Content marketing costs can be anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 per month. But is it worth it? We say yes!
Here, you’ll find:
- A handy breakdown of content marketing costs
- The ins and outs of working with freelancers, agencies, and in-house marketing teams
- How much content marketing tools cost
- The advantages of working with an agency over freelancers and in-house teams only
Content marketing is essential for business — it’s why 22% of B2B marketers spend at least half of their marketing budget on it (according to Content Marketing Institute).
What’s more, nearly 30% of marketers at medium and large companies even stated they shifted their paid ad dollars to content marketing between 2021 and 2022.
Unfortunately, not all companies see it this way, especially when working with a limited budget. So, if you’re worried you can’t afford content marketing, we put together a guide to show you exactly what it takes to make it work — and why it’s worth it.
How much does content marketing cost?
In general, a content marketing campaign costs around $5,000-$20,000+ per month. Kind of a wild range, right? No worries. Let’s break it down a little further to see where this cost comes from, whether you’re working in-house or hiring freelancers.
For in-house content strategists, the average annual salary is $94,744 in the U.S. Freelance content strategists have varying costs ranging between $1,500/mo to $3,000/mo, depending on the campaign size and type of content produced.
On average, full-time content writers in the U.S. earn $58,918 or $23.33/hr. However, the cost of freelancers will vary based on their experience and specialization.
The average cost for blog posts depends on the length and topic. However, Peak Freelance’s survey shows the average cost for a 1,500-word blog post ranges from $250 to $399. Yet, some can charge upwards of $1,500.
The cost of ebook creation depends on the length and topic of the ebook. Experience tells us it can range anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 and up to produce. Some charge by the word (e.g., $.25 to $1 per word) or flat project rate. Also, factor in the design cost, a separate skill handled by a graphic designer or UX designer.
AWAI, American Writers & Artists Institute, shows SEO copywriting fees vary based on the type of page and size of the website.
- Web page optimization costs between $100 and $400 per page
- Small website copy costs $1,500 to $3,500 for five to six pages
- SEO strategy and training (aka consulting) costs $150 to $500 per hour
- Single PPC ad costs $25 to $250 per ad
- Full PPC campaign costs $1,000 to $2,500 for 10 ads, a landing page, welcome page, and welcome email
- PPC campaign management costs 15% of PPC ad fees or $500 to $6,000 per month
Copywriting may also include projects like whitepapers and case studies. Peak Freelance’s survey shows whitepapers can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 to well over $3,000. And case studies can cost between $500 and $1,500, depending on the length and complexity of the project.
If you hire a full-time copywriter, you may spend somewhere around $60,652 per year or $29.16/hr on average.
Content marketing agency costs can be anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 or more per month, depending on goals, timeline, and scope. Some content marketing agencies charge hourly or by performance. HawkSEM charges a simple monthly fee that doesn’t involve setup costs.
But that’s not all when it comes to content. There are other factors — like SEO, imagery, social promotion, video and design — to consider as well.
What factors into content marketing cost
The cost of content marketing varies based on several factors, like:
- Your content marketing strategy and goals (e.g., sales vs. brand awareness): The more you want to produce and distribute content, the more it’ll cost you.
- Who you hire to perform and manage the tasks: Freelance writers and agencies tend to be more affordable long-term than in-house teams.
- The content marketing tools you use: Investing in better tech can lower your costs, but only if you choose the right software and don’t overdo your tech stack.
- Your industry and expertise required: Hiring experts for technical markets like finance and engineering can be more expensive than in ecommerce and other marketing industries.
- Quality of the content: High-quality content demands a bigger content marketing budget, but it’s definitely worth it.
- Complexity of the content: Content that demands a higher word count requires more research, editing, and time, so you’ll spend more for it.
“Quality is everything in content marketing,” says Caroline Cox, HawkSEM’s senior content marketing manager. “Focusing on quantity and hastily publishing without an overall plan for consistency or quality just wastes your time and budget on content that’ll get lost in the shuffle or at the bottom of search results.”
Businesses can budget for this by doing their research to better understand typical content marketing costs and what various freelancers and agencies charge for their services.
And that’s exactly what we’ll reveal below.
A word on content and SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of practices to help improve your organic rankings in search engines like Google and Bing. It requires careful keyword research, search engine results page (SERP) analysis, strategic content creation, and monitoring.
It takes longer than pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, but it’s worth every penny for the long-term results.
“A common misconception is that SEO is free,” explains Cox. “Content marketing can be more cost-effective than a paid search campaign, but it’s like comparing apples and oranges. The marketing goals, method, and outcome are different.”
