained extensive knowledge in the subject of SEO and have build up a wealth of experience in SEO and other digital marketing services.

seo profile image

Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 22 years.

  • social media icon
  • social media icon
  • social media icon