You likely understand the importance of content marketing and how it varies from traditional marketing channels. Now, you want to start or expand your content marketing program, but you’re not sure what to budget, right? It’s a common question we hear from most prospective clients. How much does content marketing cost, and more importantly, is it affordable for small businesses today? The answer honestly is that it varies and can be expensive if you outsource everything or much more affordable if you learn how to do it yourself in a class like SimpleSEO Content - my all-in-one SEO Content Marketing course for small business owners.
Content strategy is the first part of any successful content marketing program. Several items go into a strategic plan. The cost of a strategic plan can vary significantly depending on what you may or may not already have in place.
Content Audit– the first step to a content strategy plan should include an audit of your current content holdings. You’ll want to determine what you have and what you want to do with that content. An audit should look at your website, blog, social media, etc. You’ll want to determine what you have, what works, what doesn’t work, what needs a little love, and what needs to go away.
Sales Funnel Information– you need to understand your brand’s sales funnel. What are the stages your customer takes during the sales process?
Audience/Persona Information – to determine what content you need to create, you need to know who you’re trying to reach with your message.
Competitive Insights – understanding what your competition is doing is important. You need to know where you fit into the competitive mix to determine how to compete best.
Goals – to determine your strategy, we need to know what we’re trying to accomplish. Are you hoping to drive brand awareness, build customer loyalty, drive e-commerce revenue, or something else entirely? Understanding your business goals is key to your strategic plan.
Why Does This Matter?
Understanding who your audience is, what they need, what content you have available today, what the competition is up to, and what you’re trying to achieve is the foundation for your program.
This stage is probably the most critical step of your content marketing plan and is time-consuming. My all-in-one content plan includes a full Content Strategy with a competitive review. I also offer a starter blog content strategy in my Website and Blog SEO Starter plan. Larger agencies will charge upwards of $25,000 for this same type of content strategy plan. I teach you how to create a content strategy yourself in SimpleSEO Content.
You can spend anywhere from $997 for a course that teaches you how to research, develop, and execute your Content Strategy (and create your content calendar, find content topics, write content your audience wants, and optimize your content for Google, so it gets more traffic) to $5,000 for me to do it all for you in the all-in-one SEO and Content Package to tens of thousands if you partner with a large agency to set your content strategy. The right answer will be the option that fits best with your budget and schedule. If you have more time than money, you may want to take a course and learn how to do it yourself. If you have more money than the time you probably want to outsource it to a professional Content Strategist like myself or one in a larger agency.
The next step in the process is the actual content creation itself. Content creation is also a multi-step process. Before content creation can begin, you need to have the strategy in place. You need to determine who will be responsible for each step of the process and who will provide approvals. You also need to ensure that you have a strong understanding of who you're creating content for, why you're creating that content, and what your goals are for the content you're going to create. To be successful with content marketing, you need to know who you're serving, what they need, and where to reach them.
The items that the team will need during the content development process include:
Content Calendar – When creating a content calendar for a client, I generally plan out a quarter at a time. Having a 90-day overview helps to ensure we're connecting with our Ideal Customer, touching on our content topics or pillars on a rotational basis, and supporting our marketing priorities and goals. When my students create their content calendars in SimpleSEO Content, I teach them how to do this for their business. We go through how many blog posts to create, what type of content to create, and how to determine your publishing schedule and topics. Your content calendar helps you keep track of everything you're producing and publishing, and it helps you know you're covering the topics that matter to your audience. You'll want to include your blog post topics and pillars on the calendar for easy reference.
Content – once you or the team has the calendar ready, it's time to work on the content pieces themselves. If you're going to create the content yourself, you will want to determine how many pieces you'll write at once and if you'll batch your content development to speed up the process. I teach my students my batching process because I find it efficient, and it helps me stay on top of content production and not have to create content every week. If you have someone create the content for you, they'll likely tell you how long the content production timeframe will be. I work with clients on an ongoing basis, and we have a set number of blog posts that are developed each month and then sent to them for review.
Most small businesses will focus on website pages and blog posts for their SEO content. I do this for clients after we've worked together on one of the initial SEO and Content Strategy packages. You can also hire a VA or freelance writer to help with content production if it's not your thing.
You must create strategic, valuable content to get organic traffic from Google, which is important. Don't skimp here and hire off-sore resources or use AI tools. Google wants you to have quality content, and those options don't quite pass the quality test most of the time.
