/ 7 mins
Aug 30, 2023
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is technically ‘free’ but the knowledge it takes to implement a winning strategy and outperform competitors can be expensive for small e-commerce businesses.
Understanding the intricate costs of Shopify SEO is pivotal for any business owner or marketer, as any effort you put in now will carry into 2024.
You’ll typically need an existing customer list to run effective email and SMS marketing campaigns. These campaigns can be great for offers, but can also feel invasive to customers if overdone.
A killer paid social advertising strategy can help reach millions of customers, allowing you to scale and promote your store, but only while you keep paying.
If your Shopify store is optimized for search engines, you’re putting it in front of customers who are actively looking for your products or content without paying for advertising. Even months and years down the line, SEO pays dividends to conversions and revenue.
With an endless amount of ideas, tasks, and strategies to prioritize and implement, SEO can feel bottomless (even overwhelming). Done right, by following key principles, SEO can bolster your brand’s credibility, making your store a trusted name in your e-commerce vertical. A lot of SEO can also be beneficial to the overall user experience of your business. Fast page load times, easy navigation, and mobile optimization all play into optimizing for organic search.
Best of all, SEO and content marketing can often be the glue that holds many other ways of promoting your store together as part of a multi-channel strategy.
Beyond these first 12 steps, understand that success in SEO will typically require working in the following areas:
Customer, competitor & keyword research: understand what customers are searching for with tools like Google's Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, or Semrush. Analyze the intent behind each search query and how they can be grouped together naturally.
Optimizing your content: invest in quality product descriptions, frequently asked questions, strategic blog content to reach customers at several points of their buyer’s journey, as well as writing engaging SEO fields like title elements of each page using Shopify tools.
Technical health: common tasks that many Shopify stores miss include product image size optimization (ensuring mobile-friendliness), URL hierarchy, and strategic internal linking. You also want to make sure you’re resolving duplicate content, crawl budget, or indexation issues. Technical SEO work ensures that your Shopify store is both user-friendly and search engine-friendly.
Quality backlinks: getting relevant links from other reputable websites can boost your store’s authority, bring relevant direct traffic, and improving rankings.
Brick and mortar optimization: if you have a physical location, I recommend that small businesses start with local SEO. It’s affordable as the basics are something you can do yourself. Start by correctly setting up a Google Business Profile and encouraging customers to leave reviews. Catering to a local audience with good reviews helps establish authority for later SEO work.
Pricing can vary inexplicably if you’re not familiar with the SEO industry. You’ll see agencies at the upper end, from around $50,000 USD per month for enterprise clients, to freelancers at $50 per month at the lower end.
The most common monthly retainers that are relevant to most Shopify stores will fall between $500 to $10k per month.
What affects price?
Website size, scope, competition, and agency location. For example, if you’re in a competitive field where customer acquisition costs are high, you’ll need a lot of SEO work to beat the competition.
Despite the high start-up costs, remember that SEO can boast a return on investment (ROI) many times the return on ad spend for paid campaigns.
These are often suitable for small businesses with a limited budget. The price may be attractive, but consider which elements of SEO will be covered and if it will be enough to move the needle.
Many US-based Shopify stores opt for cheap SEO agency options from other regions. In addition to evaluating their reputation and past results, consider timezone and cultural differences. Tread carefully with offers that sound too good to be true. This goes for agencies in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe.
These agencies offer more comprehensive services, often with a track record of delivering results. Many may have a niche focus and personalized solutions, but these features also come at a higher cost.
Consider their experience with e-commerce and Shopify stores specifically, as there are many nuances of the platform to take into account, especially when it comes to technical SEO.
If you’re in a competitive niche with premium products, expect costs up to around $10,000 per month.
This option is ideal for large, enterprise-level Shopify stores with millions of pages or those in highly competitive industries that will be investing several tens of thousands monthly in agencies, copywriters, designers, and so on. Enterprise agencies often have the resources to manage multiple SEO aspects under one roof.
If you’re looking to get set up and don’t have a recurring budget to commit to SEO, consider freelancers or smaller agencies that offer per-project or hourly pricing. Remember that freelance pricing is not necessarily lower than that of agencies.
