If you’re thinking about making a change in your SEO strategy, it’s important to decide what the right SEO investment is, but how do you know what’s right? $500 a month? A one-time investment of $2,500? Today we’re going to discuss how to set a budget for SEO investment and what you should see in return.

Let’s start with a hypothetical situation: You’re getting traffic from Google, but you suspect you’re not as competitive as you could be, so you want to spend some money on SEO to boost your results. Once you’ve settle on an SEO agency you trust, they’ll get up to speed on your site’s performance and spend some time researching the market, your site and those of your competitors. Here are some possible outcomes and choices you can make about what comes next.

Your site might need on-site SEO optimization. Your SEO partner may point to errors on the site that need fixing. In fact, it would be surprising if they didn’t find errors that need fixing. Websites have a lot of moving parts and there is always room for improvement. Ask for clarity on what is a big issue, and what are smaller ones. You should invest in fixing broken links, missing images, duplicate content and insecure content. If your SEO partner is suggesting you spend $1,000 – $2,000 fixing errors on the site, those are common sense improvements. They may also suggest a similar budget for improving the content on the site. That could also be a $1,000 – $2,000 project. As long as there is a detailed, clear plan for improving that content, that is also an investment that could be worth making.

Ongoing content creation may also come up in your SEO strategy meeting. Content creation can mean more than one thing, but essentially it refers to adding pages to the site on a regular basis with an SEO outcome in mind. The simplest form is usually blog articles that have SEO value. If you’re budget conscious, taking a break between the on-site optimization and jumping into ongoing content creation will let you evaluate the initial investment. Did you see rankings improve? Did you see traffic pick up compared to the same period last year?

Once you’re ready to test ongoing content creation, keep in mind that not all content is good SEO content. You’ll want to follow a quick checklist to make sure you’re creating good SEO content, not just checking the ‘did we publish something’ box. Here is the short list:

Is there a clear keyword target? (example, ‘how to choose children’s shoes’)
Did the article share useful information?
Is the keyword present in the title, article and meta data?
Did you track the results?

Executing an ongoing SEO content strategy should show some measurable results in 30 – 90 days. If your SEO partner is arguing for 6 – 12 months before evaluating the effort, that should be something you discuss. Even if the monthly cost is at or below $1,000 , you’re still talking about a multi-thousand dollar investment so it’s worth keeping an eye on how long you invest if you’re not seeing positive results.

To summarize, you’re probably going to be hearing budget numbers from the single thousands to tens of thousands depending on the time frame and how many tactics you want to invest in, but make sure you know what to expect in return and what timeline you should see results on. SEO can easily slip into a subscription model ($2.5k a month / ongoing) but make sure you’re clear on what’s being done each month and where the value is. Organic traffic is often the single largest traffic source and the largest source of conversions for a website, but your investment should also have clear returns.