Content is often less direct and speedy than paid search, but it’s a crucial part of the long game that’s building a healthy SEO strategy for your site.
“SEO and SEM are two sides of the same coin, and while they have a lot of differences, they’re both important for a well-rounded digital marketing plan,” continues Cox.
Here’s an example of how we’re ranking content for our blog in the SERPs using advanced SEO strategies:
The cost of SEO
The cost of SEO depends on whether you bring aboard an in-house team, freelancer, or an agency.
For example, Ahrefs did a survey that revealed most freelance SEO experts charge monthly retainers between $501 and $1,000. Others charge an hourly rate between $75 and $100 per hour.
However, if you bring a full-time SEO expert aboard, you can expect to pay an average of $57,609 annually or $28/hr. Though it can reach as high as $94,000 depending on their years of experience and location.
An agency, according to Ahrefs, charges an average of $98/hr or around $3,200/mo for retainers.
Content marketing strategy
A good content plan is the cornerstone of every successful content marketing campaign. Without it, you’ll shoot arrows in the dark and become frustrated when you miss more than you hit.
By having a content strategist on your squad, you can ensure every piece of content, keyword, and channel you use increases your return on investment (ROI).
A content strategy should include:
- Goals and Objectives: Clearly defines your business needs and how your content marketing campaign will meet them
- Target Audience: Identifies your target customers so you can create content that speaks directly to them
- Content Types: Determine the types of content you’ll create, such as blog posts, videos, infographics, etc.
- Editorial Calendar: Plans out your content in advance to ensure consistency
- Distribution Channels: Determines the channels you’ll distribute your content, such as social media, email marketing, or paid advertising
- SEO Strategy: Ensures your content is optimized for search engines and can be easily found by your target audience
- Metrics and Analytics: Determines the key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your content marketing campaign and tracks them regularly
- Team Roles and Responsibilities: Defines the roles and responsibilities of each team member involved in the content marketing campaign
- Budget: Determines campaign spend for your content marketing campaign and to allocate resources accordingly
Content marketing cost: Writing
Content writing is the backbone of every content marketing campaign. It executes the strategy you worked so hard to develop and is key to seeing an ROI.
But to achieve this, you’ll need the quality we emphasized above.
“You can ensure the content you’re getting or producing is high-quality by checking your writer’s previously published content or clips, and monitoring top-performing content in search results that surface for your target keyword,” advises Cox. “Also, leverage free or paid tools, such as Grammarly and Clearscope to offer direction and edits, though these tools need an expert eye to be leveraged at their best.”
The cost factors of a content marketing campaign depend on the subject, the type of content it is, and how in-depth or involved you want the content to be. For example, an 800-word blog post that tackles a subject on a 101 level will be priced differently than an ebook that goes in-depth into various nuances of a topic.
Let’s break it down based on the content type below.
Blog posts help big and small businesses position themselves as subject matter experts in their industry and drive traffic to their website (if they can rank high enough in the SERPs).
That’s why it’s critical to hire content writers that know SEO and how to rank content.
How much you pay will correlate with how well your content reads and performs, so base your decision on portfolio examples and those charging mid-to-high rates. The more experienced writers with successful track records charge more.
Guides and ebooks
Including downloadable content with your blog posts can improve conversions by offering readers a more in-depth look at your topic in exchange for their name and email.
Here’s an example of an in-depth guide we produced on how to select the right PPC agency:
When you want to convert website visitors into leads and sales, you need a copywriter who gets your target audience and can write in a tone that resonates with them.
The last thing you want is copy that’s confusing, indirect, and misses the mark.
For example, this initial landing page from Square is generic and doesn’t clearly convey the value to new users:
Its updated version is much clearer and resonates with their target audience (online and local businesses):
Copywriters charge high rates because of the ROI they can bring, and are worth it — but only if they can deliver on that promise.
So, in this case, you have two options: outsourcing or hiring a full-time copywriter.
Words sell, but visuals captivate. Together, they build content that’s engaging and persuasive to your target customer. To make your articles, whitepapers, and other marketing collateral pop, you’ll need a quality marketing designer.
With a graphic artist on your team, you can develop gorgeous infographics like this one our team made:
Or create branded images. Fiverr does this well with its guides, which all have unique and eye-catching feature images for each blog post:
According to Upwork, the cost for freelance graphic designers that offer infographic design is between $30 and $120 per hour, and can run you from a few hundred to a few thousand, depending on the project scope.
And a full-time marketing designer costs an average of $75,590 per year in the U.S.
But what about capturing real people and items for your content marketing projects?
