The dollars and sense
There are basically two elements to SEO, knowledge and time.
There are no shortcuts, nothing magical, you simply have to know what to do, then spend the time doing it. Just like you would be wary of "get rich quick" adverts, be wary of results promised the next day or week. It takes over 100 hours of time, period. When you ask yourself, how much does SEO cost, if you did it, factor about 100 hours of time, and another 400 to 500 hours of learning.
That used to work, years ago, no Google will blacklist your website if you look like you are trying to cheat.
Backlinks (links to your site from other sites) help your ranking, but the links have to be links to legitimate site, that actually relate to your website. How much does seo cost? it can cost you your website if you have a provider that is unethical.
For you to figure out what to do, and how to do it, would take about 6 months of trial and error. The cost of your time, can far outweigh the cost of seo, if you had a professional look after SEO for you.
Do you have time to spend over a hundred hours developing content and web pages for your site?
The cost of SEO can be charged, upfront, during or after the engagement. Work with your SEO provider to work out a payment plan, do not pay for the entire engagement up front!
When considering how much does SEO cost, consider what the cost of SEO would be if you invested your own time. Find an SEO provider that you can trust and partner with.
So what does SEO cost? As a one time cost, budget between 5k and 10k for simple websites. Most SEO providers will amortize that over a year.
For businesses that are in multiple locations, and their products and services span the country, budget 20k to 50k. To SEO a franchise, the cost could be upwards of 200k.
Be wary of SEO services that are too good! Be wary of SEO services that want all the money upfront.
Getting to the first page of Google is work, but work is still required to keep you there after you make it there.
There is usually a maintenance program that the SEO provider offers, to keep you on the first page, usually in the form of a monthly fee, ranging from $200 to $500 per month.
This sounds like a lot money! Is SEO worth it?
In the end, what is the cost of SEO?
Here is the math, if you are a business that grosses 200K annually per year now, and you spend 10K on SEO, and your business grows by 25% as a result, you have spent 10K to get another 50K. The following year, you spend another 2k on a maintenance program, to stay at your current size and see potential growth again.