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Photo: Edho Pratama

A whopping 63% of marketers consider SEO their most potent marketing weapon, according to Moz's 2023 State of Digital Marketing report. But for many businesses, the path to organic traffic dominance remains shrouded in an SEO fog, especially when it comes to pricing. Hourly rates, retainers, project costs – pricing structures can be intricate.

With clear explanations, actionable tips, and real-world examples, this guide will transform you from a pricing novice into a savvy SEO investor. You can learn more about SEO pricing by reading JetRank’s SEO cost guide. But let's begin, shall we?

  • Cost-per-click

Cost-per-click (CPC) is one of the key metrics when it comes to paid advertising, serving as an indicator of how much a business will spend and whether their return on investment justifies this investment. A strong CPC will result in increased sales and an improved return on investment. However, it must be remembered that this metric should only be seen as part of an overall marketing strategy.

High CPC rates can result from marketers bidding on competitive keywords or ads not tailored for search intent. To minimize costs per click and improve Quality Score, keyword research tools provide valuable data that allows advertisers to identify lower competition variations of target keywords that improve Quality Score while decreasing costs per click. Likewise, ads must align with actual customer search requests to increase Ad Rank.

  • Cost-per-acquisition

Cost-per-acquisition (CPA) is one of the key marketing metrics you must keep in mind when determining how to invest in marketing efforts. CPA measures how much it costs to convert one visitor to a paying customer and shouldn't be confused with Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), another key marketing metric.

Utilizing various marketing tools – Google Analytics and paid media platforms' first-party data can give you an accurate view of your performance, helping to triangulate data and determine the most successful channels for generating quality leads.

At CPA, the key performance indicators (KPIs) used in your marketing strategy include CPC and Average Order Value (AOV). A low CAC with high AOV rates indicate effective lead generation processes and that each conversion generates solid revenues.

  • Cost-per-lead

“Cost-per-lead (CPL) is an essential marketing metric, showing how much it costs to acquire one prospective customer,” mentioned Roger from CPL provides an effective way to measure and optimize marketing effectiveness and budget utilization; you can use CPL data to identify which channels generate qualified leads most efficiently while decreasing investments in less profitable channels.

An optimal cost per lead (CPL) depends on your industry and business model but should equal or be lower than gross profit per sale. When determining your CPL it's also important to take other metrics such as conversion rate and average order value into consideration.

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  • Cost-per-sale

Cost-per-sale pricing structures compensate advertisers only when sales generated through an advertisement have occurred. This metric falls under the CPA (Cost per Action) ad model, which encompasses CPM (Cost Per Impression) and CPC. Advertisers favor cost per sale due to its reduced risk of paying for traffic or page impressions that might not lead to conversions – making this strategy particularly helpful for companies with limited marketing budgets.

  • Cost-per-impression

CPM (cost per impression) is an essential business metric, measuring the cost per view of advertising campaigns online and helping business leaders gauge return on investment (ROI). Understanding its calculation is vitally important to successful digital advertising campaign planning and measurement.

CPC (cost per click) pricing structure provides marketers with more targeted pricing solutions and may prove more lucrative for them than traditional SEO techniques. With CPC ads, marketers only pay when users click them – which can yield better results than conventional search engine optimization (SEO) methods.

vCPM (Viewable Cost per Thousand Impressions), another popular pricing model, provides more accurate measurements of an ad's impressions because it counts only when at least 50% of pixels are visible to users for at least one second (two seconds for video ads) over at least one second (or two for video). Furthermore, many consider vCPM more ethical than CPM due to concerns that advertisers could be paying for ads they have never actually seen by their target audiences.

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Photo: Tiger Lily

What are the Hidden Costs of SEO?

By understanding these hidden costs, you can make informed decisions about your SEO strategy, allocate resources effectively, and manage expectations for a successful long-term campaign. Remember, transparency and a data-driven approach are key to maximizing the return on your SEO investment.

  • Technical SEO Audits:

One of the foundational elements of a robust SEO strategy is a technical SEO audit. This process involves a comprehensive examination of your website's infrastructure, identifying and rectifying issues that may hinder search engine crawlers. 

However, the cost of a technical SEO audit can vary based on the complexity of your website and the depth of analysis required. Investing in a thorough audit pays dividends in the long run by ensuring your site is optimized for search engines and positioned for sustained growth.

  • Content Creation:

Quality content goes side by side with a successful SEO campaign. Engaging, relevant, and informative content not only attracts visitors but also establishes your website as an authoritative source in your industry. The hidden cost in content creation lies not just in the production itself, but also in the research, optimization, and ongoing maintenance required to keep your content fresh and competitive.

  • Link Building:

Link building remains a cornerstone of SEO, playing a pivotal role in boosting a website's authority and credibility. However, the process of acquiring high-quality backlinks can incur costs, especially when opting for reputable sources and adhering to ethical practices.

  • Ongoing Maintenance: 

SEO is not a one-time effort but an ongoing commitment to maintaining and improving online visibility. Ongoing maintenance involves monitoring performance metrics, adapting to algorithm changes, and implementing necessary adjustments to stay ahead in the digital marketing race. Businesses should recognize the need for continuous SEO efforts and allocate a budget for ongoing maintenance.


By following these tips, you can ensure that your SEO investment pays off in a big way. Remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient, stay focused, and track your results, and you'll be well on your way to achieving your online marketing goals.

Lots of love,