In this case, you’ll want a photographer to shoot engaging photos, instead of using stock images. This isn’t to say stock photos don’t have a place, because they do.
However, when you need to capture your team, products, or services, you want personalized images to capture your brand’s essence.
If you choose stock images, you’ll pay around $0.49 to $8.67 per image, depending on which stock photo site you use. For example, iStock tends to be on the pricier side.
If you opt for a professional photographer, then the cost will vary based on the number of photos, location, set design, professional models, and photo editing. So the cost can be anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 for a project.
Visuals make your content come to life. But the only thing more powerful is images in motion — aka video.
Adding a video marketing strategy into the mix will broaden your audience reach, since you’re targeting people who prefer to watch content instead of reading it. Plus, you’re on more platforms, like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
Videos may include a mix of webinars, Shorts, product demos, how-to videos, podcasts, and more.
The cost for video production includes both the production cost and the cost of to edit the video. If you decide to do the latter yourself, then you’ll need video editing software and a good computer.
One popular software is Adobe Premiere Pro, which starts at $20.99 per month.
However, if you decide to go with a freelance video editor, then you can expect to pay between $20 and $120 per hour, depending on the skill and experience level.
Then bringing one aboard full-time will cost an average of $51,131 per year or $24.58 per hour.
But how about the content of the video? Someone must write the script. A freelance video script writer will cost between $200 and $500 per scripted minute or $1,500 for three minutes.
A full-time remote YouTube video script writer will cost an average of $46,870 per year or $23 per hour.
Social media posts
Marketing is all about being where your audience is. Today, that means being on social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn. Social media posts come in different forms, such as photos with captions, videos, GIFs, and polls.
Here’s an example of a HubSpot Twitter thread:
The cost of creating social media posts depends on whether you outsource or hire a full-time employee. According to Sprout Social, a complete social media management package would run you about $12,300 per month for:
- Content creation ($5,250)
- Social advertising ($5,000)
- Platform management ($2,050)
Then agency costs can be somewhere between $500 to $1,500 per month for social media management. If you want to bring in a social media specialist full-time, then the average cost is $70,287 per year or $33.79 per hour.
Here’s a newer type of content that’s underused by businesses. Interactive content is content that website visitors can interact with. For example:
- Interactive videos
- Augmented reality apps
- Interactive infographics
Here’s an example of NerdWallet’s mortgage calculator, which does two things: engages their target audience and educates them on the mortgage process.
Plus, it’s bookmarkable, so visitors will return again and again or even refer it to others who need to apply for a mortgage.
Content marketing cost in the interactive space varies significantly because of the many different types you can develop. So it can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars for an interactive infographic to thousands for an app or tool.
Content promotion and outreach
Building campaigns and executing them is what content marketing is all about. But you can’t just hit publish and expect traffic to pour in. It requires ongoing content promotion and outreach to get your content seen.
Now, content promotion and outreach are different, but go hand-in-hand:
- Content promotion consists of sharing your content on platforms like email, social media, and paid ads.
- Content outreach is about building relationships with bloggers and influencers to share your content for backlink building or opportunities to guest post (another way to link build), and getting quotes from your teams published in third-party articles.
We already covered the cost of a social media manager, who would likely be responsible for content promotion, such as this post promoting a webinar:
An outreach specialist or public relations (PR) professional will cost differently, depending on whether you go with a freelancer, firm, or in-house employee.
For instance, a PR agency will either bill hourly or on a monthly retainer. Rates are typically between $100 to $500 per hour or $3,000 to $5,000 per month.
A full-time PR employee has an average salary of $48,383 per year or $23.26 per hour.
Over time, your content will get old, lose its ranking, and see a drop in traffic. The idea is to spot these downward trends before it becomes an issue. One way to achieve this is by conducting regular content audits.
This will spot “decaying” pieces of content you can refresh so it gets back on track. By refresh, we mean:
- Replacing outdated information and stats
- Improving the format
- Replacing old visuals
- Optimizing to improve ranking (we like to use Clearscope)
- Adding new sections, research, and insights
- Including quotes from relevant subject matter experts (SMEs)
- Enhancing the content quality (grammar, tone, voice, style)
The cost for a content audit depends on how large your site is and can cost you from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
When you spot content that needs updating (in your audit), you’ll need a content writer and strategist to identify what needs to be added and removed.
At HawkSEM, we do this monthly, and will add new insights, quotes, and resources to make our content better. Then we mention when the article was originally published:
The cost for content updating can be several hundred dollars or more, depending on the length and amount of work needed.
Monitoring and analysis
Keeping a close watch on your content performance will ensure your campaigns generate favorable results. You can either have an agency do this for you and make suggestions when things go awry. Or hire an in-house employee.