For most Shopify stores, unless they’re enterprise level, consultants that offer services on an hourly basis are a good bet for those ‘call a friend’ situations where you need something high-level. Or, if you’d like to perform a one-time technical SEO audit, content audit, or periodic keyword research to make sure you’re on the right track.
An experienced consultant can add value by helping you avoid costly errors and time spent pursuing fruitless goals, such as optimizing content that won’t drive results. For example, by asking the right questions during content strategy formulation, consultants can save clients thousands in misguided efforts.
Keep in mind that benefits from SEO work can take as long as six to nine months to show.
This option is great if you have a clear project scope and goals (more on this later).
Avoid SEO agencies that promise guaranteed rankings or performance.
Evaluate case studies and client reviews. Personally, I favor recommendations from trusted colleagues and entrepreneurs.
Ask questions about their experience with Shopify’s unique SEO challenges.
Ensure you’ll get clear communication, regular updates, and comprehensive reports. A willingness to understand the nuances of your Shopify business is critical. Clarify your concerns and be ready to absorb expert information. A good agency or consultant is patient, but conversely, clients that are enjoyable to work with will get the most out of their partners.
Understand pricing options fully, and match these with your budget and expected ROI.
Ultimately, to choose the right partner and save money, you need to understand what your asks are and educate yourself or your team on SEO (more on this later).
While it's easy to see SEO as just another cost, the reality is that effective SEO can significantly amplify your revenue stream. But the primary question remains: how much should you invest, and where should that investment go?
While affordability is crucial, focusing solely on cost can be counterproductive. A cheap SEO agency might not always offer the services and experience your Shopify store requires.
Knowing your business’ priorities can help in getting quotes that are specific and devoid of unnecessary services.
Educate yourself on the basics of SEO to better negotiate with agencies or even handle minor tasks in-house. Investing time can save you money in the long run.
Train an existing team member in basic SEO practices. You can use essential, free tools like Google Analytics (GA4 setup guide for Shopify), Google Search Console, and Shopify plugins. Use tools that automate some SEO tasks, such as technical audits or keyword tracking. Complex technical hurdles, however, are best left to professionals. Compare and contrast the benefits of agencies or freelancers versus in-house specialists for your Shopify store. Hiring freelancers for specific tasks, like content writing or link building, can often be more affordable than a full-service agency or having staff overheads.
Ask yourself, do you need periodic help, such as an audit and advice, or continuous work creating content and course-correcting the strategy? Choosing incorrectly can cost you lost time with onboarding.
If you have a physical location, focusing on local SEO can be more cost-effective than broad SEO strategies. Given the high conversion rates of local searches, it offers excellent ROI.
SEO is not an expense; it can be an investment. While it might seem daunting to allocate large budgets initially, done right, the long-term benefits of effective SEO can be transformative for your small business.
I know that what I said earlier about offers that sound too good to be true. This is different.
OpenStore Drive is a full-service Shopify management solution.
From inventory management and customer support to email marketing and SEO, OpenStore’s team manages your store for 12 months, while paying you guaranteed passive income every month.
This makes OpenStore one of the most affordable SEO agencies, with the best ROI you can get.
In day-to-day SEO strategy, OpenStore evaluates the ROI potential of each tactic and activity. It's not just about increasing traffic, but about attracting the right kind of customers that convert — aligned to your brand.
Regardless of SEO performance over the 12 months, the risk is entirely on OpenStore.
Read a recent case study of how OpenStore Drive grew an entrepreneur’s Shopify store: 50% increase in new customers, and around a 30% increase in net sales and orders. OpenStore Drive freed up the store owner's time and transformed his business in the process.
Optimize your Shopify store
OpenStore will analyze your store’s performance to calculate your monthly, passive income payments. Get started for free, no-strings-attached:
Implement an SEO strategy that is supported by multi-channel marketing to earn organic traffic with content, email marketing, and a...
Over 60% of Shopify businesses are improving conversions and productivity with marketing automation. Expert interview guide and the...