SEO Retainers - Are they necessary?

Apr 7, 2024

Man looking at a google analytics SEO report
Man looking at a google analytics SEO report
Man looking at a google analytics SEO report

Talk with just about any SEO out there, and you'll likely be told that Search Engine Optimization is an on-going process that needs constant attention and a devoted team to manage.  

Although the statements these SEO agencies are making are quite true if you want to continue to grow and improve your SEO, they aren't the whole picture and it's really not as simple as that... Before we go any deeper I want to share a story about WHY I got into this business in the first place.

How SEO Retainers Can Be Abused

Early on when I first dipped my toes in the realm of SEO I began talking to a few businesses (one of which is my Dad's company) about the SEO services they were using on monthly retainer. These agencies were charing their clients a steady $1500+ per month to maintain a strong SEO presence and help them to rank for major keywords. As I probed around their sites using tools like SEMRush and AHREFs (build specifically for seo work) I found that the agencies were not doing much of anything.

Here's a short list of things that weren't happening that any good SEO strategy would include:

  • No new content was being created.

  • Existing content was not being modified.

  • No link building approach was being used.

  • The SEO experts hadn't even logged into the sites in months... and that's about as big of a red flag as you can have.

So if they weren't doing any of the main things, what were they doing?

While, I asked their clients if they knew, and this is what I heard back. "The agency is doing SEO maintenance and sends over a monthly report with their findings. In addition, they are allocating part of the budget to link-building and here's the report on that."

When I saw the reports I was shocked. They were automated SEMRush reports - things that take about 10 seconds to setup one-time and that are mailed out. Though these are helpful, they won't do much for someone who isn't trained in SEO best practices, keyword research, or technical seo. They literally are just flashy looking reports for a clients to see.

There were no insights and thoughts about strategies, no work on the reports showing anything about marketing strategy that the client could work-on. Essentially these were useless, but they sure looked nice!

Add to all this the "link-building packages" that the organization's had hired. It turns out that these are purchased links (bad for ranking online and potentially site-damaging) and that it was only costing the agency $100-200 to do this damaging work. Now, links like these at the time could potentially help jumpstart rankings, but over time Google would find these and identify them as spammy links.

Almost all of the links they sent over were for irrelevant catch-all list sites that had nothing to do with the clients industry. And if it's instantly clear to someone that a site is spammy and irrelevant, than you can be sure Google knows that too.

curious owl

So do you need an SEO Retainer?

After hearing that story, you might start thinking that this industry is scammy and people are out to collect your hard-earned funds while doing essentially nothing. This may be true of some SEOs out there, but I can tell you that a monthly seo retainer is necessary if you want to rank well without doing the work yourself - it's a compounding effect that continues to grow your business and turn your site into a lead machine.

Each effort in SEO can have a lasting result that will strengthen all previous efforts. And over time, if SEO is not maintained and you aren't spending time growing your rankings, they will eventually start to drop-off. Search engines like to see that sites are updated and take that as a sign that the company is still in business and thriving. They don't want to send people to sites that haven't had a change in 3 years...

However, many clients will think that SEO is something that can be turned on or off like a faucet, and are afraid that if they take a month off that their site will lose it's rankings and go under. I even have a client who once asked me if he could take a month off the retainer because times were tight, and if that would hurt his SEO. The answer? Of course you can take a month off, your SEO will maintain it's standing, it won't grow, and it won't fall off the map in a month.

I've done SEO for businesses for about 8 years now and one of the most amazing things is that I can ALWAYS find more work to do on any website to help it grow it's traffic and generate more leads. There is always more opportunity and work to be done!

What should SEO retainers include?

The best monthly seo packages will include content development and actionable insights into what's going on with your website, what can be improved, and a whole lot of other digital marketing insights that on-going audits and data review reveal. In truth, SEO is THE BEST way to learn about any industry, it's competition, and potential marketing strategies.

If your SEO is a trusted partner, they'll work with you to weave seo into the fabric of your business. You'll get new product ideas, insights, and you'll know exactly what they are doing, and why they are doing it. They'll let you know when traffic dips in a month - and hopefully know why it dips whether it's due to major site changes or algorithm updates. 

In addition, they will have insights and possibly do outreach for link building and content development - two of the most important factors of SEO.

crunching numers on a calculator for SEO budgeting

How much should you budget for monthly SEO services?

SEO retainers will vary depending on your needs and the agency or individual that you choose to work with. In my experience pricing for most small to mid-size companies will range from roughly $500/month on the very low end providing data only, and up to $5000/month on the high end for a full-service package including content building and link outreach. 

The important thing to remember with search engine optimization is that this is a longer game - SEO takes time, so if your business is brand new and you are struggling to land clients with no funding, it's better to take it on in-house or to choose approaches that can generate faster results. But once you have things up and running, investing in SEO is a smart move to turn your website into a lead machine that drives constant business your way!

A great option for people just starting out with time and no funding, is to hire an SEO consultant for a one-time package to get things setup and provide training and direction. More of a DWY approach that turns into a DIY approach. 

For businesses that are established or that have a budget and time to get things moving, SEO should be on the short list of digital marketing approaches. SEO pricing may seem expensive at first, but let's say you offer a $500 product and 6 months from now you generate 3 sales a day off your site, it would be worth it's weight in gold!

In conclusion...

The main takeaway from all of this is that SEO retainers (with reputable agencies who put in REAL work) are the BEST way to build your sites rankings without taking on all the work yourself or in-house. It takes all the heavy lifting off your side of the business and let's people with real expertise generate results quickly. (I personally would rather outsource to an expert and have them work their magic if I have the funds available than spend my precious time trying to learn it all on my own)

Yes, SEO service packages can be expensive, and it can be tough to measure initially if it's worth the cost. But over time, with the right team on your side, it's a decision that could solidify your businesses position within it's industry and help your business grow to a whole new level.

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©Singletrack Digital, LLC 2024

Join the FREE community:

Click the link below to join the FREE Successful Photographers Facebook community and start learning SEO now.


©Singletrack Digital, LLC 2024

Join the FREE community:

Click the link below to join the FREE Successful Photographers Facebook community and start learning SEO now.


©Singletrack Digital, LLC 2024