I've recently been asked to give a quote to do SEO for a site selling health insurance. I was not given any other prerequisites just how much would SEO cost. Quoting for SEO is a little like quoting to build a house, it all depends on what the outcome the clients wants. Do they want a small 1 bedroom apartment or a 30 bedroom estate home with all the trimmings. The biggest factor is competition. Health Insurance has a lot of websites and businesses all trying to get a cut of the pie, many of the websites have been around for years for have seniority over a new site in Googles eyes anyway.
But ranking on Google on the first page can be done, if a client has the money to invest in it, of course it can be done. I would even go onto say that they could rank in first place of a Google search result, knocking Blue Shield CA out of first place, for health insurance; I could do that, if and only if, I had the resources, but even then I still can't give an accurate quote. The big question is what keywords you want first page or first place. Most business have little idea which keywords are best, or the ones they do think would be worthwhile, in fact aren't.
But lets say for this example "Health Insurance California". The first step is to do that exact search and research who's ranking on the first page now for that term. Also look at the sites that are using pay per click, and find out what they are paying for adwords. Then look at the various ways of doing that search, "California Health Insurance" "Health Insurance California Family" Health Insurance California single person" "Health Insurance California self employed" the list goes on.
There are some big company names on the first page of Google, and pay per click business are paying between $250 and $3.4k for advertising a DAY. Average price for a click is $6.34. Round that off to $6 for easy figuring. Realistically if you are looking at even the mid range of pay per click of $1000 a day, if you are looking at saving $35 k a month on adwords, you can't really expect to pay an SEO $2500 to do it. Yet you would be flabbergasted at how many people do expect that kind of deal. And what's more clients expect first page results within a few weeks... taint going to happen.
As a general rule of thumb though, an investment of 4 months of a mid-range pay per click, would get some impressive results. Ok, how much are we looking at for this example? $1k a day, for 120 days. $120k. That's actually a little high for good results, but there isn't any business that would spend $120k on getting their site to rank well in Google for say 50 different keywords or keyword terms. That taint going to happen either.
In the real business world $120 isn't that much money, you can bet that Blue Shield would spend more than that on newspaper advertising probably a week. The internet is a wonderful thing, and there are cazillions of opportunities out there, you just have to have either money to invest in a website, or be willing to put the work in yourself.
I often suggest to clients that want SEO like this they use an SEO consulting service, they do the work, and the consultant just tells them what to do. I have some clients that have gotten some very impressive SEO results, and saved themselves 10's of thousands of dollars in the interim.