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How much should you pay for content marketing?

A vast majority of banner ads online are completely ignored by internet users. Despite this fact, marketing professionals still pay premium prices for them.

Small businesses that utilize PPC (pay-per-click) ads as their primary advertising source, spend $9,000 to $10,000 per month on Google AdWords campaigns, according to Google partner and PPC marketing firm Wordstream. Marketing directors are willing to pay this kind of money for the prestige and reach of Google (Alphabet) regardless of the well-known drawbacks associated with AdWords.

Data compiled by marketing blog Invesp found that 85% of clicks on PPC display ads come from only 8% of the global internet using population. These dart-throw-type odds for conversions and high prices related to PPC campaigns have not deterred small businesses and their large corporate counterparts. Google revenues rose to $89 billion in 2016, with more than 90% of that coming from advertising. Meanwhile blogging continues to be the most effective, efficient and relatively inexpensive inbound marketing solution that is still (inexplicably) ignored by many small and medium-sized businesses.

A 2015 study by market research firm Clutch found that nearly half of all small businesses don’t even have websites, let alone blogs. Only 36% of Fortune 500 companies have blogs. Many companies, both B2B and B2C, cited cost and time as the primary reasons for not having blogs. Despite the reluctance, more companies are now prioritizing inbound marketing, specifically blogging, because of the obvious benefits.

A company blog with high-quality content provides a 24/7/365 de-facto advertising and customer relations platform that helps grow your brand. Its simply a matter of coming up with a plan and executing it for your company to start reaping the benefits. Writing, like driving, is something pretty much anybody and everybody can do. But everyone cannot be on the NASCAR circuit competing with the best drivers on the planet. The same can be said when it comes to writing.

Companies of all sizes have three choices when deciding on how to handle their blogging needs:

1. Have existing employees write all the content

2. Hire a full-time, in-house content strategist/writer. The salary range for a full-time content strategist/writer is between $81,000 and $115,000, according to Robert Half.

3. Hire a professional freelancer or marketing agency.

The first option is the worst since you’ll be sacrificing the quality and SEO benefits professional content strategists and writers bring to the table. Its best to mix employee content with professional SEO content. The second option is good if your company can afford to bring on another full-time employee. The third option is the most cost-effective without sacrificing quality and SEO.

RELATED: Why choose Content Coup vs. marketing agency?

The 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report by the Content Marketing Institute found that successful companies blogs with measurable ROI spent an average of 42% of their total marketing budget on content marketing. Using that statistic and the above salary numbers as reference points, here are a few things to consider when budgeting for content marketing.

You get what you pay for

Freelancers and marketing agencies charge widely different rates depending on reputation, writer quality, order size, etc. Compare pricing of different marketing agencies to get an idea of what you’ll get for your money.

Upwork places the cost per blog at $700 – $1,500. That amounts to about $2 per word. A Clearvoice survey found that 40% of freelancers charge anywhere from $100-$300 per article, while 20% charge $300 or more per article. Content Factory has a wide price range, charging anywhere from $80-$950 per article.

Marketing agencies also charge monthly access and retainer fees, which of course increases cost per article. The best freelance writers that demand fees on the higher end of the scale should have a lot of published work samples for you to read and evaluate. You should also connect with your potential writer on LinkedIn to see any/all past experience, recommendations, etc.

Be Prepared

A freelance writer or marketing agency provides professional writing, research and SEO experience when your content marketing endeavors begin. But you must inform them about the specific needs of your customers.

Why are your customers interested in your brand? What do they like best? What do they complain about most? What questions come up most from your customers? Your writer will read online reviews and social media comments about your company to get a broad feel for your brand. But your internal customer service and sales personnel have the most experience and insight with your most valuable assets. The writer and one of these individuals should have at least a one-hour conversation (whether by exchanging emails or by telephone) about your brand and company culture before the content creation process begins.

The more information writers have, the more targeted and relevant the content will be towards your customer base.

Measure ROI

Increasing web traffic, brand visibility and sales are the obvious goals of content marketing. But the money you invest in content marketing should provide noticeable differences to your online presence.

Quality content results in more social media engagement. Keep in mind Facebook algorithms have essentially eliminated organic reach for your posts and companies must now pay to get posts “boosted.” But you should still see increases in total engagements relative to your number of followers if the content is of high-quality. If one blog post gets more “likes,” shares and comments than your previous three posts combined, your investment is paying off. Writers also need to understand how to use hashtags on Twitter to maximize engagements there.

Another metric to monitor is direct engagements on your website and/or blog. Most people use social media to interact with companies. Effective content marketing should lead to more unique visitors to your website, direct comments, and newsletter subscriptions.

Leads and conversions are obviously the bottom line. But as long as your content is keeping your customers engaged and positioning your company as a thought leader in the industry, it is money well spent.

RELATED: Work Samples/FAQ

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