I have been testing out an AI tool (this post was not written with it, this one is all me), and it's too early to say. Still, it may be an option for first drafts, but I'm finding I need to do a LOT of editing before I feel that it's high-quality content that I'm comfortable with having on my blog. Once I've finished my test and determined my final answer, I'll let you know my thoughts. Update, 12/22 - I tested AI content and don't like the quality available at this time.
Content Distribution via Social Media and Ads
The next piece of the content marketing budget question falls within the amplification and distribution process. Your program won’t be successful without this piece. Your content calendar should include a distribution plan for each item of content that’s created.
Social Media Distribution – most content marketing plans will include a retainer with a certain number of hours for social media distribution. The agency team will determine when and where to share your content. They’ll write the posts and ensure that they're SEO-friendly for you. This is not something I do for clients. I'm not in love with social media marketing like some people. I do it for myself because I know it's important, but I don't do it for clients because there are other people who are better at it than me. :)
Paid Media Amplification – another piece of the process may include paid support for content that is performing well organically. Sometimes, boosting a post resonating with your audience makes sense to drive more engagement, brand awareness, or overall traffic makes sense.
Most small business owners will manage this part themselves or hire a VA to help with social media distribution. Prices can vary but often run in the $30-$50 per hour range for a social media VA, and ad campaigns can run $10-$20/day and up to get additional traffic to your content. Make sure you're doing SEO (search engine optimization) on all the content you create so you can rank high in Google's search results and get free traffic.
A well-optimized content piece that's helpful to your Ideal Client and ranks high on Google (like this one does) can drive traffic and leads for years. I originally wrote this blog post in 2017 and update it each year. As of September 2022, it ranks in position #8 on Google and drives monthly traffic. I'm currently doing something I teach my students to do: updating the post, adjusting the optimization, and trying to see if it can be bumped higher on Page 1 because I know that will drive even more traffic to it and can help more people).
Program reporting is the final item to consider when determining how much content marketing costs. There is no standard reporting cost. However, it’s a critical piece of the overall program. Without reporting, how will you know what’s working and isn’t?
Reporting should include:
Keyword Rank Improvement – if you’re trying to increase your keyword rank via content marketing and SEO, you need to have an established, agreed list of targeted keywords. Your agency should provide an update on these terms each month, or you should track them in your SEO reporting tool. Keyword ranking will change over time, and you want to be able to see the trends, so you know if what you're doing is working or not.
Links Earned – are your content pieces earning links? Are people finding what you provide useful and sharing it for you? The content you create should help drive your domain and page authority. You’ll want to see a report on this each month as well. It should include both the domain authority and the new links earned. The higher your domain authority grows, the easier it becomes to rank high for the keywords you target in your content and SEO.
Key Performance Metrics – your report should include monthly, agreed-upon KPIs. You will want to know how your efforts are translating into ROI. Reports should include traffic, orders, revenue, conversion rate, bounce rate, etc. These will vary depending on your goals and website setup. You'll pull this information from Google Analytics if you're doing this yourself. I teach my students what information to track in class, so it's easier.
Social Sharing Statistics – if your agency team is responsible for content amplification and distribution, you will want to see a report on the social shares. You’ll want to know what was organic vs. paid and if they did any paid media support. If you're doing this yourself, you'll want to look at your reporting information on the social platforms and your Google Analytics account data.
Reporting costs will vary, but as a small business owner, you should expect to pay no more than $150-$200 monthly for your reports. I teach you what to track and how to interpret your results in SimpleSEO Content if you want to learn how to do this all for yourself and save a lot of money long term.
My all-in-one SEO Content plan runs $5,000 and includes everything you need to get started with Content Marketing and SEO for your business. If that's not in your budget, I have SimpleSEO Content, my online course that teaches you how to do everything included in the $5,000 all-in-one program for $997. I'd love to either do it for you or teach you how to do it yourself. You'll easily spend $50,000 - $100,000 yearly for your content marketing program if you hire a larger agency. Learning how to do it yourself or hiring a specialist will help you get results that fit your budget.
If you're interested in having me create your content marketing plan or enrolling in SimpleSEO Content to learn how to do it yourself, now is the perfect time to get started. I'd love to help you either way. While it's hard to answer the question of how much does content marketing costs because there are so many variables, you can get started for free today with my free SEO Content training course. Supercharge your content with SEO to get more traffic and leads without ads, and then, when you're ready, join me in SimpleSEO Content to learn how to do it step-by-step.