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How Much Does SEO & Digital Marketing Cost in 2021?

Updated January 2021 – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is constantly evolving. It’s no longer a destination, but an ongoing journey. Gone are the days of gaming the system, and what we’re left with is good ol’ fashioned marketing, which just happens to be done online. The benefit of taking this approach (as seen by our clients) is no matter what change or update Google makes to its algorithm, your online assets will not be affected.

There’s still the technical side of SEO (which we look at in our SEO / Website Audit) which covers some of the following:

  • Optimized meta titles & description
  • Strong usability
  • Appropriate content
  • Speed optimization (website, images, hosting, server etc.)
  • Clear & concise Calls-To-Action

However, once the technical stuff is taken care of, what’s left? The answer is Real Marketing! Real marketing requires co-operation and participation from your team and the ability for your business to do awesome things both online & offline.

The reality is you can’t fake being an awesome business – not even online.

What Are Your Goals & Expectations?

One of the most important things Adster can do as an ethical SEO company is to set realistic expectations with our clients. We often encounter some “old school” notions of what people expect from SEO and a challenge is getting their mindset away from “rankings”. Rankings are an outdated and ineffective way to measure the success of an SEO campaign, as they cannot be controlled by anyone, regardless of what you’ve heard.

Even though Adster Creative is Alberta’s only Featured Google Partner, we do not control the search engine or website placements (unless you’re running a Google AdWords or PPC campaign ). What we can control is driving qualified traffic and increasing the conversion rate of your website. At the end of the day, when you say you want “rankings” what you really mean is you want more traffic, leads and sales – and that is something we can help with, and to be honest, are quite good at!

We typically include the following graph in our proposals to give our clients a general idea of what they can expect with respects to timelines in our SEO and digital marketing programs. It’s worth noting that depending on your industry, competition (sorry realtors and insurance folks!) and geographic reach, it can change drastically.

SEO Timleine

Makes sense, So, what does a Digital Marketing Program Cost?

The team at Adster Creative doesn’t typically work on one time SEO engagements: our fee structure is broken down into an initial audit, campaign setup and an ongoing campaign, which typically runs between 6 – 12 months.



Budget: $500 – $1000 per month
Type of Business: Small Service Business
Competition: Low
Geographic: Small Community / City

Currently, Adster does not offer any long-term SEO programs in this price range, however, we do have a few options with respects to Google AdWords management. The reality is, a true SEO program requires a tremendous amount of human hours as there really is no automation.

  • If you’re running an ethical, respectable agency, it would be very difficult to sustain this pricing model, and to be honest …. what company would really care about your long term SEO success for $300/mth?
  • If you’re a bit of a do-it-yourselfer and you’ve already got optimized tags, keywords, the proper site structure and a super fast website, perhaps all you need are some high quality links and bespoke content marketing opportunities. This is something we can assist you with through our sister organization, Multi Media Management ™!

Budget: $1000 – $2000 per month
Type of Business: Service & Retail (Potentially ECommerce)
Competition: Moderate to High
Geographic: Single Location

Our team at Adster focuses mostly on the small to medium-sized business market and most of our clientele would fit somewhere in this range.

  • If your business is service or retail in nature and is only targeting a single city then this budget should work fine for both organic and local SEO.
  • It’s possible that this budget could also get you a larger campaign depending on competition and reach.

Budget: $2000 – $5000 per month
Type of Business: Service, Retail & E-Commerce
Competition: Moderate to High
Geographic: Regional & Multiple Locations

The increase in budget here typically allocates for service and retail businesses that have more than one location (think Edmonton, Calgary & Red Deer vs. Calgary only) as the ongoing work may need to be duplicated, or triplicated. If your target market is regional (multi-province) this also changes the strategy in how we use keywords and how we approach link building and content marketing for the company.

A good way of thinking of it is the more mainstream the product or service offering (especially for E-commerce), the more you’ll have to pay to rise above your competitors through way of authority building.


  • Calgary Lawyer vs. Lawyer (GEO specific vs. generic)
  • Edmonton Flashlights vs Flashlights (GEO specific vs. generic)

Budget: $5000+ per month
Type of Business: Service, Retail & E-Commerce
Competition: High
Geographic: National, International & E-Commerce

For national and international campaigns there is literally no end to what can be done with respects to inbound marketing. From high-value content creation (infographics, videos), seminars & educational workshops, to scholarship programs, the sky’s the limit!

  • The same applies as above with respects to geo vs. generic (the more mainstream the product or service, the more competitive) so long term strategy is key here.
  • It’s worth noting that from both an Adwords and SEO perspective it can be very difficult for smaller businesses to compete in this space.
  • Think Intact vs. a small brokerage based in Edmonton. Intact is willing to pay hundreds (potentially even thousands) to onboard a new customer as they’ve spent hundreds of thousands to get their sales funnel and cross-selling systems figured out to a T!

At the end of the day, your business needs to decide what’s most important to you. Do you have the capital, foresight and patience to see an SEO program to fruition? Are you aware that a proper SEO program is “never done” and requires constant care and attention? Or, are you the type of business owner that panics when the phone isn’t ringing off the hook within 90 days? If that’s the case, you’re likely better of running some form of a PPC campaign which is a little more effective in the short term, but, understand that when you turn that tap off, your leads will no longer come in. If you’re more interested in just quickly generating leads, again, a PPC campaign is likely the best fit.

Adster Creative Office

We can help with either, but we want to make sure whichever direction you choose, that we continue to deliver value for your business! Contact us today to build your very own customized digital marketing plan!