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You likely understand the importance of content marketing and how it varies from traditional marketing channels. Now, you want to either 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? The answer honestly is, it varies from business to business.
Like any industry, what you spend on content marketing can vary greatly depending on your goals and budget. To determine what your content marketing program will cost, let’s start with what you want in a program.
The first piece of any successful content marketing program is the content strategy portion. 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 then, 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 just 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 so you can 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 overall content marketing plan and is time-consuming. You should expect to spend anywhere from $5,000-$25,000 on this type of research and strategic planning. Costs will vary greatly depending on the size of your business, your needs, and which of the input you might already have available. Some brands have their audience data and personas in hand, and they can be reused for this process.
The next step in the process is the actual content creation itself. Content creation is also is 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.
The items that the team will need during the content development process include:
Brand Guidelines / Style Guide – to create content that aligns with your brand’s goals, voice, and tone, the team will need to have that information available. Some brands have this available, but most do not. The agency you hire should be able to help create a guide for you if one is not available. You’ll want to ask about this service. If they don’t offer brand guideline development, do they have someone who they can recommend? You don’t want to start content development without this piece.
Content Calendar – during the pre-sales phase you and the agency will determine what you need. The content calendar should keep track of everything that’s created on an ongoing basis. It should reflect the number of blog posts or website pages that are produced each week or month, along with the titles, and targeted audience persona information.
Content – once the team has the brand guidelines and the calendar ready, they’ll get to work on the content pieces themselves. Some, like blog posts or website copy, will be a quick turn-around, other, more involved items such as eBooks, white papers, or infographics could take much longer.
The costs associated with content development will vary depending upon the amount of content you need to have created and the types of content in your plan. Blog posts or website pages often run $250-$500 each while eBooks, white papers, and infographics are more likely in the $3,500-$5,000 per piece range. Your monthly content calendar may be included in the content production costs, or separate, depending on the agency. A Brand Guide or Style Guide will most often be an additional, one-time charge. If you want to be successful, don’t skip it. The writers will only be as good as the information contained within the guides you provide.
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.
Paid Media Amplification – another piece of the process may include paid support for content pieces that are performing well organically. Sometimes, it makes sense to boost a post that’s resonating with your audience to drive more engagement, brand awareness, or overall traffic.
Content Distribution and Amplification Costs
Most plans will include social media consulting hours; these are normally charged at the agency’s standard hourly rate. A standard hourly rate can vary from $150-$300 per hour, depending on the size and location of the agency. Smaller, local or boutique agencies sometimes charge less than large agencies located in major metro areas. The paid media amplification may be a budget amount that they draw on when there’s a post that warrants paid support. In many instances, the paid media budget runs $500-$1,500 monthly, depending on the program’s goals.
The final item to consider when determining how much content marketing costs is program reporting. 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 what isn’t?
Reporting should include:
Keyword Rank Improvement – if you’re trying to increase your keyword rank via content marketing, you need to have an established, agreed upon, list of keywords that are targeted. Your agency should provide an update on these terms each month.
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.
Key Performance Metrics – your report should include the standard, agreed-upon KPIs each month. You will want to know how your efforts are translating into ROI. Reports should consist of traffic, orders, revenue, conversion rate, bounce rate, etc. These will vary depending on your goals and website setup.
Social Sharing Statistics – if your agency team is responsible for the 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 if they did any paid media support.
Each program’s reporting needs are different, and honestly, reporting pricing is hard to estimate. It can run $2,000+ per month for detailed reporting. Think about what information you need to have the team provide and if you’ll want weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly reporting. The number of reports and frequency will impact the cost. I’ve seen programs have such significant reporting needs that they had to request 2-3X the standard amount of reporting hours. Agencies vary from a flat fee to an hourly reporting retainer.
By now, you’ve probably realized there’s a lot that goes into the content marketing process, and each program is customized. If you have a small/medium plan you probably will be in the $3,500-$5,000/mo range. If you need more content, unique content pieces, additional research, or reporting, it could run $10,000+ per month for a full content marketing program. While it’s a lot of money, it’s less than most traditional marketing channels and provides a better return on your investment.
To receive a customized content marketing program estimate for your business, contact us today. We’d love to review your sites and customize a program for you.
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