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One of the questions our firm often gets asked is, “Why is search engine optimization (SEO) so expensive?” The simple answer -it isn’t.

Search engine optimization is the most cost effective form of website advertising with a low cost-per-acquisition (CPA) and high return on investment (ROI). Studies have shown that dollar for dollar, SEO is the best form of advertising… online and offline!

SEO is proactive… the customer is actively looking for the products/ services you provide. Traditional advertising is passive… you are hoping to spark someone’s interest and get them thinking about buying your products and services.

Compared with other forms of advertising, website promotion/ Internet marketing accomplished through search engine optimization is very inexpensive. Think about how much your business spends on television, radio, newspaper, magazine, and yellow pages ads. If you break these costs down on a monthly basis, SEO would cost the least and deliver better results.

To test this, we looked into advertising in a couple of national US magazines as well as newspapers, yellow pages, and radio spots in some major Canadian cities. The following table represents the average cost per month for each.

Advertising Medium
Bus. Magazines (US)
Radio (CAN)
Newspapers (CAN)
Yellow Pages (CAN)
Audience Reach
United States
World Wide
Size, Type, Frequency
1/3 column, B/W, 1/mth
30-second, 60-spots/mth
bus-card size, B/W, 4/mth
bus-card size, B/W
10-20 Keywords
*Cost Per Month
* Guidelines only as actual costs will vary depending on market conditions, geographical location, and your own preferences.

It is difficult to provide precise numbers because there are so many different variables that can come into play. What we tried to do was keep the variables as consistent as possible from one medium to the next. The ads in the business magazines were the most expensive but they provided the greatest audience reach (next to SEO) and because the size of the ad was larger than the newspaper and yellow pages ad. Radio came in as the next most expensive. We asked to run a 30-second commercial that would be aired 60-times in a month (the recommended number of airings was 100). Newspapers came in third only because the frequency option we selected was one ad appearing once per-week (Saturday issue) and because the size of the ad was fairly small. The yellow pages came in around the same cost as SEO, but what good is a yellow pages ad to an online business? SEO on the other hand, had one of the lowest costs, and provided the greatest audience coverage with 24×7 frequency.

Which of these forms are you currently using? How effective have they been? Do your own research and see what you come up with. Because of the variables, your numbers will be different than ours, but when you break them down to measure the overall costs (CPA, ROI)… the majority of you will see that hands down, search engine optimization is the best option.

It doesn’t matter what form of advertising you are using… for online success, SEO really is the most cost effective and efficient way to promote your business. That’s why search engine optimization is gaining in popularity with everyone from small one-person operations to large, multi-national Fortune 500 companies.

SEO lets you target your message to the right people at exactly the right time… when they are looking to buy… at a fraction of the cost of other advertising media and a better ROI.

If you found this article useful and would like to discuss how your website can benefit from highly successful, proven website promotion and search engine optimization strategies, please email or call 1-888-262-6687.

Carissa Krause

Carissa Krause is currently a marketing and project specialist at 1st on the List. Over the years she has worked with clients on a wide range of projects that include areas like local SEO, backlink profile review, content development, social media, and more. Whatever the project may be Carissa focuses on achieving greater efficiencies and putting plans into action.