Tools they’ll likely use include Google Analytics, Semrush, and others to monitor your site’s ranking. Your analyst will also generate weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly reports so your team understands what’s happening with your content.
The cost of hiring a full-time content marketing manager is an average of $84,566 per year or $40.66 per hour.
Overseeing your freelance writers, designers, and other content creators is a full-time (or freelance job). You can hire a project manager to assign tasks and ensure they’re completed on time. A freelancer can do this for you or an in-house PM.
Another option is to allow a content marketing agency to handle project management as an add-on.
The average cost of hiring a freelance project manager is $96,081 per year or $46 per hour.
Then if you want to bring in a full-time PM, it’ll be $85,984 per year or $44.78 per hour.
Content marketing cost: tools
And let’s not forget all of the tools you want to use to make content marketing easier. If you hire an agency, you won’t have to worry about building an insane tech stack.
Here are some of the content marketing tools you may want to add:
- Semrush: SEO tool that helps with keyword research, competitor analysis, and tracking search engine rankings. Cost: $99.95 – $374.95 per month
- Trello: A project management tool that helps teams organize and prioritize tasks. Cost: Free – $17.50 per user per month
- Grammarly: Editing tool that checks for grammar and spelling errors, as well as provides suggestions for improving writing style. Cost: Free – $15 per month per user
- Google Analytics: Audience research tool that provides insights into website traffic, user behavior, and demographics. Cost: Free
- BuzzSumo: Content research tool that helps identify popular content in a given topic or industry. Cost: $119 – $999 per month
- Hemingway Editor: Writing tool that analyzes writing for readability and suggests improvements to sentence structure and word choice. Cost: $19.99 one-time fee
- Hootsuite: Campaign management tool that allows you to schedule social media posts across multiple platforms and track engagement metrics. Cost: $799 – $739 per month
- Yoast SEO: SEO plugin for WordPress websites that provides real-time optimization suggestions for blog posts and pages based on target keywords and readability analysis. Cost: Free – $99 per year
- Canva: Design tool for creating graphics, social media posts, and other visual content without graphic design skills or software. Cost: Free – $149 per month
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer: Tool that analyzes headlines for emotional impact, length, and word choice to improve click-through rates on blog posts and social media updates. Cost: Free
Benefits of hiring a content marketing agency
When building your content marketing squad, you have three options:
- hire an agency to handle your content marketing
- build an in-house team
- hire freelancers or contractors
Some businesses choose one or a mix of all three. It all comes down to your budget and goals. For instance, if you’re a startup looking to scale fast, then hiring an agency with years of experience is the way to go.
The same is true if you’re looking for faster results with a team that can hit the ground running, while working alongside your in-house and freelance teams. Although freelancers are cheaper, they often lack the expertise to manage all areas of a content marketing campaign. This means hiring multiple freelancers, which creates messy siloes.
Then an in-house team costs more in the long run, since you have to pay for benefits and bonuses. Then there’s the fact in-house employees must juggle other initiatives, which means they’re less focused on content marketing.
Let’s review why working with an agency may be the best route for your business:
- Instant expertise: Agencies have niches and a strong track record working with large and small companies like yours, which means they know your industry inside and out.
- Fresh perspectives: Agencies have a pool of in-house and freelance teams, which means more perspectives to bring to the table, increasing innovation and creativity.
- More time to run your business: Agencies don’t need hand-holding, which enables you to focus on the matters, like running your operations.
- Enhanced organization: Agencies gather all the information and documents needed to make your content marketing campaign a success from the start.
- Multiple services in one: No need to manage a team of writers, SEOs, designers, and strategists — agencies have you covered by offering everything in one place (plus, we manage everyone for you).
- Cost-effective: While it may seem like an additional expense, hiring a content marketing agency can actually save you money in the long run.
- Generate results: At the end of the day, it’s all about getting an ROI on your marketing budget — agencies provide a clear strategy, reporting, and action plans to ensure you see results.
As a bonus, you only have to pay one monthly fee instead of multiple salaries and freelance fees. It’s easier to plan your budget and stay within your means without hidden or surprise costs.
Content marketing can be an affordable way to grow and scale your business. But it requires vetting your team to ensure they can deliver. Whether you opt for freelancers, an in-house team, an agency, or a mix of the three, take time to learn their process, past results, and level of expertise.
This way, you can build a winning team that doesn’t need a lot of your attention to get results.
If you’re looking for an agency that offers all the content marketing services you need — and that’s a breeze to work with — you’re in the right place.